I’m a huge animal lover and I’ve been a pet owner for more than a decade. Cats, parrots, hamsters, and I’m looking forward to adopting a dog one day.
This article isn’t about me, though. Let’s talk about animals.
People have been wondering for ages if animals have feelings and particularly if they are capable of feeling empathy. In fact, animals’ supposed lack of empathy is often used as an argument to justify animal testing and various animal killings.
Well, let me tell you that animals do have feelings as well as show empathy — and there’s proof.
Wolves are perceived by many people as not only wild, aggressive animals, but also as ruthless killers. However, you’d be surprised to know that they are actually very caring and emotional. Extensive research has shown that wolves care for each other as individuals, form friendships, nurture their sick and injured companions and mourn when they lose a member of their pack.
I bet you didn’t saw this one coming. Rats have a bad reputation, don’t they? They are considered a very unwelcome guest, with appalling appearances and ‘sneaky’ behavior. However, despite the fact that the word ’rat’ is often used as an insult towards dishonest or scheming people, rats are actually very sympathetic animals.
In a famous 1958 experiment, hungry rats that were only fed if they pulled a lever to shock their littermates refused to do so while during another experiment, they repeatedly freed their cage-mates from containers, even though there was no clear reward for doing so. What is more, when presented with both a rat-holding container and one containing chocolate, the rodents not only chose to open both containers but also to share the chocolate they found. Who could have ever imagined it!
#3. Ostriches and Zebras
This unlikely pair is an example of different species understanding and helping each other. If you have visited a lot of zoos, you may have noticed that zebras are usually put together with ostriches. That is because out in the wild, they are actually crucial to each other’s safety.
That’s due to the fact that zebras have bad eyesight but great hearing and smell, while ostriches lack the latter but have great eyesight. As a result, they group up and often travel together so that they can warn each other of possible dangers.
#4. Vampire Bats
If asked which animals exhibit the habit of helping each other, bats, just like rats, are a species that wouldn’t come first to my mind. Well, to be fair, vampire bats are bloodsucking creatures of the night. They can also, however, form strong friendships and help each other out in times of need.
For example, female vampire bats help out their own by sharing regurgitated blood with bats who were unlucky enough to score a meal. In addition, a study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University has shown that vampire bats who formed social bonds in captivity maintained those bonds even after they were released back into the wild.
This is important due to the fact that researchers have often found it difficult to decide whether the animals helped one another due to an immediate benefit or due to some shared relationship history. During this experiment, the bats remembered and helped each other in two drastically different environments, even when they didn’t have to and had no benefit to gain.
Those who describe animals as not having any thoughts or feelings come closer to that description than the animals they are trying to describe.
— Edward Alberola
Dolphins are thought to be one of the most clever and sympathetic mammals. They create strong social bonds and often exhibit caring behavior not only towards their own — they have demonstrated sympathy and love for other species, especially humans.
When a dolphin is injured, other dolphins help it swim up to the surface in order to get some air, while there have been numerous times when dolphins were spotted rescuing humans from drowning and guiding stranded whales and seals back to the sea.
It has long been proved that elephants are able to recognize and respond to another elephant’s pain or problem. Often, they even make heroic efforts to assist one another. Scientists have spotted elephants assisting others that are injured, plucking out tranquilizing darts from their fellows, and spraying dust on others’ wounds.
Elephants have also been spotted to mourn their dead. When an elephant dies, other elephants in his or her family grieve and mark the loss by interacting with the bones of the deceased.
Clearly, animals know more than we think and think a great deal more than we know.
— Irene M. Pepperberg
Do you still have doubts about animals’ ability to feel empathy?
The world would be a much better place, if instead of hunting, torturing, and killing animals for their own profit, humans would take the time to observe them and actually learn from them.