Animal Sentience Stories





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Why Animals matter:
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A Memorial to Sooty

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This page highlights stories and information that shows that animals are capable of emotion

This page is part of a section concerning animal sentience which relates true stories information and accounts of animal sentience.
For an introduction: Animal Sentience Stories

Emotion Love Altruism Empathy Pleasure Intelligence and ingenuity
Friendship Jealousy Grief Language


 Sixth Sense

Animals Have a Sense of beauty

Animal Morality Mental Health  

Click the links above to go to read stories and information that highlights these characteristics and abilities in animals

Emotion: Information and general comments concerning emotion in animals

With birds the voice serves to express various emotions, such as distress, fear, anger, triumph, or mere happiness

Charles Darwin  The Descent of Man

Do animals have an emotional life ? Are they happy, sad, joyful, depressed? Do animals cry? What are animal emotions? What do they feel like?

Even within our own species it is impossible to know how another person experiences emotion, for instance how fear or joy is felt. People also feel emotions at varying degrees and intensity and experience them in a variety of situations, there is no stereotypical type or degree of emotion in human beings. Grief for instance can manifest outwardly with obvious outbursts of emotion such as crying and anger, conversely it can manifest in quiet despair and the decline into severe depression. Furthermore emotion such as sadness may not even be obvious to the person who suffers this emotion and may present as a somatic disorder. Many people who are depressed present with various types of physical pain, such as headaches, as a expression of their sadness.  We can only really know and understand how these emotions manifest in our own lives, yet we know that for the most part the vast majority of humanity experiences emotion in varying ways, degrees and intensity. 

Unfortunately many people expect another person to experience emotion in the same way as they do. This is also the case with animals and we expect animal emotion to be like the emotion we personally experience, and because this is not always the case consistently throughout the animal kingdom many people erroneously think that animals lack emotion. This most certainly is not the case as I hope to show with a selection of the many accounts and stories of animal emotion.

Animal emotion may feel very different to ours, as far as we know animals do not have any self talk at least not in the same way we do with the use of language, although it is likely that they think in pictures. Temple Grandin assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State University who is an high functioning autistic, thinks in pictures which she says is the way that animals think. "As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's" "I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures, like videotapes in my mind" *)

Animals have raw emotion that is as far as we know not modified with self talk. Like us animals experience physiological responses to fear, such as a racing heart, sweating, muscle tension and so on. However unlike us as far as we know fearful feelings cannot be mitigated with internal self talk which may help us to calm or quell our fear. So in this regard and probably many others animal emotion may not always appear to be like ours. The emotion of fear for example can kill an animal particularly the more timid creatures. Extreme fear or stress can literally kill a rabbit. Of all the emotions that we understand - who knows animals may have emotions that are beyond our experience to comprehend - it cannot be denied that fear, the most primeval of emotions, is felt profoundly by animals.

It is highly likely that many animals experience emotions to a greater degree than we do. Some animals may not have the facial anatomy to express their emotions such as the ability to cry, but this does not mean they do not experience the emotions associated with crying in our own species. Some animals are even incapable of crying out in fear or pain. Rabbits for example only cry out if pain is intense yet we all know rabbits are timid fearful creatures. Even more inscrutable are the emotions of fish and many people believe that because fish cannot cry out that they do not feel pain or experience fear or other emotion. A fish does not have any way that we can recognise to express fear, pain or any emotion. However we cannot assume that this animal does not experience emotion. Fish have a nervous system so we know they experience pain, as for other emotions we must give them the benefit of the doubt. And consider that not all human beings display obvious emotion, for example people with autism may not manifest signs that they are having an emotional response, yet they like most humans have emotions the only difference is that they do not always express them in the way that most people do. And even with neurotypical people it is often said than men do not express their emotions in the same way as women.

