Do animals have emotions?

I’d like to say that is purely a rhetorical question, because is the answer not as clear as the snouts on their faces – or am I missing a third eyelid wink (wink, wink)?

Apparently Mr. Peter Ogburn of Media Bistro’s FishbowlDC thinks I am missing more than that – a brain, perhaps. In a piece called Dumbass Pitches (yep, that’s really the link), Ogburn basically asserts that I must be a misguided moron – or perhaps “some sad person who calls their 27 cats their ‘animal children’ and would breast feed their kittens if they could” – to suggest that animals experience emotion.

Now I could pause for a sentence here to point out such trivialities as Mr. Ogburn being mistaken on where the “beautifully stupid” pitch actually originated or some of the points it makes, but let’s get straight to some more of his commentary because it is so deeply considered: “Animals…shit when they have to.” “Animals live on base instincts.” “The perceived LOVE that they are giving you is a way to tell you that they want something…a leg to hump.”

As I was reflecting upon how a person who says he has pets could so crassly conclude that they don’t emote, I helpfully received a piece by Gene Weingarten which describes Mr. Ogburn’s worksite as: [a] “vicious, sleazy, snide, disreputable, unscrupulous, vacuous, wildly immature, gratuitously cruel, malicious and mean-spirited media-gossip website that specializes in innuendo, reckless character assassination and unconscionable, wanton defamation.” (Click here to read his full article.)

But hold my horses! Weingarten goes on to entreat Mr. Ogburn to continue to feature him weekly, as is apparently FishbowlDC’s custom, because “I have come to enjoy the abrasive work…It hurts so good.” If this two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist wants to stay in the Fishbowl, then please…have me back! Let’s talk animals!

After all, I like to swim with the fishes – that’s me in the scuba suit. The other Bull Run 032 swimmer is Larry the grouper. Whenever we would descend to his reef in the Bahamas, Larry would fishtail it over to us to engage in long soulful eyelocks, slurp at our regulators and get petted. He would roll from side to side and front to back to make sure we scratched every accessible scale. Now Mr. Ogburn, I can’t tell you exactly what Larry’s emotions were when he saw our air bubbles heading his way, but I imagine they were something like, “Hot diggity divers! This is gonna feel good!”Bull Run 035

And yes, “Larry” is my own humanly imposed nomenclature for our grouper groupie. Call that crazy cat/fish/animal lady stuff if you’d like. I don’t mind. And finally, Mr. FishbowlDC, if I ever start breast feeding kittens, I’ll be sure to let you know. That would make a great column.

But excuse me right now, I have to go. Lucy Miracle is meowing against my ankles, which means she’s feeling affectionate and wants a little together time. I like to respond when the moment is right.

–Readers, please tell us what you think. Do animals have emotions – or not?




  1. Ena S.

    I agree they have emotions. My parents had 2 precious dogs- both Pomeranians- and one was tragically killed by a pit bull that got loose. The surviving dog cried & whined & barely ate for weeks. It was so heartbreaking to watch. They got another dog (a puppy) and after a little while they started to get along & are now inseparable.

    Now when the older dog gets occasional neck pains (old age acting up) & whines- the younger dog will run to him & lick his face. I accidentally stepped on his paw once & the younger dog barked at me & ran over to lick his face. They are very protective of each other.

    I have visited farms and many farm animals- goats, pigs, sheeps, cows, etc. display emotions. Of course this makes me feel tremendously guilty as a meat eater, but when I was a vegetarian it was too hard for me to control my blood sugar, but that’s another story.

    Anyway I enjoy your writing, keep the blog posts coming.

  2. Barry

    While I can’t claim that animal emotions are “human”, to deny they have emotions at all strikes me as unobservant at best. I’ve seen cats care for each other, crave companionship, and mourn at the death of another. It’s no big leap for me to believe other animals are just as rich in emotions.

  3. Constance

    I read both articles referenced in your post. I’m a bit sad for both men. We don’t need frivolous, thoughtless negativity poaching for space in our heads. As to animals and their emotions – one would have to be blind deaf and dumb to not be aware they have them.

  4. Sue Green

    Animals experience a number of emotions! They grieve when their human partners are away, when they lose a sibling to death and when they lose a newborn. They are protective to the death of their young and show affection to them when rearing them. They show jealousy, guilt and joy! Only an idiot would argue such facts!!

Leave a Reply