I’ve been asked this question before, and while every species have behavioristic qualities that make them unreservedly unique, perhaps there is common ground among all life on earth that bonds us. The question is:
I don’t know how to answer that in a general sense. I would argue that my cat, Thelma, loves me. I’m sure you have no doubt that your dog loves you just by the sheer excitement of walking in the door. But do animals love in the sense that humans do? In some ways, yes, and in some no. Elephants are known to grieve their dead for long periods of time. Loads of animals mate for life including wolves, beavers, penguins, among many, many others. But is that for love, or some primal need for safety, protection, and resources? Maybe both. But in the scientific argument within the bounds of animal love, there is one thing I know to be boundless. The strongest bond within the animal kingdom, and perhaps the greatest connection that links humans and animals – that bond is between mother and child.
Mother’s Day is different this year. No picnics. Limited dinners. But when the COVID-19 crisis passes, the love of a mother still remains. My mom has supported this blog, supported my career, supported every venture of my life from my passions to high school athletics, education… you name it. That bond is timeless. And while Mother’s Day 2020 is different for many people, it’s especially different for me because for the first time, I celebrate Mother’s Day with my wife who is ALWAYS busy being the perfect mother to our almost 6 month old little boy. Watching their bond is fascinating and (mushy stuff coming), fills my heart to no end! The connection between mother and offspring is indescribable. It’s instinctual on all levels. And I know this bond between mother and offspring is not limited to humans because I’ve seen it first hand working with animals, just as many of you have seen it raising baby kittens, or watching cheetah cubs tug on mom’s ears at the zoo, or heard David Attenborough narrating a whale mother teaching her young how to hunt.
So do animals love? I have no doubt, that on some level and in the most unique and natural ways, animals are capable of love, whatever love means to that species. But the nurturing bond of motherhood is constant. Whether it be an orangutan raising her young for many years, not so unlike the methods of humans. Or the Surinam toad, who will release a hundred baby toadlets out into the world from eggs that have been developing within the skin of her own back. All life has an innate drive to survive and ensure the survival of their kind. While motherhood looks different among all walks of life, the premise is the same. Live. My mother gave me the means to live. My wife is giving our son the means to live. Therefore, mothers… my mother, your mother, all generations of mothers across all variations of fauna are life providers. So the question is, “Do animals love?” Within their own capacity, but I know mothers create life, and there is no greater love than that.
Happy Mother’s Day!