Do Animals Grieve?

I'm on research leave from my college this year in order to write a book that explores one central question: Do non-human animals grieve?

My answer is yes, they do.

It's refreshing to answer a scholarly question without equivocation. Most often, I can't do that. When anthropologists reconstruct how prehistoric peoples lived based on their material artifacts, or theorize about how monkeys and apes think about the world based on their behavior, disclaimers of what we can't know often crowd out solid answers.

But from a combination of observation, evolutionary logic, reading the peer-reviewed science literature, and talking to insightful animal people, I'm convinced that animals may feel deep grief when another animal dies. Not all species, to be sure; if spiders and snails are ever found to grieve, I'd be the first to express astonishment. But I do mean more than only the usual suspects, more than the apes, elephants and cetaceans.

Right now, for example, I'm under way with a critical assessment of grief in domestic cats. I've concluded that yes, they do grieve. (Not every cat, and not every death; I mean to speak of capacities rather than inevitabilities.)

And here my professional and personal lives collide, because my husband and I rescue, care for and spay/neuter homeless cats.

The two of us pretty much live and breathe cats: 7 cats indoors, 12 in a spacious sanctuary pen on our property, 3 in our yard, 6 more in a feral colony nearby. Given this feline-saturation, when I evaluate information on cat grief for my book, can I balance properly a natural pull toward cats with a necessary scientific scrutiny of the evidence?

Read the rest here.

Tags: animals, emotions, grief

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