Monday, August 17, 2009

Do Pets Have Feelings and Show Emotions?

By Linda Cole

I've been told by veterinarians and animal behavior experts many times that our pets do not have feelings or show emotions. They say pets are incapable of displaying human feelings, and what we think are signs of happiness, sadness or hurt feelings are nothing more than wishful thinking. However, as a lifelong pet owner, I disagree. My pets do have feelings and show emotion, and I see proof of this every day.

We think of feelings or emotions as the ability to show warmth, anger, tenderness, grief and even sulking or pouting. We also tend to believe we are the only species capable of showing feelings and emotions. One does not need to be an animal behaviorist to understand our pets do indeed have feelings which they display. Don't believe me? Then watch carefully how your pet reacts to situations. You might be surprised by what you see.

Meryl is a loving cat who I have belonged to for 14 years. From the moment he was able to walk, I have been his favorite human. He moves a bit slower these days and prefers napping in a sunny window, but when he was a kitten, Meryl was into everything. I use a spray bottle to discipline my pets – it’s safe to use and usually effective. Meryl was a young lad of 4 or 5 months when I discovered the spray bottle wouldn't work on him. He showed me pets do have feelings in his own way, and I still laugh about it today.

I was trying to change the sheets on my bed, and he was sitting on the edge and wouldn't move. Every time I moved him off the bed, he'd spring right back on. We played this game a few more times before I brought out my trusty spray bottle. Three squirts later, Meryl was still on the bed, refusing to move. A couple more doses of water and he still didn't move. However, a twitching tail and sullen eyes told me he was not a happy camper. I finally picked him up and moved him to another room. He gave me the cold shoulder for four days and wouldn't have anything to do with me. He was definitely mad at me. It was quite obvious that I had hurt his feelings by spraying him with water.

When I moved into my first home after college, an American Eskimo named Jack moved in with me. Puff, a handsome yellow cat, joined our little family a couple of months later. I learned from Jack that pets do have feelings and emotions and they react in much the same way we do. Jack was still a pup when I brought Puff home as a kitten. They became best friends and were always together. Puff slept at Jack's side every night. Both had gotten on in years and Puff passed away first. We both grieved his passing, but Jack would return every day to the spot where we had found Puff, sniffing and whining. He would lay on the spot for about an hour, before finally returning to my side. Jack died a year later and I'm not sure he ever recovered from Puff's passing.

I have no doubt pets do have feelings and emotions similar to our own. I have watched my pets display the same kind of reactions to situations as people do. Such as, hurt feelings when I made them mad, grief and depression from losing a friend, signs of affection, displays of anger, and even embarrassment.

Some people believe humans are the only species who can show emotion. However, anyone who has lived with a cat or dog knows when their pet is happy, sad or angry. Pets do have feelings and emotions and show them to us every day. Those who claim pets have no feelings and can't show emotion either don't have pets at home or are simply not paying close enough attention to them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. On GMA one morning, they were talking about this very subject. I believe that dogs do have feelings. If I have to get on to one of mine for being a "brat", they get tears and/or they sulk. They also love. Maybe not exactly the same as a human, but they do love.

    Another wonderful article!

  2. I know my little Duke does that's for sure!


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