Recently I read about an author who is publishing a book about animal emotions. The write up said this author used scientific methods to study and “prove” that certain animals, cats and dogs were the study of her research, had emotions and could experience joy as well as grief. It made me wonder – have we humans gotten so far removed from interactions with animals that we have to “prove” something we should be able to immediately recognize? Yes, animals have emotions.
There has been a lot written about how the co-evolution of man and dog (and to some degree cat) has allowed our domestic dogs to understand our emotions, words, and even read our facial expressions. This works both ways – our species has evolved to understand dogs too. We can see excitement, happiness, fear, and other moods in dogs because we evolved to be able to “read” them. But our ability to read, or not read, an animal does not bestow emotions on it. Once you learn to understand the non-verbal communication of a species you can immediately see that many animals with different levels of intelligence experience emotions.
I have seen many emotions in different animal species. From the leaping, unrestricted joy of turkeys doing the “crazy turkey dance” on a cool fall morning to the deep mourning of a mare whose foal died before her eyes. Animals do have emotions – they just express them in ways most people cannot read. But watch them carefully and you will start to learn their “language”. It is both humbling and thrilling to know this is something we share with the animal kingdom.