Big eyes and bold bubbly cheeks give frogs a certain emotive look. Most of us have seen pictures somewhere on the internet where a frog is smiling, too – and so, it seems given that frogs must feel something emotionally. But are we just attributing human emotion to amphibians because they’re cute! They seem like hoppy, happy little creatures. But can frogs feel happy? Or do they just function as emotionally neutral beings?
Let’s find out!
Can Frogs Feel Happy? The Quick Answer
Looking at this bouncy little green, black, or other color amphibians, we like to impress our emotions on them. But as it turns out, when scientists have done some investigating, they’re determined that frogs absolutely can feel happiness.They do process emotions! They just do it a bit differently from human beings.
Can Frogs Feel Happy? Digging Deeper
Much like humans and other animals, certain things trigger their emotions: fear, pain, safety, to name a few. And using these triggers, their little brains process emotions. The nervous systems tucked into their bodies are what allow them to process emotions. When they are in a safe environment where they naturally would not feel threatened, their nervous systems allow them to respond emotionally.
In fact, all known amphibians who have been studied are shown to feel emotions and are, in fact, sentient animals. (Sentience simply means they can feel emotions and have feelings.) Frogs and other amphibians are known to experience other emotions as well, including
What Makes Frogs Happy?
They not only feel these things, but they’re able to interpret external stimuli, which can help them avoid some of these feelings and, specifically, sensations of pain. Safe versus unsafe environments are recognizable to frogs and they may respond not merely out of instinct but choice to escape pain and other negative feelings. They also may move to what helps them feel good, making that choice as well.
Recognizing home, knowing the scent of a predator, or knowing where to find a mate are also a part of their emotional life. The fact that they also have incredible eyesight and good communication skills can help in these areas, too. In fact, they’re able to communicate their emotions through the various forms of croaks they give. Sometimes, those croaks you’re hearing are happy, fearful, painful, or excited croaks. They’re not just saying, “Don’t worry, be happy,” as some internet memes suggest.
Admittedly, though, frogs don’t have the same kind of complex brain functioning that humans and other mammals have. They lack the neocortex to have the more complex emotions and deeper feelings and thought processes that allow for them.
How Can You Tell if a Frog is Happy?
Unlike humans who you can ask, frogs aren’t great at communicating happiness to animals outside their species. You can’t just stroke your pet frog and ask him how his day was. Generally laid-back, it can be especially hard to tell.
You can, however, recognize when a pet frog is feeling safe and content. This occurs when frogs feel their basic needs are met: food, clean water, and shelter. These needs equate to safety, meaning they’re not stressed over something in lack, they’re not afraid for their lives, they’re able to safely reproduce, and they’re not in pain.
You can generally tell that a captive frog is pretty chill (or a wild one, if you’re able to observe her long enough) by whether or not they’re focused more on catching insects or just sitting around above the water.
Personalities and Size May Matter
Personalities in frogs, just like in any other animal, can also affect the emotions of the frog. Some frog species – and individuals – are simply bolder or more adventurous than others. Some may even stand up to threats! Others, on the other hand, are more likely to hop off, hide, and stay where they feel safest. Being bold and adventurous is usually associated with some level of happiness, rather than stress or pain, so these also can indicate the amphibian’s sense of happiness.
Interestingly, size can impact a frog’s emotions, as well. We’re not talking “fat versus skinny,” either, in the way that magazines impact a human’s feelings of happiness by comparing pictures. Rather, it’s again about safety. Larger frogs are more likely to resist predators. Same with faster frogs – they can escape or they can catch food easier.
If you’re talking pet frogs or frogs you see with consistency, you can also recognize happiness via:
- Regular shedding (indicates healthiness, which equates to happiness)
- Maintained weight
- Enthusiasm in eating
- Higher levels of activity (rather than just sitting around all the time)
- Clear skin
- Bright eyes
- Relaxed vocalizing
Can Frogs Feel Unhappy?
Just like in other creatures who feel emotions, unhappiness is a possibility. Think about your own life. If you’re safe, you feel happy or content a lot of the time. But if you’re feeling threatened or unsafe, unhappiness follows.
