I've read that humans are able to empathize with other humans, to feel as another person does, through mirror neurons. I'm guessing that they're able to empathize with primates too, as they share similar brains, have similar limbs, faces, etc. So, when someone watches a monkey or child drink juice, they can empathize some of the joy of drinking juice.

But what about a human empathizing with less humanoid animals? Can a person who has developed a personal bond with say, a horse, 'feel' the same way as the horse does? Can one understand the joy of a cat eating its favorite food?

Do mirror neurons apply between humans and animals as well?

  • $\begingroup$ Is there any evidence that cats indeed feel joy while eating their favorite food? Do cats actually have a favorite food? $\endgroup$
    – H.Muster
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ I know cats actually get more excited with certain food over others. Joy is hard to tell, as I myself am unable to emphasize with cats. $\endgroup$
    – Muz
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ Getting more exited with one food over another is not what I would call favorite. Favorite is something like longing for a certain kind of food although other kinds are available. $\endgroup$
    – H.Muster
    Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ One of the cats I had did have favorite food. He would not eat other kinds and would "pressure" me into going to buy hat one. When I saw him eat it, he did look pleased, like a perfect small carnivore. Still, I have never been "infected" by his mood, so I doubt mirror neurons work on cats $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 2:49

1 Answer 1


But what about a human empathizing with less humanoid animals?

Empathic responding towards humans is generalized to other species. The greater the similarity of the species towards humans, the larger is the empathic response. The findings support the notion that there is a relationship between human empathy directed towards other humans and human empathy directed towards non-human animals. via

Can one understand the joy of a cat eating its favorite food?

It depend on person. Problem is that we actually do not know how animals feel. And our empathy based on assumption that they feel like us. So it is one more proof of involving of mirror neurons in empathy.

Empathy toward non conspecifics has different neural representation among individuals with different feeding habits, perhaps reflecting different motivational factors and beliefs. via

Also look at Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals


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