Below are stories and accounts that I hope will demonstrate that animals like us have emotions. I suppose it is really only possible to demonstrate this by instances when animal emotion is comparable to our own, for we cannot envision that which we have no experience of. It is though important to keep in mind that animal emotion is different to our own and just because we cannot recognise human emotion in animals does not mean that they do not experience emotion, but perhaps emotions and an emotional responses different to our own. It is also important to keep in mind that even in the unlikely event that a particular animal has no emotion that this creature is not sentient. Fear is an emotion and pain is a sensation that all creatures experience and these criterion alone categorise a creature as sentient.

It is important to understand and recognise animal emotions so that we can treat them as emotional beings rather than mindless automatons. The understanding of animal emotion will hopefully motivate their better treatment and the recognition of their rights as sentient beings.

Animals Show Emotion

But it is not necessary to be learned in Darwinian science in order to know that non-
human beings have souls. Just the ordinary observation of them in their daily lives about us in their comings and goings and doings is sufficient to convince any person of discernment that they are beings with joys and sorrows, desires and capabilities, similar to our own. No human being with a conscientious desire to learn the
truth can associate intimately day after day with these people associate with them as he himself would desire to be associated with in order to be interpreted, without presumption or reserve, in a kind, honest, straightforward, magnanimous manner; make them his friends and really enter into their inmost lives without realising that they are almost unknown by human beings, that they are constantly and criminally misunderstood, and that they are in reality beings actuated by substantially the same impulses and terrorised by approximately the same experiences as we our-
selves. They eat and sleep, seek pleasure and try to avoid pain, cling valorously to life, experience health and disease, get seasick, suffer hunger and thirst, co-operate with each other, build homes, reproduce themselves, love and provide for their
children, feeding, defending, and educating them, contend against enemies, contract habits, remember and forget, learn from experience, have friends
and favourites and pastimes, appreciate kindness, commit crimes, dream dreams, cry out in distress, are affected by alcohol, opium, strychnine, and other drugs, see, hear, smell, taste, and feel, are industrious, provident and cleanly, have languages,
risk their lives for others, manifest ingenuity, individuality, fidelity, affection, gratitude, heroism, sorrow, sexuality, self-control, fear, love, hate, pride, suspicion, jealousy, joy, reason, resentment, selfishness, curiosity, memory, imagination,
remorse all of these things, and scores of others, the same as human beings do.

The universal Kinship by Howard J Moore

Inspired by Darwin's ideas J Howard Moore, wrote extensively about our relationship with animals. Moore born 1862 was an American zoologist, author of several books and an advocate of vegetarianism and the humane treatment of animals.

Emotion is the stirring of the sensibilities by way of the intellect or the imagination. The following emotions are found in non-human beings : fear, surprise, affection, pugnacity, play, pride, anger, jealousy, curiosity, sympathy, emulation, resentment, appreciation of the beautiful, grief, hate, cruelty, joy, benevolence, revenge, shame, remorse, and appreciation of the ludicrous. Excepting the emotions of conscience and religion, which are really compounds, with fear as the main ingredient, this list of non-human emotions is co- extensive with the list of human emotions. Many of these emotions germinate low down in the animal kingdom, fear, anger, sexuality, and jealousy all being found in fishes and in the higher invertebrates. In the higher vertebrates many of these emotions are almost as strong as they are in men.

Howard J Moore wrote that long before humans or their philosophies and religions evolved, emotion had evolved in animals, referring to the psyche - the mind and mental processes - he says :

