Empathy: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Do animals have empathy?
Well… As an animal behaviourist, it’s safe to say that I believe animals have empathy. Not just for others of their kind, but for us Humans, too. It’s just one of their many, magnificent, qualities.
Empathy is the ability to not only detect what others are feeling, but to also express those feelings on a personal basis.
Animals are always emphasising with me as they continuously detect when things aren’t so great and provide me with love, understanding and a friend when I need one the most.
Being around animals throughout the whole of my life has given me an indication into how animals can feel emotions, just like we can. Pain, joy, happiness and contentment to name a few. I’ve also been educated into the compassionate, kind and gentle souls they are which I’m exceptionally thankful for.
Although they are unable to physically say “I am feeling…” today, they can sure express that in their own unique ways. Noted if you look closely into an animal’s behaviour and pick up on even the most minuscule of changes, you’ll be able to detect how an animal is feeling, if they’re injured or unwell, if they’re happy or sad.
Evidence of empathy has been found amongst many animal species throughout behaviour studies, including: primates, elephants, dogs, mice and chickens. Voles have been found comforting other Voles with high stress levels. Though, I believe further evidence and research is needed to focus on the abilities amongst other animal species.
An example of empathy that encouraged me to research further is the two-year-old Elephant who remained with his Mother after she was tragically passed away. Evidently, this allows us to understand the Elephants’ feelings of sadness and grief during a tragic event. Elephants have also been recorded assisting those with injuries by coming to their aid, spraying dust on their wounds or helping to pluck out tranquillising darts from their peers.
Not only do the Elephants detect the pain, they go out of their way to help those in need of it. It’s incredible!
For further information, check out the following article from The National Geographic:
I hold the strong beliefs that animals have empathy. Their abilities to understand when things aren’t “quite right” in people and other animals leads me to believe anything but. Ie: animals can pick up on mental symptoms of illnesses that aren’t visible. They can understand and provide comfort to those in need of it, such as people in mourning. They can emphasise with us. Many people are yet to relate to animals, to understand how sentiment and intelligent they are also.
Animals are our friends, beautiful ones at that. We truly are blessed to share our world with our furry friends, friends with feathers and friends with scales.
Being privileged enough to spend lots of my time with animals has widened my eyes into the compassionate side they hold. Although I previously knew this was present in animals, I wasn’t fully aware of the way that could be expressed to us Humans. I’m now aware that animals do understand our feelings and emotions. Although they cannot ask if we’re okay or if we need a cuddle, they can detect certain symptoms and act rapidly to mend the lowest of moods by providing comfort and love. They care. They prioritise others feelings and emotions greatly and it’s something often overlooked.