owners often look at their pet and wonder, ‘What is he thinking’.
While there are no absolute answers in this area, some deductions can be
made. Basic instincts are likely to be a major factor in a pet’s
thinking. For dogs and cats, instincts, such as hunting or pack behavior,
are an important part of how they interact and behave around humans and
other animals. In addition to instincts, senses including sight, smell,
and hearing impact how a pet views the world. Likewise relative intelligence
may be a factor in their thought process. A pet owner may be able to pick
up on nuances of some thoughts, yet may also be prone to misread or project
thoughts from behaviors. While there are definite signs of thought and
emotions, the full extent and depth is not completely clear.
Pet’s thinking is more likely driven via senses than people. They
lack a full language making it unlikely that they could form thoughts like, ‘I
will now take my toy and go outside to play’. It is more probable
that they see/know their toy and see/know the outdoors and take action.
Reliance on more than one sense may help explain why blind dogs typically
adapt well to their surroundings. Pet instincts and senses are very strong
effecting how they view the world and likely affect their thought patterns.
For instance, hearing and smell are dramatically stronger than people’s,
and they may have additional sensory abilities. Some dogs are able to warn
their owner if they are going to have a seizure, or point out other medical
problems such as cancer. People have yet to fully understand how this is
Another significant factor is that pets likely lack any significant ability
to plan or think about the future. While this may seem obvious or basic
it does show a difference in thinking. People spend plenty of time thinking
about the present and past. They plan for the future whether it is what
to have for dinner tonight or where they want to live in five years. It
is believed that animals live in the moment. This can be one of the things
that is delightful about owning a pet, yet it also shows that many thoughts
attributed to a pet are actually the person’s humanization of that
People can derive thoughts and motives for their pets that may not be
accurate. For instance, as a teenager our family cat would sit on a chair
by the window a stare out intently. While I thought she was deep in thought,
there is no way to know what if any thoughts she had. Yet there are numerous
signs that owners often read their pet correctly. For instance, most people
know when their pet wants to go out, eat or play. Also, a happy dog or
cat is usually easy to spot. Other reactions such as fear, sadness, or
anger can also be clear. Many cat owners that are snubbed after a vacation
can testify that their cat can clearly show annoyance. Also many pets exhibit
grief when another family pet dies. Good trainers typically are skilled
in reading everyday behavioral cues that animals give which people with
less experience may miss. Different animals may have different levels of
thought too. This is reflected in the list of ‘smartest breed of
dog’. Many pet owners can attest that their pets show signs of being
intelligent or clever beyond their basic instincts. Others can conversely
state that their pet is not the ‘sharpest tool in the shed’.
It is the deeper understanding of thoughts and emotions that leave the
most unanswered questions.