Today, while my sister sat crying on the floor about my two-months old kitten chewing on her favourite earphones, the little ball of fur slowly strolled towards her, got up to her face and started licking her tears. She, then, sat on her thighs and made no move at all, but all her jumpiness was put at pause, it seemed. Are animals taught what tears are? Are they trained to empathize with humans? No. However, I saw her providing more comfort to a human being, without having a clue of the situation, than any other person I have seen. Emotional contagion is real and could often be a good thing.
Do they feel us?
Of course, the intensity of emotional contagion in animals could be differently modulated considering the relationship with the human being. And, it is certainly not limited to human beings. Animals show the effects of emotional contagion even among their groups. Mice feel the pain of other mice. Distressed chicks can affect a similar behavior in the mother birds. In my last article, someone posted a comment that yawning is a meager form of emotional contagion, and as studies show, dogs have been reported to show signs of yawning especially after their masters. Not just in kittens, but a similar response to humans crying has also been displayed by dogs.
I understand that these observations and studies show a very basic version of the communication we have with our pets/humans, but this fills me with a ray of hope. That one day, humankind will be known, not for the destruction and violence it causes but for the love and kindness it spreads. That one day, behaving like an animal will not be treated as an abuse. After all, we are all connected.
How beautiful is the universe and how beautiful are its creation, especially the ones who can express without using any words!