Skip to main content

Top 8 Things Humans Can Learn From Animals



If you've ever spent any time with a dog or a cat, you know that they have a lot to teach us. Interacting with others is a vital part of life for many animals. From primates who use social interactions to form bonds and establish hierarchies, to fish who school together for protection and birds who flock together for warmth, animals have a lot to teach us about the importance of social interactions.

Shoal of fish

Shoal of fish

Recent studies have shown that social interactions can have many benefits for animals, including reducing stress, promoting social cohesion, and increasing lifespan. And while we may not always be able to directly apply what we learn from animals to our own lives, studying their social interactions can remind us of the importance of maintaining our own social connections.

Here are eight ways animals can help humans improve their lives.

1. Animals have Amazing Instincts

Animals have a lot to teach us about the value of instinct. In the wild, instinct is a matter of life and death, and animals have honed their instincts over millions of years of evolution.

A prime example of innate behavior can be seen with migratory birds. Their instincts are hereditary and triggered by many factors, including changing day length, weather conditions, availability of resources, etc.

High flying Bar-headed Geese

High flying Bar-headed Geese

As humans, we often pride ourselves on our intelligence and our ability to think things through logically. But in many cases, instinct can be a more powerful force than logic. Instincts can help us to make quick decisions in difficult situations and to trust our gut when something doesn’t feel right.

By observing the way animals use instinct to survive and thrive, we can learn to value our instincts more. And in doing so, we may find that we are more capable than we ever thought possible.


2. Animals Know How To Play

Play behavior has been observed in a wide variety of species, including mammals (like elephants), invertebrates (like octopi), marsupials (like kangaroos), fish, and birds. Animals prepare for the unexpected through play, which is crucial for their social, physical, and cognitive development.

Video: SawSome Creative Commons Attribution license

Play is good for your health. It's essential for mental health and physical well-being. It can be a form of communication as well as an effective way to meet new people and learn new skills. Studies show that individuals who regularly engage in playful activities tend to live longer. Endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals, are released through playful activity. This promotes good general health and enhances cognitive function.

3. Animals Can Teach Us About Social Bonds

Social bonds are one of the most important aspects of life. They help us learn, work, and form relationships with other people.

Animals are social creatures too, and they can teach us a lot about these bonds. They can also be taught by other animals. Many animals will look to their peers for guidance on what to do in certain situations - this is called social learning, or learning from other animals' experiences and behaviors rather than relying on instinct alone.

Scroll to Continue

4. Animals Understand the Importance of Family and the Importance of Letting Go

Many animals can identify their siblings, aunts, uncles, and perhaps even cousins along with their partners and offspring. Most species treat their families better than other animals, including apes and insects. Animals can identify their family in certain ways, including by color, appearance, or scent.

When parents give birth, they often feed and look after their young until they're strong enough to survive on their own - this may take place over several weeks or months depending on the species. They're then released from the group knowing full well that they may never see one another again. Parents know when they need to let go of their young.

Waved Albatross Feeding Its Chick

Waved Albatross Feeding Its Chick

According to scientists, young animals are forced to leave their homes for a many number of reasons. It prevents vying for resources with their family and they will refrain from competing with each other for partners. Inbreeding, which could produce fewer healthy offspring, is avoided as well.

5. Animals are More in Touch With Nature and Natural Processes

Animals are more in touch with their natural instincts than humans are and this means they have a better sense of their surroundings. They know where food and water are located, they understand how to get from one place to another and they interact with other animals in ways that we don't even begin to understand. Animals have an innate ability that allows them to live more naturally than we humans do today - including being able to survive without being reliant on technology.

6. Animals Can Teach Us How to Hunt

Hunting is a very important skill and while this may not be an immediate need for us in our modern day, it's not merely about acquiring another ability, but rather it's about survival. If you know how to hunt, then you'll be able to sustain yourself in the wild without needing any technology. Animals can teach us how they hunt and provide for ourselves.

We can learn from animals how to be hunters and gatherers by observing them. Witness a leopard stalking a gazelle, an octopus camouflaging itself and lying in wait for its prey to come close enough, or the spider that spins a web to catch its next meal.

Hawaiian Spear Fisherman Near Hana; Maui, Hawai‘i. ca. 1890.

Hawaiian Spear Fisherman Near Hana; Maui, Hawai‘i. ca. 1890.

7. Animals Can Teach Us About Self-Care

While animals are often a source of inspiration and education, they can also teach us how to take care of ourselves, other animals, and the environment as a whole. The preservation of a healthy environment depends heavily on animals. They aid in pollination, pest management, and climate control, among other things.

1. Sufficient rest

Our bodies need to get enough rest. If you’re tired, take a nap!

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, some fish, insects, and even more primitive creatures like nematodes have all been observed to sleep. For diurnal organisms, the internal circadian clock encourages sleep at night, while for nocturnal organisms, it does so during the day (such as rodents).

2. Cleanliness

Cats, hamsters, and rats, for instance, can be found cleaning themselves several times a day. These hygiene practices help to keep certain animals free from disease, bugs, and parasites.

3. Exercise

Getting sufficient exercise - unlike animals, humans lead fairly sedentary lifestyles. While we may not necessarily need to constantly defend or flee against enemy attacks, a lack of exercise and having access to energy-rich foods will lead to a host of co-morbidities related to immobility.

4. Self-Medication

If you have a dog or cat, you may have witnessed your pet eating the grass outside. This habit is not uncommon - this is your pet self-medicating which could be due to an upset digestive tract or a parasite. The grass helps them to eliminate the toxin by means of vomiting or passing it out through their feces.

“The science of animal self-medication is called zoopharmacognosy, derived from the roots zoo (“animal”), pharma (“drug”), and gnosy (“knowing”). It’s not clear how much knowing or learning is involved, but many animals seem to have evolved an innate ability to detect the therapeutic constituents in plants.”

8. We Can Learn About Teamwork From Animals

Animals are naturally social creatures. They work together to achieve common goals and can teach us about cooperation. We can learn from animals how to be good team players, how to work together with other people towards a common goal, and that we are stronger when working together than when working alone.

A case in point is wolves. They are aware that sharing the workload is the best method to accomplish goals. It eases the load on the pack's leader and each member. They understand that collaboration is essential for success and that working together is more effective than competing or working alone. A study conducted in 2017 at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, illustrated how the wolves outsmarted dogs by simply working together as a team.



There are many ways in which we can learn from animals. They have amazing instincts, they know how to play, and they know the importance of family and of letting go. Animals are more in touch with nature and natural processes than we are, which means they understand things like hunting or providing for themselves better than we do. By observing them, we can learn to live harmoniously with all organisms, be aware of our surroundings, and to just have fun.

Photo: Jan Nordström

Photo: Jan Nordström


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Raf Palmer

Related Articles