Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.
Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.
Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.
'Braitman wants us to take animals seriously — to see them as individuals with life histories and psychologies as dramatic and intense as our own … [She] has an absolute, not a comparative, sense of the animal soul.'
Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker
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‘This is a marvelous, smart, eloquent book — as much about human emotion as it is about animals and their inner lives. Braitman’s research is fascinating, and she writes with the ease and engagement of a natural storyteller.’
Susan Orlean, bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief
‘Animal Madness is the sanest book I've read in a long time. Laurel Braitman irrefutably shows that animals think and feel, and experience the same emotions that we do. To deny this is crazy — which is why this fine book should be required reading for anyone who cares about healing the broken inner lives of both people and animals.’
Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig
‘In this compelling and provocative book, Braitman shows us sides of the animal mind few have imagined, and in doing so, opens our eyes anew.’
Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise
'[A] stimulating mix of rigorous scientific research and moving tales about mental fragility and resilience in the animal kingdom.'
Fiona Capp, The Age