All Animals Have Deep Emotional Lives

All animals have feelings and personal preferences

My baby after he’s eaten lunch at a doggie restaurant in Yokohama. You can just see that smile. Photo: Ilene Kuehl

It always amazes me when people say that animals don’t have feelings.

“He’s just a dog. He doesn’t know the difference.”

But he does have feelings and he does know the difference — if he didn’t, why would he wag his tail when he has his favorite toy or cry when I leave to go get groceries?

It’s because he’s a feeling, living being — just like you and me.

All animals have feelings and individual interests

When I first got my dog, I was a young teenager who wasn’t thinking about what kind of life I wanted to give my new pet. All I knew was that I wanted a house dog and that I wanted one right now.

I wanted to spoil my new dog rotten and do all the fun things that people with dogs did. We would be closer than peas in a pod — he would be the Phineas to my Ferb, the Pluto to my Mickey, the Dino to my Fred.

It turned out not to be that simple. My new dog had terrible anxiety. He was highly sensitive and afraid of everything — even his new toys were scary to him.

I didn’t know what to do.

So I did what all pet owners who get a puppy that’s been abused should do: I gave him space to be his own person. Slowly, he started coming around. As I got to know him, I learned he had his own set of unique personality traits and interests.

I did the best I could to cater to his likes and dislikes. Sixteen years later, it’s like he’s a completely different dog. He’s still highly sensitive and anxious, but he’s a shadow of the shivering puppy that he once was. He’s finally happy and comfortable in his own skin.

But none of this would have happened if I had expected him to change without putting any effort in.

A child doesn’t get to choose their parents; dogs don’t get to choose their new pack members

That’s why it’s important to honor and respect the animals in our lives as much as we can. We get to pick and choose our pets, but they don’t get to pick the lives that they’re going to live once they’ve been purchased or adopted.

Imagine if you were brought into a stranger’s home and your new parents didn’t even try to figure out what kind of things you liked or what kind of life you wanted. You probably wouldn’t like your new home very much. Your basic needs might be met, but you wouldn’t be very happy. How could you be when the people around you were neglectful?

I think that being an animal is a lot like that in some households, because some people fail to recognize that their pets have individual interests and boundaries that deserve to be respected.

All animals have unique personalities, and just because they’re not humans doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve respect

Pets and other animals have things that they like and personal preferences. Whether they’re wild, domestic, or living in a zoo, they have lives and feelings that matter. Some have a favorite toy, some love to swim, and some prefer certain kinds of food over others.

Animals may not be able to think like humans, but they can love and develop bonds like we can. And that’s all that really matters. We share this earth with these unique beings, and all of us are equals in that sense.

So don’t be afraid if the people in your life judge you for spoiling or coddling your pet. People who allow their animals to live their lives while keeping their interests in mind means that these animals feel special, safe, and supported. You’re giving these creatures the gift of stability in an uncertain world, and there’s a little furry friend in your life who loves you for it.

Game writer & digital artist. I write about creativity, writing, & working in the video game industry. I 🤍 pink & vaporwave.

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