The human soul is the blossom, not the beginning, of psychic  evolution. Mother -love compassionated infancy long before a babe came from the stricken loins of woman. The inhabitants of the earth had been seeking pleasure and seeking to avoid pain, and seeking ever with the same sad futility, long before man with his retinue of puny philosophies strutted upon the scene. Hate poisoned the cisterns of the sea and dropped its pollutions through the steaming spaces ages before there was malice among men. Altruism is older than the mountains, and selfishness hardened the living heart before the continents were lifted. There was wonder in the woods and in the wild heart of the fastnesses before there were wailings in synagogues and genuflections about altar piles. The frogs, crickets, and birds had been singing love a thousand generations and more when the first amoroso knelt in dulcet descant to a beribboned Venus. Human nature is not an article of divine manufacture, any more than is the human form. It came out of the breast of the bird, out of the soul of the quadruped. The human heart does not draw back from the mysterious dissolutions of death more earnestly than does the hare that flees before resounding packs or the wild-fowl that reddens the reeds with its flounderings. Bower- birds build their nestside resorts, decorate them with gay feathers, and surround them with grounds
ornamented with bright stones and shells, for identically the same reason as human beings design drawing-rooms, hang them with tapestries, and surround them with ornamented lawns. The scarlet waistcoat of the robin and the flaming dresses of tanagers and humming-birds, which seem, as they flash through the forest aisles, like shafts of cardinal-fire, serve the same vanities and minister to the same instincts as the plumage of the dandy and the tints and gewgaws of gorgeous dames. Art is largely a manifestation of sex, and it is about as old and about as persistent as this venerable impulse. How did Darwin's dog know his master on his master's return from a five-years' trip around the world ? Just as the boy remembers where the strawberries grow and Jlie philosopher recalls his facts by that power of the brain to retain and to reproduce past impressions. Why does the thinker search his soul for new theories and the spaces for new stars? For the same reason that the child asks questions and the monkey picks to pieces its toys. What is reason ? A habit of wise men an expedient of ants a mania the fools of all ages are free from. All of the activities of men, however imposing or peculiar, are but elaborations in one way or another of the humble doings of the animalcule, whose home is a water-drop and whose existence can be discovered by human senses only by the aid of instruments.

Mind has evolved because the universe has evolved. Whether mind is a part of the universe, or all of it, or only an attribute of it, it is, in any case, inextricably mixed up with it. And, since the universe as a whole has evolved, it is improbable that any part of it or anything pertaining to it has remained impassive to the general tendency. There are no solids. Nothing stands. The whole universe is in a state of fluidity. Even the ' eternal hills,' the ' unchanging continents,' and the ' everlasting stars,' are flowing, flowing ever, slowly but ceaselessly, from form to form. So is mind. Indeed, if there is anywhere in the folds of creation a being such as the one whom man has long accused of having brought the universe into existence, we may rest assured that even he is not sitting passively apart from the enormous enterprise which he has himself inaugurated.

The evidence is conclusive. The evolution of mind is supported by a series of facts not less incontrovertible and convincing than that by which physical evolution is established. The data of mental evolution are not quite so definite and plentiful as those of physical evolution. But this is due to the greater intangibility of mental
phenomena and to the backward condition of the psychological sciences, especially of comparative psychology. Mental phenomena are always more difficult to deal with than material phenomena, and hence are always more tardily attended to in the application of any theory. But taking everything into account, including the close connection between physical and psychical phenomena, it may be asserted that it is not more certain that the physical structure of man has been derived from sub-human forms of life than it is that the human mind has also been similarly derived.

Man is the adult of long evolution. The human soul has ancestors and consanguinities just as the body has. It is just as reasonable to suppose that the human physiology, with its definitely elaborated tissues, organs, and systems, is unrelated to the physiology of vertebrates in general, and through vertebrate physiology to the physiology of invertebrates, as to suppose that the states and impulses constituting human nature and consciousness began to exist in the anthropic type of anatomy and are unrelated to the states and impulses of vertebrate consciousness in general, and
through vertebrate consciousness to those remoter types of sentiency lying away at the threshold of organic life. Human psychology is a part of universal psychology. It has been evolved. It has been evolved according to the same laws of heredity and adaptation as have physiological structures. And it is just as impossible to understand human nature and psychology unaided by those wider prospects of universal psychology as it is to understand the facts of human physiology unaided by analogous universalisations.

Read more about Howard J Moore and further extracts from his writings.


