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

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 read stories and information that highlights these characteristics and abilities in animals


...the lower animals, like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery. Happiness is never better exhibited than by young animals, such as puppies, kittens, lambs, etc., when playing together, like our own children. Even insects
play together, as has been described by that excellent observer, P. Huber, who saw ants chasing and pretending to bite each other, like so many puppies.

The fact that the lower animals are excited by the same emotions as
ourselves is so well established, that it will not be necessary to weary
the reader by many details.

Charles Darwin The Descent of Man

Many kinds of monkeys have a strong taste for tea, coffee, and spiritous liquors: they will also, as I have myself seen, smoke tobacco with pleasure. (The same tastes are common to some animals much lower in the scale. Mr. A. Nichols informs me that he kept in Queensland, in Australia, three individuals of the Phaseolarctus cinereus; and that, without having been taught in any way, they acquired a strong taste for rum, and for smoking tobacco.) Brehm asserts that the natives of north-eastern Africa catch the wild baboons by exposing vessels with strong beer, by which they are made drunk. He has seen some of these animals, which he kept in confinement, in this state; and he gives a laughable account of their behaviour and strange grimaces. On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiable expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust, but relished the juice of lemons.

An American monkey, an Ateles, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus was wiser than many men. These trifling facts prove how similar the nerves of taste must be in monkeys and man, and how similarly their whole nervous system is affected.
Charles Darwin Descent of Man

Who has not seen that animals have a high capacity for pleasure and play. Most notably puppies and lambs, however in all animals there is evidence that they like us love nothing better than to play and experience pleasure. Surely it is more than likely that birds flying through the sky do so with joyful intent. Those of us who are close to an animal most certainly notice the relish which overcomes them at feeding time, the sheer pleasure and persistence very much like our own which they derive from eating food, particularly sweet food, food that we would generally say is not particularly good for us. Who has not experienced the low rumbling of the contented purr of a cat as he sits contentedly before a fire after a good meal. Surely none can deny that this creature is experiencing pleasure.

Animals of various species seek pleasure much in the same way as ourselves through the process of play, sex, food, company and touch.

Animals are very much like us and the fact that we experience pleasure and joy likely means that they do also. Although in many ways animals may look very different, all animals are built like us in all the ways that would allow them to experience a variety of emotions and sensations such as pleasure. Vertebrate animals, animals with back bones, which includes fish, mammals, reptiles birds and amphibians have the same type of body construction; a system of muscles supported by a bony skeleton which enables movement, a nervous system for relaying messages from the brain, a circulatory system that transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, a digestive and excretory system , a hormone system that regulates bodily process and a reproductive system. All animals with some rare exceptions have a sensory system of five senses just like our own, these of course are sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste.

Many animals have the same brain structures as ourselves, the  amygdala and the hypothalamus responsible for human emotion along with the same  biochemicals of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin - neurotransmitters, (chemical messengers) within the brain that allow the communication between nerve cells. Dopamine in addition to other functions such as memory, learning, sleep and movement effects mood and sexual gratification. As a chemical messenger, dopamine is similar to adrenaline. Dopamine affects brain processes that control emotional response, and the ability to experience pleasure and pain, it  helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centres. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in the modulation of mood, emotion, sleep and appetite, it is implicated in the control of numerous behavioural and physiological functions.  Serotonin  has became well know in the field of psychology because decreased serotoninergic neurotransmission is thought to play a role in depression. Serotonin is a contributor to feelings of well-being; it is known as a molecule of happiness or "happiness hormone" despite not being a hormone. Oxytocin often referred to as the love hormone is known for its role in female reproduction and is involved in various behaviours including orgasm, sexual arousal, maternal behaviours, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety, trust and empathy. Keeping this in mind it is obvious that all animals share with us the same capacity to experience pleasure, joy, even ecstasy and the pleasure of sexual gratification. Concerning sexual gratification, often considered in animals to be entirely instinctive without the pleasure experienced by humans beings, it can be shown that in animals sexual activity is not always entered into for the purpose of reproduction.

Throughout the animal Kingdom their are examples of creatures who enjoy sex for its own sake.  In Giraffes for example homosexual activity is often more common than heterosexual activity. Besides it is unlikely that animals consider reproduction during their pleasure making  Ten percent of rams are gay and bisexuality and homosexuality has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them.  Researcher Bruce Bagemihl  Canadian biologist, linguist, and author of the book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity says: "the animal kingdom [does] it with much greater sexual diversity — including homosexual, bisexual and nonreproductive sex — than the scientific community and society at large have previously been willing to accept." Current research indicates that various forms of same-sex sexual behaviour are found throughout the animal kingdom.

So you can see that animals having the same above mentioned neurotransmitters as humans have a neurological predisposition to happiness just as we do. With all the same neurological structures and brain chemicals in common it is obvious that animals share with us the same physiological and biochemical responses to sensory events. In other words animals have the capacity for pleasure. We cannot tell quite as easily how an animal is feeling anymore than we can always tell the mental state of a human being. For example a person who always jokes around, the life and soul of the party may be suffering emotionally and his or her jovial nature may be merely a facade to hide his or her suffering.

Yes indeed animals experience pleasure but for anyone with any doubt read on and consider the accounts, anecdotes and personal stories below which strongly suggest that they do.