Frogs who are stressed by fear or environmental changes indicate unhappiness. The lack of basic needs being met will also make a frog unhappy. You’re unlikely to be happy when you’re hungry – just like them!
Losing their home – via deforestation or other destruction – can be devastating for a frog emotionally. Stress and fear overtake their lives until they are able to find a new home. Having no place to shelter against a predator will also cause this fear and anxiety, thus resulting in unhappiness, as well.
During mating season, if no mate can be found, frogs probably don’t feel loneliness the way humans do, but there is definitely unhappiness here, as well. Frogs generally have two goals in life: live safely and reproduce. When they can’t meet one or the other goal, they’re bound to feel stressed and fearful, and therefore unhappy.
Tadpoles are also shown to feel this unhappiness in lieu of safe shelter and met needs.
Reasons Why Frogs May Be Stressed or Unhappy
The primary reason we’re aware of that causes unhappiness and stress in frogs is the lack of their needs being met. Poor quality or less than sufficient water, no shelter, limited or no food, illness, and the inability to mate are the most common culprits. The destruction of their homes is the other main reason for sad frogs. During mating season, frogs also tend to be more stressed out because of the search for a mate and the stresses that may befall that process, including the defense of territories.
Do Frogs Show Affection?
Lacking the fully complex emotions provided by the neocortex, frogs don’t show affection the same way that humans and mammals would. Generally, this “affection” is more a result or demonstration of the frog’s contentment and comfort levels around other animals and humans. Rather, it may be easier to see the reverse, in that a frog is not feeling happy, content, and comfortable.
Trying to escape frequently, distressful sounds, and shutting the eyes indicates the frog is not feeling safe. For humans, as we interpret affection, we can feel distance and “coldness” in these acts which are the reverse of affection.
Additionally, frogs don’t appear to need affection when it comes to mating. Rather, they tend to be very practical and need-based when it comes to interactions with other frogs.
Do Frogs Like to Be Held?
For frog owners, the question will likely arise: do frogs like to be held?
The general answer is no; don’t hold pick up and hold wild frogs. Many frogs that look fun and pleasant – even happy – may well be poisonous frogs that could hurt you. They secrete venom which may be absorbed through your skin, simply by coming into contact with them.
But even your pet frog doesn’t like to be held. This can greatly distress them and put them in danger. Jumping out of your hands can cause injuries or even death for frogs. Additionally, the sweat and bacteria, chemicals, or other substances in your hands that are invisible to you could be problematic for your frog’s health. It’s best to never pick them up and simply let them enjoy their lives in a safe environment you’ve created for them.
If holding your frog is a must for some reason, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands first with neutral, gentle soap and again afterward.
Can I Bond With My Pet Frog?
Even though you shouldn’t pick up and hold your pet frog, it is possible to bond with them. Frogs are known to recognize humans based around habitual behaviors. In fact, it’s pretty easy to become recognizable to your pet frog: bring her some food.
Because food is one of the basest and most important needs of your pet frog, your habit of bringing food to her will help the frog recognize you. You are associated with good things: dinner! The frog links together the good thing with you.
If you speak to your frog while you feed him, he may also come to recognize your voice – like the sound of any other animal. And since you’re bringing the good stuff, your voice will be associated with happiness.
Can Frogs Feel Love?
Your pet frog may well bond with you in its own unique way, but they don’t feel affection and love the way humans do. They’re not familial animals, meaning they don’t form groups or families and they prefer living alone.
Bonding for frogs only occurs for specific purposes: mating, food, protection. They’ll instinctively protect their young but there’s no evidence that there is love there.
Tips For Keeping Your Pet Frog Happy
As we’ve seen, certain things help frogs feel happy because they feel safe and have their needs met. So, if you own a frog, you will want to do some of these things to help keep them that way.
- Regularly clean out the frog’s habitat.
- Provide sufficient humidity and heat for your frog’s needs.
- Keep other animals, like cats, dogs, and other predators, away from the frog tank.
- Feed live prey to your frog to keep their diet balanced.
- Emulate their environment as closely as possible in their frog tank.
- Keep the frog tank in a quiet environment where loud noises are not the norm (i.e., not the kitchen, kid’s bedroom, living room with the TV, etc.)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com
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