Does consciousness need thoughts or feelings to exist?
Consciousness: the state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings. (Thanks Google!)
Well from a grammatical perspective we're certainly safe. I would hold the burden of evidence to be on the counter-argument in this case. I know of no non-egocentric reason to assume that thoughts and feelings are a pre-requisite for consciousness, or even that the human mind is a pre-requistite for thoughts or feelings.
If we attribute consciousness with our human minds, does this reflect on poor understanding of our minds ourselves and make us ponder at the fact that an ant may be just as consciously aware as us?
I'll admit before attempting an answer here I had a bit of difficulty parsing this question, so let me know if I'm off-base.
Does this reflect poor understanding of our minds?
I wouldn't say it necessarily reflects poor understanding, but I believe in practice it often does. It simply too easy to say "Oh, I've talked to conscious people. My cat never told me he was conscious as far as I can tell, so he probably isn't." There's certainly other arguments for consciousness as an attribute of human minds, but I do believe this is a common trap to fall into.
an ant may be just as consciously aware as us?
Well ants do seem to demonstrate some form of hive-mind structure, so I'd say if they are conscious it would be unlikely to be the same sort of consciousness we're used to. Perhaps it should be called by another name, but it certainly (in my opinion) shouldn't be held to absolutely not be conscious, especially at colony level.
I find it extraordinarily unlikely that the most intelligent of domestic animals and primates don't exhibit higher forms of consciousness than some humans that have been ascribed consciousness. Especially in prolonged interactions with animals, its easy to ascribe to them the same thoughts and feelings humans have, though in a way somewhat affected by mental faculties. Other animals haven't developed to think and feel as we do, so there should be some expectation for difference. However, I think saying that any deviation from human mind confers a deviation from consciousness is quite arbitrary and difficult to separate philosophical arguments from those made on basis of apathy or ignorance.
In general I believe:
All life comes into its own as free and equal in dignity, rights and
consideration. Such life as is endowed with reason and conscience also
must observe this truth in transactions with any other form of life.