General comments on Animal emotions

If we feel jealousy, then dogs and wolves and elephants and chimpanzees feel jealousy. Animal emotions are not necessarily identical to ours but there’s no reason to think they should be. Their hearts and stomachs and brains also differ from ours, but this doesn’t stop us from saying they have hearts, stomachs and brains. There’s dog joy and chimpanzee joy and pig joy, and dog grief, chimpanzee grief and pig grief.

Marc Bekoff

Marc Bekoff is professor of biology at the University of Colorado and co-founder with the primatologist Jane Goodall of the group Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In the video below Professor Marc Bekoff looks into the behaviour and emotions of animals.

Animal Behavior and Emotions


Animal behaviour and psychiatric medications

An important consideration to take into account concerning animal emotion is the fact that mammals share the same brain structures that are responsible for processing human emotion. Moreover mammals just like human beings can suffer from
emotional and psychological disorders  for example depression, phobias and anxiety disorders such as separation disorder and what very much appears like obsessive compulsive disorder in humans.

The article cited below discusses the case of Max a three year old German Shepherd, an exuberant animal who stands on his hind legs to open the door, loves car rides and has an overwhelming need to be with people and likes attention from his guardians but gets jealous if their attention is turned to each other. However the most significant problem with Max was his compulsion to turn round and round in a circle a behaviour dog owners recognise as tail chasing, a normal behaviour in dogs except Max did this for many hours at a time. If for any reason he could not perform this compulsion he would go berserk. Max was treated with Novartis containing a chemical identical to clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant used in human psychiatric treatment. This type of  behaviour and treatment with human medication brings to the fore some interesting considerations concerning animal sentience and points to the fact that animal emotions are very similar to those that human beings experience.

The supposed effectiveness of psychiatric medicines in treating mood and behavior issues is prompting new questions in the centuries-old debate over what, exactly, separates mankind from the beasts. If the strict Cartesian view were true — that animals are essentially flesh-and-blood automatons, lacking anything resembling human emotion, memory and consciousness — then why do animals develop mental illnesses that eerily resemble human ones and that respond to the same medications? What can behavioral pharmacology teach us about animal minds and, ultimately, our own?

Pill-Popping Pets

Read the complete article:

It has to be said that in some instances many of these conditions are brought on by the unnatural circumstances in which animals are now expected to live. Separation anxiety may occur for instance when a dog's guardian's leave for work for periods of eight or more hours leaving the dog alone locked indoors in a confined space with no company. In such cases it is surely really no surprise that the unfortunate animal will react adversely in ways that are not acceptable, at least not acceptable in human terms of expectation. Many animals are confined to homes far smaller than those mentioned in the article and furthermore on the return of their owners many dogs are not taken for walks further than the bottom of the street if at all.

Conditions of a psychiatric nature in animals shows that animals like us have emotions and they too react to conditions that are of detriment to them.  Whether you agree with the use of psychiatric medication for animals, or humans for that matter, or not does not alter the fact that such drugs are effective in the treatment of many mental health conditions that present in animals which resemble similar conditions in humans. All of which makes them very much like us.

Do animals cry

Some people consider crying a unique display of emotion in humans that is not found in other animals.

Below are comments upon observations by Charles Darwin on the anatomy of crying

I was anxious to ascertain whether there existed in any of the lower animals a similar relation between the contraction of the orbicular muscles during violent expiration and the secretion of tears...

The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep. Sir E. Tennent, in describing those which he saw captured and bound in Ceylon, says, some "lay motionless on the ground, with no other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused their eyes and flowed incessantly." Speaking of another elephant he says, "When overpowered and made fast, his grief was most affecting; his violence sank to utter prostration, and he lay on the ground, uttering choking cries, with tears trickling down his cheeks."20 In the Zoological Gardens the keeper of the Indian elephants positively asserts that he has several times seen tears rolling down the face of the old female, when distressed by the removal of the young one.

Charles Darwin The Expression of Emotion and man and Animals

It has been observed that chimpanzees and rats cry

"Chimpanzees do make upset vocalizations when they are being weaned by their mothers or have lost their mother or other individual," ... "They whimper and cry and scream. When we hear these calls, the emotion involved seems obvious. However, they do not weep in the sense of producing tears. I have seen an adolescent male whimpering when he lost sight of his older brother with whom he had been traveling."

