I submit your pets are as free as you are. They are just not as aware or educated.
Where there is choice there is free will. The definition of free will is: The ability or discretion to choose, The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will
Cats can be finicky eaters; choosing to eat one food and not another or growing tired of one food. There is choice here to eat or not to eat. If cats were automatons they would respond in the same way to the same stimulus. However, if the cat knows that a variety of foods are available it may deign not to eat and instead beg for something else. Demonstrating two things; knowledge of other choices plus how to get them and a personal preference.
One important thing in this example is education or knowledge. It assumes the cat has learned that it’s owner will feed it different foods and it can make an action that causes a particular food or a change of foods. This is important, because it shows that the difference between man and animal is not free will, but knowledge that other choices are available is passed from generation to generation.
BTW, there is a scholarship program named, Education is Freedom.
The cat has a personal preference or desire or want for something different. Is this any different from man? I want to sleep in a bed and not on the floor? The cat wants tuna instead of Friskies.
So, the cat wants tuna and refuses to eat Friskies until tuna shows up. I know 2 years that act the same way. Who has not experience the individual who refuses to eat mayonnaise on their hamburger until a new, “clean” one is provided?
If a cat has free will, what is different from a cat and a pigeon? Besides the obvious morphologies of birdness and catness. We can understand or be made to understand the cat. We are less familiar with the pigeon. This is an issue of knowledge, our knowledge or bird communication. It’s not an issue of free will.
The question is not, “Why is man special from the animals?” The question really is, “Is man special?”
Let’s compare the closest animal that is not man, the various forms of monkey and the transfer of knowledge from monkey to monkey. Can a monkey learn from verbal instruction from other monkeys? No. Can a monkey learn from written symbology? No. Can a monkey learn from observation? Yes. “Monkey see. Monkey do.” Is true.
That’s quite a limitation. The only knowledge transfer can come from experiences that one monkey can encounter in his/her lifetime and that the experience reoccurs in order to pass along that knowledge to other monkeys. No oral history. No cave drawings. Nothing written.
Imagine a human grown up with this constraint. How would that person seem to us? Savage, barbarian, animalistic? Someone for whom everything learned is learned by observation. We might want to know how they learn to be less animal and more knowledgeable. If you want to believe in ETs visiting Earth, perhaps this is why they keep coming back, “Look Quiquak, the humans are once again setting off a nuclear explosion and threatening another group of humans call Russia.” While the announcer breaks in to say, “Next, on a Animal Planet…”
So, animals can choose, but they may not know this. Their is an inability to transmit knowledge of choices to other members of the species.
How many animals do we really know about? Land animals sure, but whales and dolphins sure seem to have very complex behavior and communication patterns. Whales sing. Could this be a recital of an oral history? Their communication and environment is so different than ours.
Persistence of a communication seems to be the very key. There is no knowledge transfer beyond one individual’s lifetime to another without it.
This satisfies the first definition of free will. Perhaps, I will get to the second definition later. I suspect that the second definition is verbal trickery of something that can not be proven either way, but is a comfortable lie for man to tell himself. A rationalization that justifies the slaughter of other animals for his own stomach. “See”, he says to himself, “they aren’t human. So, it’s ok”. Thus hearkening a very old violent genetic tribal belief from when Man was hunted by lions, tigers, and bears.