If you tell your cat or dog a joke, he’ll probably have no idea what you’re talking about. And he’s certainly not going to laugh. But he might enjoy hearing you laugh. And studies show that animals really do have a sense of humor. Dogs and chimpanzees even “laugh” out loud.
In a 2000 study, researchers discovered that if they tickled rats, they let out a high-pitched chirp. Some of the rats thought this was so funny, they followed or chased the hand that tickled them.
A 2009 paper, “Reconstructing the Evolution of Laughter in Great Apes and Humans,” says young orangutans and chimpanzees vocalized when tickled. Were they laughing out loud? Maybe…
Later research shows that an amused chimp can make a silent “laugh face,” like humans do.
All In The Family
Although we might not like to think about it, the great apes are our very distant relatives. And, the researchers found, their laughter mechanism is much like ours.
Scientists believe our laughter evolved from the great apes’ panting during rough and tumble play. When the University of Portsmouth psychologist Marina Davila-Ross compared the sounds of “laughing” chimps and humans, she found some vocal similarities.
Dogs And Parrots Laugh, Too
Like chimps, Live Science says, dogs can have a panting laugh. They can also have “laugh faces,” with slightly open jaws that show their tongues and their mouths tilted to an angle that reaches almost ear to ear.
Listen to your dog when you tickle his stomach or fall for one of his pranks. You just might hear him chuckle.
Parrots, too, love nothing more than a good, loud laugh when they manage to trick a dog or human.
You’ll never see a cat wearing a laughing face. The structure of their faces makes that impossible.
But that doesn’t mean cats don’t have a sense of humor. To a cat, there’s nothing funnier than the look on a human’s face when he strolls through the door with a mouse in his mouth or knocks all the collectibles off a table.
Like Human, Like Pet
If you have a great sense of humor, chances are your dog or cat does, too. Richard Wiseman, a professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Hertfordshire did an online survey of 2,500 dog and cat parents. He found that most think they share personality traits with their animal companions.
But we’re forgetting a pet here. In his study, Wiseman found that 60 percent of fish owners think their fish have a sense of humor. He didn’t explain that, except to say fish are the pets that make their owners laugh the most.
So maybe your animals won’t laugh out loud at your favorite sit-com or even understand what it’s about. But our animals pick up on our thoughts. So if you think it’s funny, chances are they will, too.