Do animals process their feelings?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by wegs, Jun 30, 2023.

  1. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    So, I love my cat and lately, he’s been quite “chatty.” He’s also been vomiting due to hairballs, which is quite common. But, I’m wondering if cats have any thoughts prior to vomiting or getting sick, or when they’re in pain? Like in all this chatter, is he trying to convey his distress? For humans, we go through anguish and possibly fear, right before we vomit. “Ugh, I feel so sick,” crosses our mind.

    I wonder if cats and dogs, or animals in general, process their feelings, even slightly, like we do? My cat will vomit up a hairball, look at me, and walk away, as though nothing happened. But I’m not a cat mind-reader, so I don’t know.

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    Maybe they handle pain better than we do. There’s that, too.

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2023
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Animals are experts at hiding pain and injury. An evolved survival mechanism.
     
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  5. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think there is pain involved in coughing up a hairball.

    Cats aren't vocal with other cats so that's just for us. It does mean probably what you think it means. Animals live largely in the present (thankfully) so any pain they are feeling likely isn't made worse by all the worrying we would be doing under the same circumstances.

    It still cracks me up when I walk into a room, see my cat and say "hey Molly" and she looks up matter of factly and vocalizes a short "meh".
     
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  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    "Feelings" aren't without function -- they are intrasystem communications or messages, so they can potentially elicit reactions.

    But animals can't reflect on them the way humans do because the language-mediated and culturally generated concepts aren't there.

    "Bad feelings" can be recalled with respect to dietary objects that caused discomfort in the past, along with certain threatening situations. But there are no deep formulations and meanings being applied to the experiential states -- whether diagnostic, prognostic, etc.

    No beliefs and "way of life" thought-orientations being correlated to any _X_ phenomena, apart from the instinctive responses the animal was born with and some hard-learned survivor "dos and don'ts" issuing forth from memory (behavior conditioning).
    _
     
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  8. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    You’ve answered my question, CC. “No deep formulations.” I mean, that’s what we suspect anyway. lol But, I’d reckon you’re correct.

    I want to believe that my cat has channeled Deepak Chopra on many an occasion, getting in touch with his feelings, based on his meows alone. But, unfortunately, that’s just me anthropomorphizing.

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  9. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I’ve read that. Especially with cats, they have a high pain threshold. It’s sometimes difficult to know if they’re suffering with an ailment until they stop eating or using the litter box.

    I wonder why humans aren’t as capable at masking their pain, because you’d think it would have provided us an evolutionary advantage as well?
     
  10. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    It looks rather uncomfortable to me.

    I’ve wondered this, too - if they have lingering memories of pain. Although, I suspect they do have lingering memories of trauma or loud noises, for my cat at the first boom of a firecracker, runs for cover under my bed. Or when I have friends over, he darts under the bed. I’m wondering if something happened out in the wild that startled him and when I took him in (he was a young stray a few years ago), all loud sounds have this effect?

    This weekend will be such a joy. I’m not a fan of fireworks either.


    Aw, same. They’re masters at appearing nonchalant.
     
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    It's the natural state to mask pain. In the wild, no benefit can be gained by showing weakness; there's virtually nothing any other animal can do too help, so the only consequences are negative ones, even in their own pack. (A chicken with a funny spot on it - even if it isn't injured - may get pecked to-death. Seen it happen).

    Primates - and even more so - humans - are very social, and we have the ability - and the altruism - to help each other (that's what communities are). So a non verbal language for "I need help" becomes very advantageous to our survival.
     
  12. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Your cat is just acting like a cat. I've had several cats (one at a time) as an adult. They almost all run when there is a knock on the door, they hide when firecrackers go off, my cat's food bowl is in the kitchen, next to the stove and under a stand. If she is eating and I just start to open the bottom drawer of the stove, she automatically stops eating and leaves the room because she knows that geting the grill pan out of the drawer is loud.

    Once I get it out, she comes back. Most cats also like to be near you or even on you but most cats don't like to be held. A few do but most don't. It's not because they were mistreated as a kitten. All my cats were from shelters as well.

