Why are those animal videos on Facebook so popular? Why do we love animals so much in the first place? When a pet dies it can be as painful as when a human family member dies. When I drive by a dead deer or raccoon I usually respond with an "awwwwww," and tell it in empathy how sorry I am about how it found its end.
Those cute animal videos make me smile spontaneously, as do our cats. I cannot be angry at them even though they scratch up the couches and dining chairs. Sometimes they visit the litter box in the basement together, and come back upstairs with dust on their little faces from digging around in the sand. I feel so much love and tenderness for them. Animals' pure unconditional love and innocence elicit instant empathy. No hidden meanings, no angry emotions, no holding back. When I look an animal in its eyes it tugs on my emotional strings.
We, on the other hand, almost always have a hidden agenda, hold grudges, or dish our love out conditionally ("You can have your dessert once you finish your spinach."). The big question is how to shift in our relationships with people in the same way and turn that empathy switch on, and the grudge switch off?