My daughter came home from school one day very upset. She looked at me with tearful eyes and said, “My teacher said animals don’t have emotions. Is that true? Does that mean that Remy (our dog) doesn’t love me?” Now I’m no veterinarian, but my 20+ years of being around animals has shown me that animals are incredible creatures and are capable of astounding things. How do I explain such a complex idea to my tearful daughter? This is what I told her “people have different opinions and that’s alright if your opinion is different from someone else’s opinion. Some things that you will be told are facts, and some are opinions. The best thing you can do is understand the difference and educate yourself on the topic of discussion so that you can know the facts and in return, have an informed opinion.” She was still slightly confused. I continued to tell my daughter that I am here to teach her and help her to understand things, so if she’s told a “fact” and it doesn’t feel correct, she should listen to her instincts and we could research it together.
I wanted this to be a life lesson for her. So we spent time reading articles. We quickly realized that we didn’t really need definitive proof for or against the argument (and those scientific words were way over our head), so we turned our focus to the way animals show affection. Amidst all of the results, we found a few fun websites that gave brief facts about animals and their “affections” and “expressions.” These websites were a lot more fun to read (and easier on the brain)! We had some great bonding as we read and discussed some facts about animals and the way they bond!
Here are some general animal affection and expression facts for you to enjoy:
- Dogs sometimes fake being sick to get attention.
- Dogs can detect sadness in humans and often attempt to make their owners happy by initiating cuddling.
- Dogs can make about 100 different facial expressions.
- Male Gentoo penguins search through piles of pebbles to find the smoothest, most perfect ones. When he has selected his pebble, he presents it to his intended companion. If she approves, she puts the stone in her nest.
- Rats “laugh” when they are tickled.
- Squirrels will sometimes adopt orphaned baby squirrels that they’re related to.
- Cows have best friends and get stressed when they are separated.
- Prairie dogs affectionately greet each other with a “kiss.”
- In Switzerland, it is illegal to own only one guinea pig, because they are prone to loneliness.
- Elephants are among the most emotional creatures in the world – they have even been known to rescue other animals such as trapped dogs.
- Sea otters hold hands while sleeping so they don’t drift away from each other.
- Vampire bats adopt orphans, and are one of the few mammals known to risk their own lives to share food with less-fortunate roost-mates.
Stories of specific animals:
- There’s a young hippo and a 130+ year old tortoise in a Kenya wildlife preserve that are best friends and they even sleep and play together.
- After being in captivity for 23 years, the orca from Free Willy, Keiko, was set free in 2002. Weeks later, he appeared at a Norwegian fjord apparently seeking human contact and even gave rides to children on his back.
- In 2001, a lion, tiger, and bear cub were found in a drug dealer’s basement. They were moved to Noah’s Ark Sanctuary and have lived together as inseparable best friends ever since.
- In 2011, a male tiger in India adopted a litter of orphaned cubs, taking on the role of ‘mother’. Wildlife officials say such behavior had never been observed before (in tigers).