Anne Pusey, ecology, evolution and behavior professor at the University of Minnesota, quoted in USA Today on-line article Animals Cry but don't Weep

Emotion in insects

Most people will accept that their pet dog, cat or rabbit may possess emotion and more and more people are accepting the fact that the same is true of all mammals, birds and even reptiles but what about insects. Are insects emotional creatures?

A recent Study  undertaken "suggests that honeybees could be regarded as exhibiting emotions"

It has been demonstrated that honey bees are capable of exhibiting pessimism, a trait usually only believed to exist in so called "higher animals". The study showed that agitated bees showed expectations of negative outcomes and a reduction in the levels of neurotransmitters, altered levels of dopamine, serotonin and octopamine, three neurotransmitters  that are associated with depression . Researchers say that the findings “suggest that honeybees could be regarded as exhibiting emotions.”

Pessimism is an aspect of emotion, the fact that its existence has been demonstrated in bees shows that they have an inner life and like other animals are capable of emotion.

This response in honey bees  “has more in common with that of vertebrates than previously thought,” says researchers Melissa Bateson and Jeri Wright. The findings “suggest that honeybees could be regarded as exhibiting emotions.”

Emotions in birds

Birds have emotions just like other animals, according to scientists birds have the right equipment for emotion. Birds have a specialised part of the brain that is necessary for emotional behaviour called the limbic system .

Charles Darwin considered that the song of birds conveyed various emotions:

With birds the voice serves to express various emotions, such as distress, fear, anger, triumph, or mere happiness. It is apparently sometimes used to excite terror, as in the case of the hissing noise made by some nestling-birds. Audubon (25. 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. v. p. 601.), relates that a night-heron (Ardea nycticorax, Linn.), which he kept tame, used to hide itself when a cat approached, and then "suddenly start up uttering one of the most frightful cries, apparently enjoying the cat's alarm and flight." The common domestic cock clucks to the hen, and the hen to her chickens, when a dainty morsel is found. The hen, when she has laid an egg, "repeats the same note very often, and concludes with the sixth above, which she holds for a longer time" (26. The Hon. Daines Barrington, 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 252.); and thus she expresses her joy. Some social birds apparently call to each other for aid; and as they flit from tree to tree, the flock is kept together by chirp answering chirp. During the nocturnal migrations of geese and other water-fowl, sonorous clangs from the van may be heard in the darkness overhead, answered by clangs in the rear. Certain cries serve as danger signals, which, as the sportsman knows to his cost, are understood by the same species and by others. The domestic cock crows, and the humming-bird chirps, in triumph over a defeated rival. The true song, however, of most birds and various strange cries are chiefly uttered during the breeding- season, and serve as a charm, or merely as a call-note, to the other sex.

The Descent of Man

Quotations on animal emotions

When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals' emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.

Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter

Evolutionary biology is now uttering and seeking those forces that link us with all those that have being. If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.
Adrian Forsyth, A Natural History of Sex, 1986

Living with animals can be a wonderful experience, especially if we choose to learn the valuable lessons animals teach through their natural enthusiasm, grace, resourcefulness, affection and forgiveness.
Richard H. Pitcairn

Links on animal emotions

An excellent article on Animals Emotions

A three-month-old baby died in its mother’s arms earlier this month. For hours the mother, Gana, gently shook and stroked her son Claudio, apparently trying to restore movement to his lolling head and limp arms. People who watched were moved to tears — unfazed by the fact that Gana and Claudio were “only” gorillas in Münster zoo, northern Germany.

Do animals have emotions?
John-Paul Flintoff

Read More

Also see

Newborn joy for Gana the gorilla after the heartbreak of a baby dying in her arms

With fierce pride Gana the gorilla gently cradles her tiny baby. Her powerful forearm presses the wrinkly, virtually hairless child to her chest.

