Laughter is the Best Medicine: Do Pets Have a Sense of Humor?
Do you ever feel like your dog is doing something just to make you laugh? Maybe you think your cat is laughing at you? Pet birds might have the best sense of humor of all, especially talking parrots!
But are all these situations just flukes or do our pets really have a sense of humor? We’re ready to tackle this question and look at the research. Stay tuned as The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital explore whether our pets have a sense of humor.
It’s been well studied that chimps, orangutans, and other primates laugh. Their laughter doesn’t sound like ours, of course (it’s more of a panting sound), but the social effects are the same. Laughter while roughhousing, for example, signals playing, not fighting.
Some of the most fascinating research comes from Koko the gorilla who mastered more than 200 signs in American Sign Language. She laughed regularly with her handlers and showed a sense of humor. For example, when asked, “What is something that’s hard?” she signed “rock” and “work.” Now that’s funny!
It’s easy for most pet owners to believe that because humans have a sense of humor, so must other animals. That’s the sentiment that led psychologists Jack Panksepp and Jeffrey Burkoff at Bowling Green State University to tickle rats. It had already been found that rats emit a high frequency chirping sound when chasing each other and play fighting. When Panksepp and Burkoff began poking the bellies of rats, their ultrasonic detectors picked up the same chirping. What’s more, the rats eagerly chased the researchers’ fingers for more tickles!
Do Pets Have a Sense of Humor?
Does your dog simply love to play? One study at UC Davis looked at playfulness as a characteristic of humor in dogs. Researchers even measured and ranked 56 dog breeds on a playfulness scale. In case you’re curious, (we were!) the most playful dog breeds were the Irish setter, English springer spaniel, and the miniature schnauzer.
What about cats? Although cats may not “smile” with their facial features like dogs do, it’s apparent to most cat owners that their feline friends enjoy laughter and humor. After all, how many times has your cat made you laugh (seemingly on purpose)?
Birds also seem to be in on the joke. Parrots are masters at mimicking, and although one could argue they’re simply performing a learned behavior, it somehow feels real when your parrot laughs at you.
We may never know the exact science of animal laughter or whether pets have a sense of humor. However, we do know that laughter is some of the best medicine around, and our pets give us plenty to smile about. We wouldn’t trade that for the world! Do you have stories about your pet’s sense of humor? Please give us a call! We’d love to hear from you!
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