However, our brains are the most advanced network of mushy chemicals. Other animals don't even compare. Monkeys are the closest, simply because they utilize tools to solve problems. But they can only solve simple puzzles that a 5 year old would consider easy.
The reason we can solve such complex puzzles is very simple: the top of our brain is more advanced than other animals. In fact, most of the top of your brain is dedicated to problem solving and memory. All the real regulation of your body temperature and hormones is done by your brainstem and the lower portions of your brain. You can damage or loose entire chunks of the top of your brain and live a normal life. But the moment your brainstem is damaged, it's pretty much game over.
Dammit, I need another quarter!
The interesting thing is that the top of your brain, the part that cognatively processes information, is the newer part. The parts of your brain that handle emotion, are the older ones.
See, before we could process information such as, "That man is holding a knife and looks angry. He'll probably stab me", creatures had to have a way of knowing that something is dangerous or beneficial. Thus, emotions evolved. Emotions direct an animals actions. If something is pleasurable, the animal will like doing it. If it causes fear, the animal will avoid it. Emotions are built on survival.
Emotions are caused by many things. The most notable however, is memory. Every creature that posesses a brain has some form of memory. A brain processes information based on the past; your brain is constantly trying to predict the future. Even walking is so finely predicted that a small step you didn't anticipate will throw you off. Emotions are attached to memories to direct future actions. For example, a scientist wired a rat's pleasure center to a button. Not a chemical or anything like that, the scientist litterally zapped a rat's brain whenever a button was pressed. However, he also gave that button to the rat. When the rat realized that the button produced pleasure directly in it's brain, it just pressed the button non-stop. The rat went so far as to ignore food, water, and sleep, just to press the button over and over.
But consider this for a moment: are animals' emotions similar to our own?
While we were evolving to the form we exist in now, we know our brains changed. But did the brain remove emotional centers from the brain, or expand on them? Since we feel a massively complex amount of emotions, I would assume that our brain expanded on our emotions a great deal. The cognative abilities we gained only helped to expand on emotions. We still feel the same fear and pleasure that our cats and dogs feel.
That would mean that since we feel the same emotions, we are able to empathize with animals. Animals are just easier to read because they don't run emotions through cognative filters like we do.
Animals run on just raw emotion.