Her visible joy is in marked contrast to the grief she demonstrated last year on losing her baby Claudio.

Last August, she could be seen clinging to the child's lifeless body at Germany's Munster Zoo, cradling him and holding the body in the air as she tried to revive him.

As a scientist who's studied animal emotions for more than 30 years, I consider myself very fortunate. Whenever I observe or work with animals, I get to contribute to science and develop social relationships at the same time, and to me, there's no conflict between the two. While stories about animal emotions abound, there are many lines of scientific support (what I call "science sense") about the nature of animal emotions that are rapidly accumulating from behavioral and neurobiological studies (from the emerging field called social neuroscience). Common sense and intuition also feed into and support science sense and the obvious conclusion is that mammals, at the very least, experience rich and deep emotional lives, feeling passions from pure and contagious joy during play, to deep grief and pain. Recent data also shows that birds and fish are sentient and experience pain and suffering. Prestigious scientific journals regularly publish essays on joy in rats, grief in elephants and empathy in mice.

COMMENTARY: Do Elephants Cry?

Read More

Can Animals Cry? by Anneli Rufus

A moving account from Psychology today

The science is conclusive: animals are emotional beings

By Marc Bekoff

One of the hottest questions in the study of animal behavior is, “Do animals have emotions?” The simple answer is, “Of course they do.” Just look at them, listen to them, and, if you dare, smell the odors they emit when they interact with friends and foes. Look at their faces, tails, bodies and, most importantly, their eyes. What we see on the outside tells us a lot about what’s happening inside animals’ heads and hearts.

As a scientist who’s studied animal emotions for more than 30 years, I consider myself very fortunate. Whenever I observe or work with animals, I get to contribute to science and develop social relationships at the same time, and to me, there’s no conflict between the two. While stories about animal emotions abound, there are many lines of scientific support (what I call “science sense”) about the nature of animal emotions that are rapidly accumulating from behavioral and neurobiological studies (from the emerging field called social neuroscience). Common sense and intuition also feed into and support science sense and the obvious conclusion is that mammals, at the very least, experience rich and deep emotional lives, feeling passions from pure and contagious joy during play, to deep grief and pain. Recent data also shows that birds and fish are sentient and experience pain and suffering. Prestigious scientific journals regularly publish essays on joy in rats, grief in elephants and empathy in mice.

This is a convincing article on animal emotion which among other things explains the need for emotion as a survival mechanism and that it is bad biology to deny the existence of emotion in animals "Emotions, empathy, and knowing right from wrong are keys to survival, without which animals—both human and nonhuman—would perish."

Read More

Chickens 'capable of love, jealousy, selfishness and lust' by Carla Carlisle

Account of emotion in Chickens, also sheep.

Can animals really love each other?

An excellent article with accounts of animal emotions of grief, anger, love, kindness, empathy, happiness and gratitude

Download a free e-book the Emotional lives of Animals by Marc Beckoff


Thinking the Way Animals Do By Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

Important Please Note I quote Temple Grandin in instances were her knowledge supports animal sentience and other animal positives, however this website as an advocate of animal rights and the abolition in its entirety of animal exploitation does not support her involvement in the design of "humane" methods of slaughter. For more information please read for some insight into Miss Grandin's incongruous attitude and behaviour towards animals. Miss Grandin claims to have great insight into animal thinking yet designs slaughter facilities to bring about their demise. Though some of her insights may indeed be helpful to improving our understanding of animal behaviour it is difficult to understand her inconsistencies regarding the slaughter of animals.

This page  will be updated and added to when further information and stories are found. If you have a story to tell about animal emotion please consider including it here by e-mailing Christine Contact

* I have endeavoured to provide accurate references for stories found on the internet however some of the stories are so frequently repeated that the original source is not easily identifiable. If you see any story here that is yours for which you have not been credited for or have not given permission for its inclusion please Contact me.


Credit Photo: (c) 2008 by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. Picture taken at Farm Sanctuary.

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Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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