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Seen At 11: Do Animals Experience Emotions Like Humans Do?

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We love our pets, but do they love us in return?

From happiness to sadness to anxiety and empathy CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois explored animals and emotion.

You wouldn’t believe it if you couldn’t see it for yourself — a snake and hamster that are said to be the best of friends.

Web Extra: Canine Body LanguageFeline Body Language

The same holds true for other natural enemies, like the great dane who can’t get enough playtime with a full grown deer.

“I used to work at a zoo and there was an orangutan that adopted a cat and the cat would sit on the orangutan’s lap all day,” said veterinarian Dr. Richard Goldstein.

We see these unlikely pairings often, but do these animal have real feelings for each other?

“I think really, it’s hard to argue against them having emotions,” Dr. Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein is the chief medical officer at Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center. He said there’s mounting evidence that proves animals of all shapes and sizes, domesticated and wild, have feelings.

Case in point: Mr. G, the goat who refused to move or eat when he was separated from his long-time companion Jellybean, a burro. When the two were finally reunited six days later, the difference in Mr. G’s mood and behavior was astonishing.

“They definitely appear to have emotions,” Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein said multiple studies have been conducted on the emotional status of animals, from happiness and sadness, to anxiety and regret. Some even show how the brain changes as an animal’s emotions change.

“This is a map of each dog’s brain…” said Dr. Gregory Berns.

Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, conducted the first studies ever using an MRI to look at the brain function of dogs as a way to determine what, how, and if they think about more than just food.

Dr. Berns found just the smell of a dog’s companion or owner can stimulate the area of his or her brain associated with positive emotions.

“And those are very, very similar, if not identical to the changes that happen in people’s brains with different emotional states,” Dr. Goldstein said.

“I think the answer is definitely yes. They love us for basically the same things that humans love each other for like social comfort and social bonds,” Berns added.

The confirmation that animals have feelings came as no surprise to the pet owners who spoke with DuBois.

“Absolutely, you can tell when they’re happy, you can tell when they’re sad, you can tell when they’re confused,” said one resident.

“Animals feel almost the same thing as we do, they’re animals, we’re all animals,” said another.

Animals may not be able to verbalize how they fell, but experts said their body language speaks volumes.

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