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  • Writer's pictureStacey Ferrell

Do Animals Have Complex Feelings?

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

I’m often asked the question do animals have feelings? I’m not referring to pain or basic happiness, but complex emotions. In my experience, they do. As I said before, they don’t worry about the same issues as us humans (like body image), but their thoughts and feelings go much deeper than most realize.

In communicating with a variety of animals (from feathers to fur to scales), I’ve come to understand that animals are just as complex in their emotions as people. I’ve communicated with animals who’ve expressed basic emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness, and fear. I’ve also communicated with animals that conveyed deep feelings of depression, hopelessness, indifference, resignation, apprehension, embarrassment, panic, worry, frustration, jealousy, arrogance, confidence, eagerness, resilience, compassion, humor, appreciation, gentleness and grief.

As life on planet earth continuously evolves, more animals have advanced and are gaining new purposes. Previously, most animals were concerned with basic needs such as food, shelter, and companionship. Now there are many animals here to help heal others, teach us lessons, and some are even acting as mediums (seeing and assisting the dead). Don’t believe me? Think about all the healing programs involving therapy animals that now exist or the countless stories of animals healing or helping others. This isn’t a coincidence.

In regards to how deeply they feel, let me share a story about a duck. My son was in our backyard and discovered a female mallard duck. Our home does have a man-made lake close by, but our yard is not right next to it plus we have a six-foot tall wooden fence around the entire perimeter. We’ve never had ducks in our yard before. Since the presence of the duck was unusual, my son starting looking around and noticed something floating in our pool. He retrieved what turned out to be a dead baby duckling. This duckling was too young to fly, so our best guess is that it had been picked up by a scrub jay and momma gave chase. She was successful in getting her baby released, but the baby didn’t survive the encounter. Not wanting a cat or some other predator to get the baby (or momma) my son dug a small grave and put the baby to rest.

My son informed me what happened, and I went out to communicate with the mother. I explained to her that her baby didn’t survive, and that we made sure that no more harm would come to him. I welcomed her to stay in our yard as long as she needed to. Momma stayed in our backyard for three days grieving the loss of her baby. We could feel the sadness radiating off the momma and our hearts went out to her. On the evening of third day she left. When we awoke the next morning, momma duck had returned, this time with a male mallard, her mate. They stayed in our yard the entire day and finally left that evening. This time, they didn’t come back. About a year later, we looked outside to find a male and female mallard in our backyard. It appeared to be the same pair of ducks from the year before. They hung out in the yard for the entire day, as if remembering the anniversary of their lost child. They left that evening and have never returned.

While their actions may not seem complex, animals can and often do experience some of the same emotions that we do. Although they can’t vocalize and express their feelings in the same manner as us, it doesn’t mean that the feelings don’t exist. The next time you find comfort with an animal, make sure to tell them thank you.

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