Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Laughter of Animals

While Wisconsin hunters are eager to start shooting domestic kitties, researchers are discovering that humans aren't the only animals who laugh. A new study found that rats, chimps, and dogs all have ways of "laughing" while having a good time. Although cats weren't mentioned in this study, I can testify that kitties also laugh. In fact, our Moralee audibly snorts when we play with her. Our other cats just exhale a little louder, although it's possible their "laughter" is outside our range of hearing.

Chimps and dogs pant in specific ways when they play, while rats make a chirping sound when they are tickled. That chirping is the same sound they make before having sex, suggesting it's connected to their brains' pleasure centers. These types of brain circuits also become activated in the brains of laughing humans. These new findings challenge the theory that only humans experience laughter and joy, and could help scientists understand the evolution of human emotion. "Neural circuits for laughter exist in very ancient regions of the brain," researcher Jack Panksepp says, "and ancestral forms of play and laughter existed eons before we humans came along."

Click here and scroll down to see a picture of Moralee sleeping with her paw over her eyes.