Do animals have souls? This is not a scientific question, as science denies human beings have souls. Yet for those who believe mankind have souls, many pet owners may wonder if their pets can exist outside of physical death. With so many animals in the wild that live, reproduce and perish quickly, can they possess individuality let along anything like an immortal soul?
Pet owners may recognize what they think of as individuality and even a soul in their pets. Science calls this anthropomorphism: attributing human characteristics to non-humans. However I’ve seen information that shows animals are not the dumb, mindless brutes science has assumed. Especially in the more intelligent animals we’ve seen signs of intelligence and emotion not recognized before. Animals may not have exactly human emotions, but it appears they do have emotions and perhaps even self-awareness. Ask any pet owner and they knew that all along.
There was a PBS Nature documentary “A Murder of Crows” http://video.pbs.org/video/1621910826/ about how crows can recognize human faces and recall if those faces were a threat. For humans that have crossed crows, they would communicate to their flock that these faces were dangerous. Later when crows spotted one of these “bad men” they would squawk to warn others of their dangerousness. We are now realizing the humble crow is among the smartest of animals.
My father had a pet parakeet that he owned for 7 years. He would take care of this little bird, play with it, and set up places where it could roam out of its cage. He’d often bring it to the dinner table and it would pace around checking out what was on our dinner plates and then take a bite of our meals.
As the bird got old, it fell ill. It could barely hang on to its perch in the cage. My dad took the bird from the cage and held it in his hands. He said the bird looked up at him, and then died in his hand. This struck him. My father is a hard-bitten, unsentimental type, but when he recalled this story for me he started to cry. That was the only time in my life I’ve seen my dad cry. My dad has a framed photo of the bird in his living room (shown above) along with his photos of other family members alive and gone.
Years later after his bird had died, as we talked about various things, dad mentioned a dream he had.
“Dave, guess what? I dreamed about my parakeet Budgie a few nights ago. Of all the crazy things. Budgie was flying. Remember when he got too fat to fly so I set up ladders so he could walk around to the couch and table on his own. Well, in my dream Budgie was flying just like when we first got him. He flew up on my shoulder and talked in my ear. He was just chattering away. It was like he visited me from animal heaven.”
My dad’s vivid dream of his pet revealed his pet at the bird’s healthiest. That got me to thinking. There are instances when it appears our deceased loved ones visit us in our dreams, and they are seen at their very best as well. These dreams often are so real, so uncanny they are unlike normal dreams and it is easy to believe the dead are visiting us in our slumber. Was it possible the spirit, the soul, of his pet bird visited him in his dream as well?
Do animals have souls? There is some evidence this is the case. In near-death experiences people who entered the “tunnel of light” recount how they met their dead relatives and cherished friends at the other side. There are also stories of being greeted by their dead pets as well. A beloved dead pet dog may emerge along with his loved ones at the end of the tunnel. This suggests animals have a soul.
What does religion have to say about this? Let us consider a couple of verses from the New Testament concerning sparrows.
Luke 12:6, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.”
Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
These verses suggest that the Creator of the universe will not forget a single sparrow. If the memory of the Creator is eternal, then so is the essence of his memory. What is the nature of an animal’s soul? Do they have an animal heaven? We don’t know. But I think we can take comfort in believing that even the most humble pet, like a parakeet, endures beyond this physical world.