Animal experts attribute most animal actions and thoughts to instinct. It seems that they don’t give our dogs, cats, birds and other pets enough credit. Why? Because there are documented cases of peoples’ pets saving them from fire, fending off attackers and other brave acts. How do we truly know that our beloved pets are doing these things strictly from instinct? Though I’m not an animal behaviorist or scientist, throughout life I’ve watched and worked with many different animals. I believe that they have feelings, and are more like us emotion-wise than we give them credit.
For example, lately in the news, a woman reported that her Golden Retriever gave her the Heimlich manoever when she was choking on a piece of apple. He kept jumping on her chest until the apple ejected from her throat and flew across the room. Then, he ran over and ate it (he still is, of course, a dog). He knew his owner was in danger and responded to it. Now, that’s devotion.
When we go away and leave our dogs behind, some actually have separation anxiety, where they cannot bear to be without their human. Doggie daycares are filled with dogs that miss their owners when they go to work, and need distraction. I think that is a great service, to keep a bored or sad pet from tearing up the house while pining away for its owner.
Anyone who has multiple animals can tell you that they do feel jealousy. If I pet one of my cats, the other one has to come over and push him out of the way. They even fight about who gets to sit next to me on the couch. The winner will sit in the place of honor, triumphantly smiling. I’ve seen dogs who can smile, too. One cat of mine can frown. When he is mad at another cat, his eyes shoot daggers at the other cat. When whatever is bothering him passes, he goes back to his same old easy going self. There is a night and day difference in his facial expressions. To me, it sure comes across as emotion over instinct.
There are published accounts of dolphins saving stranded swimmers in the ocean. They came to their aid unprovoked. Why would they do this if they only thought using instinct? They don’t necessarily save other animals floundering in the water. Are they programmed to help us or is it caring? Do they know that they are saving lives by helping? Dolphins are intelligent mammals, and I bet they know someone in danger when they see one.
Observe your animals deeply, and see what you think. Are they just doing what their genes tell them to do or are they showing emotions? Science is advanced, but there is so much more to know about our pets and what makes them tick. Those who relate well to animals seem to be more in tuned to the way they think. Being calm and slow moving around many animals puts them at ease. Same with people, we like those who are calm and not aggressive towards us. Animal husbandry is fascinating, and worth learning more about. The more we know about our animals, the better we will relate to them. We may not speak their languages but we can at least show them the respect and understanding they most definitely deserve.