Did You Know? (No.2)

breakthrough™ brings you a series of interesting facts about pets that you may not know about


In the age of ‘Empathic Man’, we are told, the softer, gentler bloke shares parental responsibilities with his ‘Other Half’ looking after baby, does his fair share of the housework chores, and on Saturdays takes his turn fighting his way round Tesco’s instead of going to the football. When it comes to the family pet, are “HIS” feelings and attitudes towards Gordon, the dog the same as “HERS”?

Well, a new study suggests not.

The researchers asked lots of women and men three questions –

  • (a) Which Emotions Can Animals Experience?
  • (b) Does Behaviour Change When an Animal Grieves?
  • (c) In Which Situations Might Animals Grieve?
  • The experience of emotions, both good and bad, are hugely important, not just for us but our pets too. The problem is that they are subjective and difficult to measure making the identification and recognition of mental suffering in animals elusive and easily overlooked. This study identified clear differences between men and women – men were less likely than females to believe that animals experienced complex emotions like depression, anxiety, love, happiness and grief.

    Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor BVetMed, DipCABT, MRCVS
    Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE)

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