Animals are alive, so as a start, have a look at my answer here: http://greenanswers.com/q/282665/other/why-it-difficult-define-life
Most of the issues raised there also pertain to the question of what an animal is.
You need to dig through the Wikipedia article Animal a couple paragraphs to reach what distinguishes animals from other living things:
One has to throw in that some imagine that plants are sensitive to feelings, like being talked to and loved, etc. Scientific evidence strongly suggests otherwise, although plants do seem to prefer classical music to rock-and-roll. In any case, all this is what Wikipedia — which knows how to spot phonies if it knows anything — calls “fringe” material. That is to say, it’s only included in the encyclopedia, not because it’s true, but because some people believe it’s true.
Dictionary.com defines an animal as “any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli; some classification schemes also include protozoa and certain other single-celled eukaryotes that have motility and animal-like nutritional modes.” Examples include mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish.
An animal is first and foremost a living organism that is not of any flora (or plant) species. Animals are fauna, and though they come in millions of variations depending on the species, they all share basic characteristics of a fauna living organism. All animals have the basic needs of sustenance, protection, and procreation; additionally, animals have the ability to move in order to survive in their environments. Animals have the 5 basic senses, and are capable of learning to some extent, even if these things are only for survival. Most species are also capable of having social customs and cultures to accommodate their typical behavior with others of their species.
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