Most pet owners/lovers have had the experience of pets seeming to react to our feelings, even when we do not necessarily verbalize or act out on them. When we are grieving, stressed, or experiencing anxiety, pets – especially dogs and cats – seem to sometimes change their behavior toward us, perhaps acting extra affectionately, or rather than attack us with joy at the door, they may instead quietly and tenderly approach us to offer their affection. When we are angry about something that has nothing to do with the pet, even for those of us that internalize anger rather than curse, throw things, or yell, pets can often sense it best to keep their distances until we calm down.
Science has long recognized this phenomenon, but wrote it off as pets’ instinctual reactions to changes in our body language, and/or subtle changes in our scent brought on biochemical reactions that occur in our body as the result of our emotions. But is there more to it than that? Can our pets actually read our minds? Biologist and researcher Rupert Sheldrake has compelling evidence that in fact they can.
In one study, Sheldrake studied dog anticipation of the owner’s return. In one particular experiment, a dog named Jaytee was videotaped repeatedly when her owner was away. When the owner was not in the process of returning, Jaytee visited the window only 4% of the time. However, when the owner was in the process of returning home at random times, Jaytee visited the window 55% of the time. Since there was no pattern to the owner’s absences or her return, there was no explanation other than some kind of telepathic connection Jaytee had with her owner in knowing she was on her way home. The statistical probability of this phenomenon happening by chance is statistically astronomically small. What’s more, the same pattern was seen in over 100 similarly videotaped experiments.
Aimee Morgana’s parrot N’Kisi would frequently verbalize photographs she was looking at or images she saw on television, often with words that were not in her bird’s known vocabulary; all despite being separated by 50 feet and a solid wall between the rooms. Suspecting her bird may be able to read her thoughts, a reader of Rupert Sheldrake’s work, Aimee contacted Sheldrake to collaborate in an experiment.
In the experiment, images were put in envelopes that neither the bird or the owner were previously aware of, thus creating a “double blind study.” The bird and owner were separated by the same solid wall and distance, and the owner would open an envelope, visually and silently examine the image, and in the other room, the bird’s reaction was recorded. Amazingly, out of 71 images, N’kisi scored a hit (a hit being the bird stating the correct keyword associated with the image the owner was looking at) 23 times, far exceeding the statistical probability for random words uttered by N’kisi to match a given image the owner was looking at at any given time.
I recall my adolescent family Cocker Spaniel Stanley, who despite being the family dog, was my dog. He followed by everywhere, slept in my bed, went everywhere with me, and was my shadow and side kick. Sick with terminal lung cancer, my Grandmother moved into our home to spend the remainder of her life in our home under hospice care. Her hospital room was on the first floor of the house, whereas my room was upstairs.
From the moment Grandma moved in to several months later when she passed, Stanley did not leave her bedside except to go outside to potty and to eat. He did not come up to my room to sleep, and did not follow me around as he had all the years before. I of course, did not mind, as I knew that Stanley on some level knew that Grandma needed him more than I did for those final months of her life. After she passed, Stanley went right back to being my shadow and coming upstairs every evening to sleep in my bed.
As an undergraduate biochemistry major and doctor of veterinary medicine, when it comes to matters of spirit and metaphysics, I am innately skeptical. However, personal experience, stories told by credible clients of my veterinary hospital, and the work of scientists like Sheldrake and other researchers in this field that have found unexplained, statistically credible evidence of pet/ petowner telepathy; I am left convinced that we are connected to our pets by more than emotion.
For more on Rupert Sheldrake, his research, and the topic of pet telepathy, I refer you my main source for this article:
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.