Anyone who has ever owned a pet has probably wondered at one time or another what their companion has been thinking. How much do they understand? Do they have the same feelings, or do they just mirror our moods?
I haven’t had a pet in fifty years, but my own theory is when an animal looks at you, it is thinking one of two things — is this a source of food or a threat? (If the animal is a large carnivore, you’re in trouble either way.)
But there has been some interesting scientific work in the area. I ran across a recent TED talk by ecologist Carl Safina who thinks we can decypher animal emotions. His talk uses discoveries and anecdotes across ecology, biology and behavioral science to develop stories of whales, wolves, elephants, etc. to argue that just as we think, use tools and express emotions, so too do other creatures.
It’s certainly something to think about.