Must-Read Book on the Science behind Your Cat’s Rich Emotional Life –

Animal-wise-cover

Any crazy cat lady can regale you with stories of her cats’ various emotional states and moods: joy, jealousy, diffidence, crankiness, grief and depression. Anyone who’s not a cat person will roll his eyes at those stories and poo-poo them as anthropomorphization.

But a lot of us know that rich emotional lives extend to all inhabitants of the animal kingdom. A few weeks ago, I had the delightful good fortune to interact with a 9-week-old ferret. As I peered into the lucite funhouse in which he and his compadres were corralled, he made eye contact and stretched his little weasel body up as if begging me to pick him up. I swear he was smiling.

Observing this, his handler gave me permission to hold him (if I used hand sanitizer). When I went over to the sanitizer dispenser, he thought I’d abandoned him, and he crawled back into his tubing. So when I went back to the enclosure, I picked up one of the other ferrets. Seeing this, my little friend came out and appeared to be visibly upset, as if to say, “But I thought you liked me best!?!” (It wasn’t just my imagination; everyone around me remarked on it.)

So I put his friend down and spent a memorable few minutes interacting with him, a happy little creature who was all nibbles and snuggles. I tell myself that he will never forget the precious time we had together. We had a connection. And it took every ounce of willpower I had not to bring him home with me.

On the cross-country flight home, I read a new book, Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures in one sitting. Written by science writer Virginia Morell, it takes the reader on a tour of the animal kingdom, interviewing behavioral scientists who’ve spent their lives proving that animals are just as emotional, moody and self-aware as we are.

These scientists have devised ingenious experiments to quantify and qualify animal emotions. One tickles rats for a living and documents how they crave tickling and laugh when they get their tickle on. (Rattie fans will testify how personable, smart and emo those little critters are.)

Funnily enough, scientists have tried to test cats, but have run into problems with um, cooperation. Immanuel Birmelin spent four years to prove that cats can count to four. (You have to wonder how he continued to get funding for the project.) One cat would only work in the morning. Another would work only in the afternoon. Cats are bright, but getting them to repeat experiments is a challenge.

Over the course of Animal Wise, Morell takes the reader on a riveting journey from ants to primates, leaving no doubt that all creatures great and small have rich emotional lives, self awareness and memory (even butterflies remember being caterpillars). 

Lest you think it’s a dry, scientific tome, let me assure you, it’s as consuming as any bodice-ripper. Morell’s elegant prose will swallow you up and provide enough fascinating factoids to fuel cocktail party small talk for years to come. As anxious as I was to catch up on some sleep during that flight, I find myself reading “just one more chapter” until I’d turned the final page. 

 

You can buy Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures at Amazon and other major booksellers.

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Category: Featured, Last Week, zzz Previous 3 cat articles

About the Author ()

Karen Nichols is a Pet Industry Influencer, Publisher and Multimedia Designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over 15 years of experience in the Internet Industry as a User Experience Analyst and Interaction Design Consultant. She's blogged professionally for nine years, and is a respected expert in social media, web analytics, online branding and Wordpress design and development. She's a popular speaker at pet industry conferences. In 2013, she won the BlogPaws social media awards for Best Cat Blog and Best video. In 2012, Karen won the Best Blog Design award for SkeezixTheCat.com. She was one of seven finalists in the national Purina Cat Chow Correspondent search in 2010. She has been a spokesperson for Friskies and judge of the 2012 "The Friskies" video contest, and a juror for the Internet Cat Video Festival. Karen is a member of the Cat Writer's Association, Women in the Pet Industry, the IAABC, The Interactive Design Association and the North Bay Multimedia Association.

Comments (1)

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  1. Charmee says:

    Sounds fascinating!
    Charmee

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