I’ve mentioned a few times here that my cat, Bazel is a vicious biter. I’ve tried everything I know or have heard or read about to break him of this habit, but to no avail.
Bazel is not into cuddling, but sometimes he pounces on me demanding some petting. He seems to like it, but after only a few seconds, he’ll start biting. So I stop petting him and tuck my vulnerable hands away.
Then he gives me one of those hey-why-did-you-quit-petting-me-bitch looks and rams his head into me. After a while I might pet him again. Then he bites again. Then I stop. Then he head-butts me again. We repeat this pointless game over and over and over, with me hoping one day he’ll understand that he’ll only get petted if he doesn’t bite me.
It’s been almost 4 years, so I’ve pretty much given up hope of him ever cluing in.
So, since he obviously doesn’t have the intelligence to figure this out, I wonder why he won’t stop the biting because he can see it hurts me. I know he’s attached to me because he follows me around and seems happy to see me when I’ve been away and yowls real loud when he doesn’t know where I am and purrs when he finds me. So you’d think that if he likes me, he wouldn’t want to hurt me. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit for having some sort of emotions as well as giving him too much credit for intelligence.
Do you believe animals have emotions?
Olden days scientists believed the only type of emotion an animal could feel was fear. Except Darwin. Darwin said there was …
… continuity in evolution, so the differences between species are differences in degree rather than differences in kind. They’re shades of grey. 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.
Jane Goodall, a non-scientist, believed she observed a whole range of emotions in her apes.
Scientists today, while they still are unable to exactly measure emotions in animals, have found that all mammals, including humans share certain neuroanatomical structures such as the “amygdala and neurochemical pathways in the limbic system that are important for feelings”.
They now believe that some sort of emotional life has evolved within animals to serve as a bonding mechanism among animals to help them behave adaptively and flexibly in a wide variety of situations.
Of course the existence of the emotional life of animals hasn’t really been clinically/empirically proven. But as Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.”
If animals do have emotions they are not necessarily the same as human emotions. The analogy has been made that human emotions to animals’ may be like comparing colour vision to black-and-white – they’re the same concept, but the former is immensely more complex.
Jon Katz, author of The New Work of Dogs says:
Pets adore their owners, to be sure–but not in the way that we love our own families. They are scholars of the people they live with. What drives them to be affectionate is pretty primitive: food, shelter, attachment. They’re not thinking, ‘This guy’s an interesting fellow, I’m going to be his friend’.”
I don’t think there’s a pet owner alive who doesn’t believe that animals have some sort of emotional life. That they feel joy, love, loneliness, sadness, empathy, disappointment, loyalty — that they have a sense of fun.
So we get really upset if we hear about some puppy mill breeder who keeps dozens of dogs penned up in one cage to live with their own crap. And they just keep breeding and breeding them to churn out more puppies. And if one of them dies they just get pitched into an incincerator. And that they’re raised only as a money-making product to sell to anyone with cash to do with what they will.
We get upset because we know those animals are suffering. It’s odd though that we don’t get upset when the animal is a pig or a cow or sheep or a chicken in exactly the same circumstances. Strange, eh?
Did you know that for the longest time we also believed that human infants had no emotional life – that infants didn’t even feel pain. Until the mid-1980s (ya, you read that correctly 1980s) surgeries of all sorts were performed on infants and older babies without anesthesia. There are still hospitals today who perform circumcisions on male infants without anesthesia although it’s been pretty clearly proven that infants do feel and remember pain just like us grown-up humans. D’uh!
I’m using this to illustrate what incredible tunnel vision humans can have and how arrogant we are to persist in the belief that we are somehow amazingly unique creatures among all the other creatures in the universe including our own young.
I predict that one day, not too many generations from now, future humans are going to be looking back on us as ignorant barbarians for the way we thought of, and treated our fellow creatures.