Photo courtesy of Egidio Maurizio via Flickr.
If Ghostbusters is to be believed, “dogs and cats, living together” is a wry example of mass hysteria; a world on the fritz.
But here in real life, interspecies friendship is less a sign of an impending doomsday, and more a sign of peace. Or a viral sensation waiting to happen. Or, both.
By force, chance, or persuasion, humans have been friends with animals for thousands of years. But there’s something strange and beautiful about non-human interspecies friendships (and if you disagree, you should see a doctor).
It’s not just because of the cute factor — though let’s admit it, that’s a biggie. It’s because in the moment the kitten cuddles the duckling, it appears that wonder may at times transcend logic.
According to the New York Times, “[we] see in the meeting of dog and doe, goat and rhino, tiger and bear, an ideal of peaceful connection that humans too often find elusive.”
Interspecies friendship is, therefore, a miraculous ideal, and science can only partially explain it.
Scientists have long observed various conditions in which animals form bonds with other species, some of which make more sense than others.
For example, young animals of all types — especially birds — will imprint on the first living thing they see, whatever it may be. Other animals practice cooperative hunting.
One major factor that determines interspecies friendship may be human influence, as most cases happen with animals raised in captivity, researchers say (though there aren’t many studies of friendships in the wild, so who knows?)
This fact doesn’t negate the phenomenon; rather, it sheds light on the flexible capabilities of animal species under specific conditions. It also lends credence to the idea that animals, like people, feel strong emotions, and these feelings aren’t always limited to their own kind.
Unsurprisingly, dogs are the most common species to bond with other animals: ducklings, goats, lambs, pigs, owls, fawns, badgers, foxes, llamas, squirrels, kangaroos, hippos, lions, marmosets, to name an adorable few.
Setting an example
Animals are not always more peaceful than humans. Peace is something humans created in name, and yet it’s something we’ve also destroyed it time and time again in pursuit of. We aren’t the sole examples of it, nor are we even close to the best (congratulations, manatees!).
The amount of reported interspecies friendships are enough to tip off scientists that these occurrences are more than just anomalies. Animal friendship is real, studies have concluded, not simply anthropomorphic.
Such conclusions beg the question: if a snake can befriend a hamster, shouldn’t humans of different races, religions, political ideologies, countries, languages be advanced enough to get along for a second, let alone a lifetime? Is it that people are more complex than animals, or in many ways, just as primal?
These questions may seem silly, but then again, cats and dogs live together all the damn time.
At the end of the day, perhaps strange bedfellows aren’t so outrageous after all. Peace isn’t either, but most of us still have a lot to learn.