As pet owners, most of us would agree that our pets share similar emotions to ourselves. The experts say pets mimic routines and we tend to anthropomorphize our animals much like we do with our cars and computers.

Anthropomorphizing means ascribing human attributes, such as behavior, personality and emotions, to animals. For example, saying that “my dog looks guilty” or “my cat is jealous” is considered anthropomorphizing.

Within the scientific community, using anthropomorphic language which suggests that animals have intentions and emotions is thought to show a lack of objectivity. Unfortunately, we cannot ask an animal how it feels. Historically, biologists have avoided the assumption that animals share similar mental, social, and emotional capacities to people.

However, a breakthrough in a number of studies suggests that because of evolution our domesticated animals are getting smarter.

Animal behavioral studies are suggesting that a dog’s ability to understand humans is innate and does not depend on training.

A dog’s ability to understand and predict human behavior is based on its inborn talent and not developed in the course of training, according to a University of Abertay study. Animal psychologists said that both trained and untrained dogs were found to interpret human behavior far better than previously believed.

Evolutionary biologists at Dundee said this talent was a result of breeding and genetic selection. It is believed their abilities will get more advanced in the future and grow with each generation.

Future generations of dogs will be much ‘smarter’ than the current lot due to their increased cognitive abilities. They will be able to carry out basic household tasks such as fetching and retrieving without being either trained or instructed.

For the study, researchers observed 24 dogs (trained and untrained) and their reactions to people’s visual commands such as pointing to or gazing at a location. Untrained dogs surprisingly performed as well as their counterparts (trained dogs).

The researchers came to the conclusion that it is genetics and not training that controls the cognitive development of a dog.

There is considerable debate on whether or not evolution has changed the way animals relate to us.

Animals as diverse as elephants and parrots can mimic the sounds of human speech.

My producer’s Sheba Inu breed of dog actually developed a bit of language from snarls to yaps to barks to ask for food or to go outside.

In April 2010, Adriano Lameira set up his video camera in front of an enclosure at Cologne Zoo in Germany. Inside was an orangutan called, Tilda.

There was a rumor that Tilda could whistle like a human, and Lameira, of Amsterdam University in the Netherlands, was keen to capture it on camera. But as the camera kept rolling, Tilda did much more than just whistle. She clapped her hands, smacked her lips, and let out a series of deep-throated human-like garbled sounds, it sounded like a deep baritone singer singing baby babe, baby baby.

Lameira was baffled he said that what he heard sounded like attempts at human speech and that Tilda sounded like someone who had inhaled like someone who had inhaled sulfur hexafluoride, a gas that makes your voice deeper.

Tilda wasn’t the first animal that seemed to be able to mimic human speech. A handful of other species also make noises that sound like talking, including elephants and beluga whales – to say nothing of parrots.

These animals seem capable of bridging the language barrier that separates us. And their attempts at speaking like us make them quite irresistible. But can they really “talk” as we do? It’s not just a matter of being able to make the sounds. To really count as talking, the animals would have to understand what they mean.

There are other cases of animals with an uncanny ability to mimic or communicate human sounds to humans. Most animals are not vocal learners. They only produce the calls that they are born with: for example, cows moo, dogs bark, and pigeons coo. These animals are unable to imitate new sounds.

Noc, a beluga whale at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, was determined to have speaking abilities in 2012. The whale was captured at a young age by Inuit hunters and was raised in captivity till his death in 1999; Noc would over-inflate his nasal cavities to produce human-like sounds.

An elephant in Korea named, Koschik was also found to be able to respond to his care takers. He would place the tip of his trunk into his mouth to modulate his vocal tract. He was able to speak in Korean to the zoo keepers.

This is remarkable considering that elephants’ vocal tracts are anatomically different from ours: they are longer, and they have a trunk instead of lips.

Crows are vocal learners as well and some say that cats can vocalize other animal noises like barking and bird chirps.

There are debates about cat intelligence VS dog intelligence and by pure brain size people believe that dogs win in the IQ category.

Cats’ brains account for about 0.9 percent of their body mass, whereas dogs’ brains make up 1.2 percent of their body mass.

But some scientists argue that brain size isn’t the key to intelligence. The number of neurons between the two species tells a different story.

Within the cerebral cortex — the brain region responsible for information processing, problem-solving and perception, among other things — cats have 300 million neurons, compared with dogs’ 160 million neurons.

In recent years, various studies have begun to show just how intelligent dogs are. For instance, canines can sort objects into categories (evidence of abstract thought) and work out what people are thinking, to a degree, an ability called theory of mind.

However, there’s a significant lack of studies on feline cognition, which may have to do with the difficulty in working with cats.

I have had some very strange experiences with cats and their cognitive abilities. Janine has two cats one is named Rusty, the other is named Spike. Rusty is the more aggressive of the two and seemed to not like me. One time after I had not been around for a while Rusty heard my voice and started meowing at me as if he had missed me. He climbed on my lap and cuddled me. I was surprised I never had that cat show me any affection until I was gone for a long time.

Spike on the other hand would climb into bed with me and would touch my face to wake me up at night. I used to think it was because he needed love or food. It used to irritate me how many times he would wake me up at night.

However, something happened in my life that made me understand what Spike was doing.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and I am beginning to understand that perhaps Spike would hear me gasping for breath and tapped me on the head to wake me up.

Scientists I am sure would say that the cat needed food or was in need of something else. But was he?

Studies have found that after much difficulty that cats could follow pointing gestures like dogs, suggesting that they too have rudimentary theory of mind.

