Emotion” is the term we use for feelings, some of which are instinctive and some of which are learned from those around us as we conform to society’do animals have rights essay expectations and norms. Human emotions range from “primitive” feelings such as disgust, rage, fear and lust to “complex” emotions compassion and jealousy. Basic emotions appear to cause chemical changes in the body in response to a stimulus. This article looks at feline feelings.
In places it compares or contrasts human and feline responses or makes references to other animals for illustrative purposes. According to many pet owners, the answer is “yes”. Cats display a range of feelings including pleasure, frustration and affection. Other feline behaviour is attributed to jealousy, frustration and even vengefulness. Owners base their answer on observation of feline behaviour, but without an understanding of what makes a cat tick, they risk crediting a cat with emotions it does not feel as well as recognising genuine feline emotions. Owners who veer too far into the “Did my ickle-wickle fluffy-wuffikins miss his mummy then? Though humans have better vision, cats have better smell, taste and hearing.
Like us, cats feel heat, cold, pain and other physical sensations. Physical stimuli may lead to physiological responses, some of which are termed emotions. If humans and cats have similar responses to, for example, the smell of enticing food, they may share certain emotions e. According to many scientists, however, the answer is “no”. We interpret their instinctive behaviours according to our own wide range of emotions. We credit them with feelings they do not have. Some scientists deny that animals, including cats and dogs, are anything more than flesh-and-blood “machines” programmed for survival and reproduction.
Many researchers’ scepticism is fuelled by their professional aversion to anthropomorphism, but others have a more sinister motive. Those who deny animals any feelings at all may do so in order to justify animal experiments which others consider inhumane. This denial of animal emotions allows them to conduct experiments with little regard for their subjects’ physical or mental wellbeing. The denial of animal emotions is their own hidden agenda rather than a conclusion based on study of behaviour.
Some religions teach that man is superior to animals and, by extension, animals do not have feeling. Some cultures do not recognise animals as thinking, feeling entities, for example the Chinese term for animal equates to “moving thing” and animals in food markets are treated as though they are no more than unfeeling, moving, vocalising vegetables. Are either of these polarised views correct or do cats also share certain emotions, perhaps a limited subset of the emotions we feel? To find out, we must observe our own and our cats’ responses to situations and analyse what an emotion is. Charles Darwin concluded that animals do indeed have emotions. He went on to explore the extent of animal emotions and found there to be emotional and cognitive continuity between humans and animals i.
Where there were gaps, these were differences in degree rather than differences in the kinds of emotions. While Darwin accorded animals varying degrees of emotion, many scientists have avoided the issue of animal emotions by putting quote marks around words such as “nervous” or “fearful”. In order to understand emotions, scientists have studied how emotions are formed, and how they relate to the rest of the body and to the outside world. To do this, they have looked at how the brain works, often by looking at how the individual brain cells are linked together and how they interact and by looking at what happens when parts of the brain are deliberately or accidentally damaged. The communication takes the form of electrical impulses from one end of a nerve cell to another, and chemicals across synapses between the nerve cells.
By measuring electrical impulses and levels of certain chemicals, and by interfering with these, researchers investigate how the brain works. Electrodes placed in certain locations in the brain to can be used to trigger specific emotions. Continual stimulation of part of the amygdala to induce terror eventually results in the animal’s death. Other methods look at how the brain operates as a whole, viewing it in action rather than dissecting a dead brain. Some of these can be used when the person or animal is in its natural environment.