Animal suicide is a contentious topic in the worlds of animal science and psychology because, though there are several documented incidents of animals seemingly purposefully terminating their life, no one is certain whether these cases can be categorized as suicide.
In 1845, the Illustrated London News published a story of a dog who allegedly hurled himself into a river. He not only threw himself into the water, but he also maintained his legs and feet perfectly still, which is remarkable. Stranger still, the dog was retrieved from the water, only to return and try to drown himself again. The dog appears to have completed his suicide mission and perished as a result.
According to the Victorian newspapers, this dog was not alone in his apparent suicide attempt. A few weeks after the dog case, two other incidents surfaced. After witnessing the death of her kittens, a duck drowned on purpose while a cat hung herself on a limb. So, what was going on with these creatures?
Do animals suffer from depression?
Humans are diagnosed with depression based on a variety of symptoms that are all highly subjective. Guilt, death thoughts, and a loss of enjoyment are all common core symptoms. Because animals cannot speak even when they have these kinds of experiences, the answer is strict: We cannot say.
What indicators might an animal show if it’s depressing?
Aspects of the disease can be measured in animals in some cases. Anhedonia, or a decline in and loss of interest in enjoyable activities, is one of the most common symptoms of depression. We track animal interest in particular foods, as well as an incentive for sexual behavior. We also track changes in sleep habits and daytime activity and how they interact socially with other animals in the group. Another characteristic used to assess animal depression is if they give up easily when confronted with a stressful environment.
What kinds of animals appear to be depressed?
Nonhuman primates provide some of the most compelling evidence. Trained observers can determine whether a monkey appears depressed based on behavioral observation. Because their emotional actions are comparable to those of humans, we may tell if an animal is sad just by glancing at their facial expressions or the direction in which their gaze is directed.
Is it possible for household animals to be depressed?
Veterinarians routinely prescribe antidepressants to treat behavioral problems in dogs. If a dog owner leaves the house and the dogs are stressed out due to being separated, they may exhibit strange behaviors such as scratching themselves until they bleed or gnawing on the door. These are supposed to be canine manifestations of mental illnesses. Large-scale trials are limited, although human medications appear to work in dogs.
Do animals have emotions?
According to Barbara King of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, we must recognize that animals have strong emotions. Understanding this can enable us to comprehend why people act in self-destructive ways on occasion.
Animal anguish and seeming suicide have been the subject of much of King’s writing. It has been discovered that animals raised in traumatic environments might develop sadness and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another story from a Chinese bear farm claims that a bear suffocated her son before killing herself. This was done after a catheter was inserted into the bear cub’s abdomen to extract bile. The procedure was described as excruciatingly unpleasant, as is customary in Chinese medicine. According to the newspaper, the bear killed her son and herself to prevent further pain.
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This is thought to be yet another example of unnatural behavior produced by stress and that the animals had been kept in an artificial habitat for a long time. Animal behavior might be interpreted as an attempt by the animals to flee their odd surroundings and confinement.
Whales are another animal that has been linked to suicide attempts. Why whales strand in the wild is also myterious. One notion is that stranding occurs when a whale becomes ill and seeks refuge in shallow water. Because whales are notorious for creating social groupings, they may follow if one strand and others notice. This is known as the ill leader hypothesis, and it is not considered suicide.
Another more nuanced notion is that certain parasites infect the thoughts of their victims. As these parasites thrive, they can cause mind-altering disorders and eventually kill the host. Infection of mice with the pathogen Toxoplasma Gondii is one example. When mice are infected with this parasite, they lose their natural dread of cats. If a cat eats a mouse, the parasite reproduces.
Infection with the parasitic fungus Ophiocordycepsunilateralis causes ants to lose control of their minds and transform into zombies. The fungus will lead the ant to sites where the parasite can grow, and the insects will die as a result of their journey.
Mother spiders allow their offspring to devour them, but they die in the process. This is an extraordinary act of kindness, as the mother provides the first meal for their young for them to live.
We all know that animals kill themselves, but do they do so on purpose? In the instance of the spider, the mother’s primary goal might be to supply food. As a result, she acts to provide nourishment for her children rather than deliberately dying.
Can animals conceive of suicide?
Animals cannot envisage various scenarios, reflect on each one, and integrate them into larger narratives, whereas humans do. There are certain fundamental contrasts and disparities between our talents and those of animals.
Humans are concerned and anxious about matters over which they have no control. We can often overcome our fears due to our built-in optimism bias, but it is more difficult to do so adequately while depressed. It is widely acknowledged that foresight is critical to our mental wellness.
Depression makes depressed people appreciate reality in a very genuine way. We are the only animals capable of dealing with and comprehending our mortality. As humans, we are aware that we will die and that we will die in a variety of ways. We’re also aware of the dangers of a variety of behaviors that can result in death. But Animals don’t have this awareness.