A dark grey Canadian sphynx cat looks directly at the camera with green eyes and his ears turned to point forward.

What are animals thinking? They feel empathy, grieve, seek joy just like us.

Rats show kindness, orcas mourn their dead, and monkeys protest injustice. Scientists are learning that other species also have complex emotions.

This is Ed. He’s a Canadian sphynx cat. He’s curious, outgoing, affectionate, and very responsive to human emotion. He’s also talkative. Say his name, he purrs. In this portrait, his forward-tilted ears show that he’s alert and his narrowed pupils that he’s relaxed.
Photograph by VINCENT LAGRANGE

I have lived for eight years now with my dog, Charlie—a bloodhound who’s embarrassingly bad at tracking scents. He greets me jubilantly every time I come home, even if it’s from a quick grocery run. I can hear his tail go thump-thump-thump on the floor in the next room when I laugh; he echoes my mirth even when he can’t see me. 

Yet, despite sharing this bond, I often sit down next to him on the couch, give him a hug, and ask my wife, “Do you think he loves me?” “Yes, yes!” she replies, with only slight exasperation, which is charitable because I ask so often. 

This routine is almost like a ritual in our household. I wonder if Charlie has any thoughts about it. Looking at him sunning himself on our front porch makes me think about a deeper question: How much do animal minds resemble ours? Do other species have thoughts and feelings and memories the way we do? 

Read This Next

Is your favorite ‘green’ product really eco-friendly?
Why Noah’s Ark will never be found
The 10 best compact cameras, according to Nat Geo

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet