Talking about psychology, we have to conclude “behavior” since both two of them are related. Just like human, animal “think” as well. They perceive, interact, and react to their surroundings. They also have some kind of behavior that is different from each species.
So why animal psychology or animal behavior is important? Studies said that animal behavior is a way to see how and why animals interact with each other and their environments. This study of animal behavior also let us, the human, learn more about our behavior. This field called: comparative psychology.
Some studies also found that animals can experience different emotions, just like us. They can sense fear and stress. Some species such as monkeys, whales, or dogs also show that they appear to learn human speech. How unique is that?
4 basic knowledge about animal psychology (must know!)
One of interesting animal behavior subject is birds. Timbergen, an ornithologist, found that at least there is 4 basic question that may help human to understand any animal behavior:
1. What causes the behavior?
The first one is to question the causation. What causes or triggers their behavior? Is there any parts or function of them are involved? Take bird finch, or for specific, zebra finch for example. Zebra finch sings to attract his potential mate. The ability to sing is caused by male hormones. The part of the brain that is well-developed in male finches takes part in controlling the song. Some birds like chickadee sing to alert the others. Chickadees’ song is triggered when nerby predator is approaching around their nest.
2. How does behavior develop?
The next basic knowledge you must now is the development. Does the behavior change over time? What experiences are necessary to develop them? Back to the zebra finches, the first time they listen to the songs particularly from their fathers as the nearby male of their species. From there they will start to copy and practice to sing. So no wonder when the adult male finches’ song often have similarities with the father.
3. How does behavior affect fitness?
The third basic question is about the function. How does behavior affect its chances of survival and reproduction? We know that male zebra finches sing to attract their mate, which is one of essential part to reproduce, just like chickadees sing to keep them save from being eaten.
4. How did the behavior evolve?
Now it is about phylogeny. How does behavior compare to those related species? and why it has evolved? Other songbird species have a different time of their listening and practicing their songs over their lifetimes. Some also use for different purposes; to mark their territory, to alert, or to attract a mate.
Another explanation about what trigger animal behavior is that their behavior is a response to an internal or, mostly, an external cue. For examples:
- Hibernation and Estivation: Environmental cue often trigger the behavior. To survive in extreme condition such as winter when the food source becomes scarce and the temperature is low, some animals ‘shut down’ their metabolic rate so they don’t have to eat or keep their bodies’ temperature warm. The same thing also goes with estivation, which happens during summer to survive in the extremely dry condition
- Migration: Essentially, migration is in which animals (often in a group) move from one location to another to seek for a better place with new weather or a new food source. Some animals migrate in a seasonal pattern, for example when they happen to breed or nest.
We talk a lot about wild animals as examples. But behavior to survive and to reproduce is not only happen to them as a react of the ‘wild of nature’. Your pet at home also “think” and able to feel emotion as a reaction to their surroundings.
Cats, somehow, can give you a sign when they cry. They make yowling sound and even have watery eyes! They feel lust, fear, panic, and rage, and all of these systems are common to other mammals. In cat psychology, there is three key to a positive system that is likely to satisfy the need (yes, your cats know what they want so now you know where the bossy vibes come from)
- The reward-seeking system: which gives them the motivation for essential need like food and water
- The care system: which help to bond the parent with their kitties.
- The play system: which is the need for them to play. Who doesn’t? The playtime is not only to develop your cat’s skill but also as a crucial part of your cat’s sense of wellbeing.
Oh, you’re a dog person? Animal psychology is also important for you because your dogs also able to sense emotion as a part of their psychology.
- Dreaming: They able to dream and the most common dreams are happy and playful, so you may find them barking moving their paws when they sleep.
- The Bark: Your dogs know that their bark has the power to get what they want. If you keep on giving food bowl when they bark near the food tray, they will stick with this behavior to consistently bark to ask for food.
- Emotion: Your dogs can feel emotion. One interesting fact is that they experience jealously beside the basic emotions such as happiness, sadness, or fear. Your dogs can also experience depression by sleeping all day long and keeping on the loss of appetite.
That’s all that you need to know about animal psychology. If you want to dig deeper, or even consider to make it like a pro, you can be an animal psychologist, for sure!
For short, just like human, animals from the wild ones, the livestock, the pets, all of them can “think” and able to feel the emotion as a reaction of their environment. Hope all this knowledge may help you to understand them better and appreciate them more!