The topic of empathy is repeated throughout all of ” Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” as a way to differentiate humans from androids. It is believed that androids do not have emotion, and therefor cannot connect to organic life. Humans have made animals a symbol of morality, encouraging each other to care for them in an public, congratulatory way. This way of expressing empathy leads to the Voight-Kampff test, used to determine who is human and who is not. The focus on emotion isolates in-organics.
Rick Deckard, a hunter of androids, is obsessed with having a live, organic animal. Society has put so much emphasis on feeling for others that Deckard believes he does not feel empathy the way he should. He buys an electric sheep to replace his deceased one, but is not satisfied. Deckard does not think he can connect to electric animals or androids because they do not express emotion like humans. He uses his lack of a ‘real’ animal as an excuse for his dispassion with those around him.
This idea is challenged later when Deckard has sex with Rachel Rosen, an android. She tries to prove to him that androids are not just machines, but do in fact have emotion. When humans display behavior that would suggest they lack empathy, Deckard begins to question his idea of what it means to be human. At the end of the novel Deckard gains an electric toad, and is unphazed by the fact that it is not organic.