    That's just cat's being cats. That's where the saying that they have 9 lives comes from. When in doubt they run and ask questions later.

    A hairball looks uncomfortable but when you lick fur all day, that's what happens. My cat might be thinking, he has to shave every day, that looks uncomfortable but that's just a guy being a guy.

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    I have noticed that different cats have a different range of vocalizations. All will cry out in pain or fear of course but my last cat had one sound for when I can in the room and said "what's up". He would kind of grunt. If I startled him, he had a more plaintive sound and if I was in the room and he knew it but I was hidden from sight by a curtain, furniture and if he was playing around chasing a toy and then I called out his name, the sound was between the acknowledgment sound and the startled sound.

    My current cat just says a short "hello" or a startled higher pitch "what!".

    If I get in bed in the winter and it's cold and my current cat comes over, I'll try to get her to snuggle for a minute to warm me up. No dice. My last cat, through habit, had to snuggle for a minute when I got in bed and wouldn't take no for an answer.

    If I just pulled the cover over my head, he would just squeeze his head in there but I could lay him out next to my body like a body pillow and he was just like putty. He wanted to be there and whatever position I put him in was fine with him.

    My current cat has to be laying on her stomach, no sideways or upside down laying and she won't stay still. The minute you take you hand off she runs away but she still comes right back but wants to lay on top of the cover on my feet.

    I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night because of the weight on my feet.
     
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Animals have emotions like we do. The closer we are to them in the evolutionary tree - and the more we domesticate them - the more likely we are to understand the expression of those emotions. Dogs, for example, speak our emotional "language." The emotions of chimpanzees and bonobos are fairly easy to parse. Even mammals fairly far removed from man (dolphins for example) often exhibit very similar emotions.

    This is because they are useful. Basic emotions like fear, cowardice, bravery etc are useful for individual animals, and emotions like shame or jealousy are useful in animals that live in societies,
     
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  14. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Yea, I know they experience emotions but do they process their feelings as we do? For example, if someone offends you, it may trigger anger or sorrow. Your brain processes the offense in tandem with the expression of your feelings, in the moment. You wonder why that person offended you and whether or not you should react, despite feeling angry or sad.

    Are animals capable of mindfulness in as much as they understand their feelings? If a bear were to charge at you whilst camping with your friends, is the bear acting on instinct or does he process at all, why he’s charging at you? For us, if we fight back against a perceived threat, we weigh our options; we aren’t solely interested in self-preservation. Some may be, perhaps a sociopath. In the camping scenario, I’m not sure if the bear is considering your preservation. But you very well may be considering his and yours.
     
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    If the bear is hungry or threatened, I don't think he is considering your preservation. On the other hand they aren't generally "mean-spirited".

    In general, it's my understanding, animals have the same/similar brain structure that we have, it's just more limited. It's the abstract thinking that is much more limited. Of course it depends on the animal.
     
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  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Watch this rescue of a baby elephant in a ditch and the grateful response by it's mother when the baby was safely returned to the family.

    (3:15)
     
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  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I think, as with humans, it's both. We have far more control over how we react to our instincts than other animals do, of course, but if we run at someone who is threatening our kids, there's not too much difference between how a bear would react to the same.
    Agreed, but again - we'd react similarly to someone threatening our kids. Generally we don't consider our preservation in that case - although we have a far wider range of options available than the bear does.
     
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  18. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    That's rather insulting to the cat. I think they're smarter than that.
     
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  19. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Yea, he did look rather annoyed when I posted that.
     
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  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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  21. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    It may just be me anthropomorphizing, but it appears that animals have the same types of emotions that we have. The difference is more of degree than type. Elephants are known to stop at the bones of their dead, pick them up and examine them. As far as I know, they may even remember who that was. They may be stopping and visiting Aunt Agnes's or Sister Susie's grave.

    https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf...#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:49f7c67a,vid:tT4sGcfVcc0
     
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  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    Why should they not have the same emotions? Emotions all stem from bio-chemical interactions and these formulas use the same bio-chemicals for all Eukaryotic life.
     
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Getting in touch with his felines, surely?

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