The research also showed cats and dogs can solve simple puzzles to get food, but when the puzzle is unsolvable, dogs will look to humans for help, whereas cats will keep trying. When both animals become aware of a particular individual, it tends to pay close attention to him/her and as the acquaintance grows, it can read the person’s behavior more efficiently. The finding has been published in the journal, Animal Cognition.

A new study, published in PLOS ONE, indicated that dogs experience jealousy. That’s a complex emotion combining other emotions such as anger and resentment and it has always been considered a uniquely human.

Dogs are terrific at reading human emotion, even doing something we do: scanning the right side of human faces which some researchers say is the more expressive side. It is the kind of consciousness required to recognize oneself in a mirror.

Australian researchers have also discovered something about dogs and their attachment to humans.

The bond between man and dog is so strong that their hearts beat in sync, a study has found.

Australian researchers separated three dogs from their owners, strapped heart monitors on the people and animals and then watched what happened when they were reunited.

Doggy and human heart rates quickly fell – and then began to mirror each other. Charts showed that despite beating at different rates, they followed the same pattern, with each dog’s heart rising and falling in tandem with its master’s.

The study is now showing that having a dog is good for the heart and that the synching of the heart beats of the animal relieves stress.

A review of research by the American Heart Association suggested that pet owners have healthier hearts than other people – and dog owners particularly benefit.
This may be because of the necessity to go for walks, whatever the weather.

Dogs have also been found to help keep loneliness at bay and may even guard against glaucoma, one of the most common causes of blindness.

We share a lot with other animals, emotionally, cognitively, and neuro-chemically but many humans still use outdated linguistic distinctions that put animals in an inferior position.

Humans speak. Animals vocalize. We love. They bond. We form friendships, they maintain social bonds. We feel jealous. They guard resources and territory. We have sex, they copulate.

Rats display regret. Elephants appear to mourn their dead, so do giraffes and chimpanzees.

So the final question is, if science is capable of engineering animals to speak, or become more human should we allow them too and would we accept them as mor human like companions?

Human beings have long believed that it is our unique level of intelligence that separates us from other animals. Our ability for higher learning, creative thought, and – perhaps most importantly – our sophisticated communication via speech and language, defines us as a superior species. However, as we expand our understanding of how the brain works, and use animal experiments to learn more about the genes involved in intelligence, it would not be beyond the pale to experiment and design animals with more acute cognitive abilities.

The idea of enhancing animal intelligence may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Consider a study published last month by Ann Graybiel and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about the relationship between intelligence and genes. The team genetically engineered mice to produce the human form of FOXP2 – a gene known to be linked to the human brain’s capacity to learn and process speech – to see whether it would improve the rodents’ ability to learn. Sure enough, when the boosted mice were made to navigate a maze in order to get a reward of chocolate milk, they learned the route faster than the mice without the added human gene.

The results are exciting for anyone interested in understanding the genetic changes in our prehistory that helped us become the wise – or “sapient” – ape. But the nature of this study speaks to another question: whether through fundamental alterations and improvements to mouse brains we could create sentient animals with levels of intelligence to rival our own – a concept known as “uplifting.”

In the past, uplifting has been explored mainly in science fiction. In movies like, Planet of the Apes, this has been the underlying theme and that is if we can design an intelligent monkey should we?

Would you like to hear what you cat thinks in speech you could understand? How about having your dog speak to you asking to take him for a walk?

In 2011, a research team led by Sam Deadwyler of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, used five rhesus monkeys to study the factors that lead people with diseases like Alzheimer’s to lose control of their thought processes. The researchers trained the monkeys in an intelligence task that involved learning and identifying images and symbols. They were then given doses of cocaine in order to dull their intelligence and made to repeat the test, with predictably less impressive results.

What happened in the next stage of the research was remarkable. The same monkeys were fitted with neural prosthetics – brain implants designed to monitor and correct the functions of the neurons disabled by the cocaine.

These implants successfully restored normal brain function to the monkeys when they were drugged – but crucially, if they were activated before the monkeys had been drugged, they improved the primates’ performance beyond their original test results. The aim of the experiments was to see whether neural prosthetics could theoretically be used to restore decision-making in humans who have suffered trauma or diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but as far as these specific tests were concerned at least, the brain prosthetics appeared to make the monkeys smarter.

Certainly such manipulation of animals has advanced enough to become a serious matter to bio-ethicists: in 2011, the Academy of Medical Sciences in the UK reported on the ethics of research involving animals containing human material, and devoted an entire section to brain and cognitive manipulation.

We have always discussed the ethics of playing god with humans, but what about making animals more like us?

Many scientists say that animal “Uplifting” indicates a definite scientific arrogance which has the misguided belief in human superiority over nature, where human intelligence is viewed as the pinnacle of evolution. We have developed a stance of dominion over animals but do we possess the moral authority to make the decision to make them more human like without their consent?

How would we get consent? Would we see it in their eyes, know it by their body language?

Assuming we get to a post-human, post-singularity state, does it really make sense to leave the natural world exactly as it is?

Can we even imagine a future world in which humans co-exist with uplifted whales, elephants and apes? The idea of a United Nations in which there is a table for the orangutan delegate could be a reality if we decided to uplift certain species.

Animal uplift is an important futurist issue — one that touches upon everything from animal welfare and social justice right through to our most fantastical futurist visions. It may be a highly philosophical and speculative line of inquiry today, but the day is fast coming when this will become a very relevant topic of discussion as our animals grow with us and science decides to make them more like us.