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Can Frogs Feel Happy? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

green frog opening its mouth

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have frogs or you are just curious about these little amphibians, you might wonder exactly what they can feel. After all, we know that amphibians, reptiles, and even insects and trees don’t feel the same way we do.

But are they sentient? And if so, can they feel things like happiness? While we think the answer is probably obvious to you, we’re going to discuss exactly how frogs feel happiness and a few other things about their broad spectrum of emotion as they experience it, and not necessarily as we know it.

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Frogs Are Sentient Creatures

Whether you have frogs at home, or just really like to watch them hop around in the wild, you might wonder exactly what they’re feeling. Amphibians like frogs, along with reptiles, have a completely different sensory system than mammals.

So, it’s hard to know exactly what they think or what’s going on in their minds. Are frogs capable of feeling any emotions at all? And if so, do frogs show happiness? These are great questions, and there is really no simple answer. So, let’s delve into the research on frogs among other amphibians.

You have to first understand that frogs are sentient beings. They have complex lives just like us. However, they experience their lives differently. They are an entirely separate species with a completely separate purpose.

Many studies have been done to assess the different spectrum of emotions that frogs feel. While they might not experience happiness as we know it, we do know that they experience some form of well-being.

australian green tree frog
Image By: Evgeny Haritonov, Shutterstock

Humans Tend to Humanize Everything

Humans might be one of the smartest species on the planet, but sometimes we have a hard time comprehending differences. We think that just because another living creature might not experience joy or happiness the way that we do, that they can’t feel it.

This is likely largely untrue. Each living creature has its own life experience, regardless of how significant or insignificant it might be to you. Therefore, many living and breathing critters are capable of feeling a broad spectrum of states or sensations we don’t fully understand yet.

But just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect it, of course. And just because we feel emotions in a specific way doesn’t mean we should project this onto frogs, pretending they feel in ways they do not.

american green tree frog closeup
Image By: Brett_Hondow, Pixabay

What We Know Frogs Can Feel

It’s important to understand exactly what emotion is. Even though frogs might not display the same responses as mammals, they are sentient beings that are capable of ​​perceiving and interpreting experiences in their environment. Just like emotions, these experiences can have either positive or negative implications for their bodies.

It’s been scientifically proven that frogs feel:

  • Well-being
  • Stress
  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Arousal

These feelings are necessary for frogs’ survival and procreation.

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How Frogs Perceive Well-Being or Happiness

Frogs Release Feel-Good Chemicals

If you are not familiar with oxytocin, it is the happiness chemical in the brain for humans. Science shows that frogs also release a feel-good chemical called mesotocin, showing that they are, in fact, capable of feeling levels of joy.

Mesotocin is responsible for mating and even caring for babies (for some frog species). Frogs also have levels of oxytocin-like peptides and cortisol, which proves they are capable of feeling a level of happiness. However, it’s clearly not for the same reasons a human would feel these emotions.

dumpy frog on leaf up close
Image By: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

Frogs Don’t Have the Same Heart Response

A mammal has many heartbeat fluctuations depending on their current state. For example, when we get nervous, our hearts begin to palpitate. If a gazelle is being chased by a predator, their heart rate goes up immediately as a stress response.

The same goes for a pleasurable event. If you fall in love or go on a roller coaster, you’re flooded with feel-good hormones.

However, a frog has no fluctuation in heart rate—no matter if they are in danger or experiencing pleasure. So, does this discredit their ability to feel? We don’t think so. It simply means they are different creatures with separate bodily responses—they are amphibians and not mammals, after all.

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How to Keep Your Frogs “Happy”

If you have pet frogs, you might wonder how to keep them “happy.” Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Keep the Enclosure Clean

Having a dirty living environment can really stress your frog out! Try to clean things up so your amphibians can feel normal. Living in filth can actually cause your pets to get sick—so keep things tidy!

Keep Your Frogs Well-Fed

A full frog is a happy frog. Be sure to give your tankmates appropriate portions of species-specific food as needed.

Don’t Over Handle Them

Sometimes handling frogs can really stress them out. Try not to hold them against their will often. Don’t let them think every time your hand comes into the enclosure, they will be taken away against their will. Do this sparingly.

frog pet
Image Credit: Satoru Hatakeyama, Shutterstock

Don’t Rearrange the Terrarium

Rearranging the terrarium can cause your frogs significant stress. They will not like the environment being suddenly different, as it means they will need to readjust.

Regulate Proper Temperatures

Your frog will require a very specific temperature to keep them healthy. Some prefer cooler weather while others require humidity and heat. Research your frog’s needs specifically and follow the recommendations.

Make Sure to Keep Up With Day/Night Cycles

Frogs need their artificial environment to mimic natural day/night cycles to keep them on track. Too much light or darkness can impact the health of your pets.

Be Sure Your Frog Has a Friend (Depending on Species)

Some frogs prefer solo life. However, other frogs are communal creatures that prefer the companionship of at least one more frog. Be sure you know what your particular species requires and accommodate accordingly.

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Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that all sentient beings matter. If you’re an animal lover of any kind, you’ll realize that even if frogs don’t have the same take on happiness that we do, they are still quite capable of feeling both positive and negative feelings.

It is up to us as a species to thoroughly investigate, educate ourselves, and better analyze these animals so we can treat them with the utmost respect both in the wild and in captivity.

Featured Image Credit: Brian Lasenby, Shutterstock

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