Can Animals Get Homesick?

March 9, 2018
Image of a Sumatran tiger

The answer: absolutely. Similar to humans, animals can get homesick. Humans can feel sad and express a yearning to go home. Animals, on the other hand, can’t express how they feel with words, so they might show signs of sadness in other ways. Jillian, a Sumatran tiger that once called the San Francisco Zoo her home, was transferred to the Sacramento Zoo a year ago. The purpose of her move was to help with breeding efforts among Sumatran tigers—there are fewer than five hundred left in the world. Unfortunately, according to her caretakers, Jillian wasn’t doing the things that a new animal trying to familiarize itself with a new environment would do. She wasn’t engaged and didn’t shift from one part of the exhibit to another, which made it difficult for her caretakers to clean the exhibit. A veterinarian even gave Jillian some medication to help her with her anxiety (or her nervousness), but nothing seemed to help cure her homesickness. So, Jillian was transferred back to the San Francisco Zoo—her home sweet home. We hope you’re doing much better, Jillian!