Who says that animals don't experience pleasure?

They feel remarkably similar emotions to humans - including euphoria, love and mischievousness.

Jonathan Balcombe

There is biological evidence that horses are capable of feeling pleasure, when groomed on parts of their neck or withers their heart rate drops. A drop in heart rate "is known to be a response to feeling good and feeling relaxed," Jonathon Balcombe quoted in the msnbc article Good Times of the Animal Kind: were you will find more examples of animal pleasure.

Rabbits can appear inscrutable. For example they seem stoic in suffering yet we know that they too suffer as we do. The same goes for pleasure, rabbits and indeed many animals may not display their pleasure in obvious ways that people expect if they compare them with human beings, although we should keep in mind that pleasure means different things to different people and many humans may not outwardly and overtly display pleasure.  Anyone who cares for a rabbit knows that this creature like any other has a great capacity for pleasure.

There is no doubt that our rabbit experiences pleasure when she receives a tasty treat, her reaction is immediate as is her obvious pleasure at bring groomed or stroked.

Here is an example of the pleasure seeking of house rabbits who enjoy tasty treats and have learnt that the fridge holds such delights and now rush over to the fridge whenever they hear the door open with necks craned to see what comes out. One of the rabbit's named Duchess "has taken to standing up and putting her front paws on my leg whenever I’m holding a bag of treats."

More information about these rabbits, animal behaviour and the neurological processes behind the the pleasures of eating please read:

Please note that we are against animal testing and only give reference to this article for its informative value in establishing that animals experience pleasure from food just as human do

Animal Fun

According to a recent survey animals rather like us experience pleasure from many things and in addition experience and enjoy sensations that are not known to humans.

Animals happiness is happiness for its own sake related to food, play, touch and sex. For example herring gulls have been observed to participate in  "drop-catch," a form of play which involves tossing clams as though they were base balls. Animals also show food preferences not related to nutrition, and apes and parrots trained in language have told their owner which foods they liked or did not like. Another example is that of green iguanas who go to great lengths to find fresh, leafy lettuce.

Animals also may experience pleasures that go beyond human senses. Electric fish seem to enjoy giving each other stimulating charges, for example, while dolphins use "low-pitched buzzing clicks" near their genital areas, which "appears to be a way of giving pleasure to another."

Read more of this fascinating article: Animals Just Want to Have Fun , survery finds by By Jennifer Viegas

Evolution and Animal Pleasure

The next account quite rightly says that science considers only evolution and natural selection and reproductive success to explain natural phenomena and by so doing fails to recognise the experience of animal emotions such as pleasure. However modern day evolutionary explanations for animal behaviour do not reflect those of Darwin when it came to recognising that animals experience many emotions such as pleasure.

Pleasure and other emotional experiences are important survival mechanisms

Pleasure helps animals to maintain a stable state. When we are cold, we seek warmth and it feels good. When we are hot, that same warmth no longer feels pleasant and we seek a cooler spot. The same phenomenon applies to tastes (pleasant when hungry, unpleasant when full), though not to sounds and lights. Michel Cabanac, a professor at Laval University, Quebec, calls this phenomenon "alliesthesia", from the Greek, meaning "other-perception". Alliesthesia applies to other animals as well as humans.

Read more:

Section of a Jonathan Balcombe | Book: Pleasurable Kingdom

Dancing Birds

According to two recent studies birds in particularly parrots have a sense of rhythm, an appreciation for certain songs during the playing of which the birds tap their feet bob their heads and sway keeping time with the music.

The question of course for those who are sceptical that animals can experience pleasure and can enjoy music and show their appreciation by dancing will be, how do we know that these birds are enjoying themselves.

I guess there is no way we can but if you think about it we can never be sure that a human who is dancing or tapping out a beat with his foot is enjoying himself. You will need to judge for yourself. As most people enjoy music and love to dance and as music and dance evolved from animals as is explained in the article below it is highly likely that these birds are finding the experience pleasurable.

Dancing Birds Feel the Beat
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Consider the video Playtime


It certainly looks as though this bird is having fun


Research shows that surgeon fish feel relaxed after a massage

The implications of an animals' ability to experience pleasure.

If we recognise that animals are capable of pleasure and that they like us activity seek out situations and behaviours that give them pleasure than we have to review our current treatment or rather mistreatment of animals.

Birds do it. Chimpanzees do it. Even fishes in seas do it. They seek joy, rapture, jubilation, and countless other states of pleasure. And humans have a moral obligation to allow animals to experience these rewards. So how can we reconcile practices—such as laboratory experiments—that deprive animals fulfilling, enjoyable lives? The Pleasurable Kingdom author answers that question in his latest paper.

In additon to the cruelty of the laboratory treatment of animals, which along with depriving them of pleasure inflicts deliberate pain and suffering, other perhaps less obvious ways that we deprive animals of pleasure includes keeping them as pets, castrating them, sterilizing them and by confining them in cages in our homes, in enclosures in zoos and in factory farms depriving them of their natural behaviours and inclination to seek pleasure. Certainly depriving them of life to sustain our appetites for a diet that is neither natural or necessary brings about the cessation of pleasure.

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


Wikipedia: Homosexual behavior in animals

* 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.


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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