By Linda Cole
The general meaning for sentient is “to perceive or feel,” to be aware or have physical sensations. A sentient being is self aware, and some people believe this only applies to humans. We know pets are capable of feeling pain and can suffer, but just how aware are they of their surroundings and of the people they share their life with? There are those who say that pets can’t be sentient beings because they have no perception of death, but I’m not so sure that’s true. I’ve had enough experience with pets over the years to believe they know exactly what’s going on when their time has come. I do think pets are sentient beings and have an awareness we don’t fully understand.
I think my pets know me better than some of my friends. They are very much aware of my moods. They know if I’m angry or in a good mood, but more importantly, they know when I’m sad. And like a good friend who knows a hug can make a difference, pets give us their own special touch to let us know they understand and are there if we need them. This alone tells me they are sentient and are aware of what’s going on around them.
We domesticated pets centuries ago because we discovered that if we worked together, it benefited both of us. A dog or cat’s instinct and senses will surpass our gut feeling every time. When it comes to the natural world, dogs and cats know exactly what’s going on long before we do. My dogs know before I open the door to their pen if there’s a wild animal in the pen and exactly where it is. If a possum or coon was in the pen but left hours ago, the dogs still know that the animal had crossed through their territory. A pet’s instinct can help them find their way back home, know if a storm is coming and instinct tells them when they need to protect their family from an intruder.