Labor Like a Cat
The Joy of Giving

Animal Love

Do animals feel love?  Some of us instinctively "know" this, while others say that's merely assigning human traits to animals.

Jonathan Balcome, author of the new book "Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the nature of Feeling Good" decided five years ago that animals do feel enjoyment and wrote the book to make his argument. According to Seattle Times writer Michael Bradbury,
Oxytocin, a hormone associated with human social bonding, is just as important in giving mother animals the inclination to care for their babies.

"Nature is replete with signs of parental love," Balcombe says, offering examples. Orca mothers watch as their calves explore and play. Chimpanzee infants cradle and groom logs as part of the transference of their mothers' love."

Well, that may be enjoyment, but it's not a "higher-order emotion," some scientists scoff.

Yet, not only mammals but birds and even earth worms share many of the elements of human biochemistry that play our bodies into emotion. We now know that the brain releases norepinephrine  when we're sexually attracted to someone and dopamine when we touch them.When we have sex, dopamine stimulates the brain's reward center while oxytocin stiumulates receptors there and in the parts of the brain used for social memory. Those chemicals feel like love to us.

In the article,

"[Scoffer and biologist Jim] Ha concedes that "to a degree" scientists can see animal brains respond the same way human brains respond in similar situations. But high-resolution brain scans only capture simple, physiological emotions that involve the release of specific brain chemicals.

And it feels good. A monkey probably doesn't think, "Oh, I'm in love." But she wants to do it again.