2 Comments

I'm all for the celebration of rodents; we just had Squirrel Appreciation day, and now today, we (sort of) celebrate another rodent, the groundhog (who happens to also be a squirrel!). I think it's cute, like everyone else, that somehow people are obsessed with the folklore (originated in the 1800s) that somehow a rodent could see into the future and predict the weather.

On the other hand, in this day and age, where people still question whether evolution is real and if the earth is flat, does Punxatawney Phil just encourage more pseudoscience?

GH2

GH3

First of all, this is attributing some pretty high cognitive skills to a groundhog. But the headlines are a bit misleading. (1) We won't find out if winter is really over (2) Phil can't actually tell us if winter is over, and (3) at the end of the day, aren't we just measuring if it is cloudy or not?

Okay, groundhogs are really cute. Look at Staten Island Chuck!!

GH4 GH1

"No shadow means early spring." Actually, no shadow means nothing.

ppAre these rodents even good at predicting the weather? Turns out, no. Their "predictions" are only correct 35-40% of the time. So don't put your mittens away yet.

Finally, I just want folks to be aware that Groundhog Day is not necessarily good for groundhogs (or the people trying to hold them). One year, Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog, who later died from internal injuries. De Blasio's predecessor, Mayor Bloomburg, was bitten by the groundhog, Chuck, when he tried to pull him out of his hutch.

My Thumbnail

So at the end of the day, while Groundhog Day is a great movie, and a cute holiday, it might be helpful to take a step back and think about what kind of message this day sends us about animals and science.

Share Button

Exploring empathy in animals

oxyA nice little review of new study about voles exhibiting empathic behaviors toward one another. It features a squirrel studying alum from my lab, Stephanie Preston! I would add that some of the willingness to look at empathic behaviors in other animals is not neccessarily due to a shift away from abhorring anthropomorphism, but a shift away from anthropocentrism!

My Thumbnail

Domestic cats: The story has a twist

bengalRecent work suggests that although all current domestic cats in China are descendants of the African wildcat (Felis sylvestris), the first cat species to be domesticated there was the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). This suggests multiple cat domestication events, and also indicates that other cat species (such as the leopard cat) have some flexibility in tolerance toward humans and possible proclivities toward domestication. (Side note: Bengal cats are a hybrid of the domestic cat and the leopard cat). A summary of the paper here.

Crows: Known for "Goosing"

crowCrows are definitely one of my favorite animals. A recent video shows crows pulling a cat's tail (Note: I've seen them do the same thing to the squirrels I study!). Why? Because tail-pulling may distract a competitor long enough for a crow to swoop in and steal their food!

 

 

Share Button

More people than ever claim that they feel that their pets are part of the family. We let them sleep with us in our beds, we buy gifts for them, we feed our cats and dogs expensive “all natural” food, and we carry pictures of them in our wallets (or at the very least, in our cell phones). Yet humans feel busier than ever, are working longer hours, and are experiencing a lot of behavior problems with their pets.

My Thumbnail

robotpetsitterTechnology to the rescue! Many Kickstarter fund requests these days are geared toward making your life as a pet parent “easier:” remote monitors that allow you to talk to your pet from work; various forms of feeders that allow you to dispense food to your pet using your cell phone; automatic toys for cats and dogs; and no newbie to the tech scene, the automatic litterbox has been around for at least 20 years. And the future will bring us dog-walking robots and robotic pet-sitters!

These “gizmos” may on the surface make your life a little easier – but are they good for our pets? And what do they say about our relationship with our animals?

...continue reading

Share Button

BLMI don't know if there's anyway to tastefully combine Martin Luther King Jr., Day - a day of activism and to contemplate the state of racism, privilege, justice, and equality in our country - with cats and squirrels, but I'm going to try. Kudos to the activists who shut down the Bay Bridge on Monday in a non-violent protest.

 

 

Okay, now to the cats and squirrels!

January 21 was Squirrel Appreciation Day! What's to appreciate? To me, a lot. Hopefully in 2017, I can give them props for helping me earn a PhD. But squirrels help propagate the growth of trees by carrying and burying (and sometimes forgetting) their seeds to areas where they can sprout; they are smart, adaptable, hard-working, and persistent creatures who can inspire the public's interest in animals and science. Oh, and they are pretty darn cute.

My Thumbnail

 

Today (January 22) is Answer Your Cat's Questions Day. What do you think cats want to know about humans? It may sound silly (and in fact it is). But in my work as a cat behavior consultant, I spend a lot of trying helping folks understand their cats' needs better, and its easy to see that humans do things that might perplex cats - like not providing them with adequate scratching, climbing or toileting options, and then getting angry when cats scratch, climb, or go to the bathroom on other things. We expect cats to love new cats, we expect them to sleep when they are bored, and to let us pet them and hold them even when they don't want to be petted or held. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US HUMANS? No wonder cats need their questions answered.

My Thumbnail My Thumbnail

 

Share Button

Highlighting Misleading Headlines

Humans seem want to know two things about their pets: WHAT ARE THEY THINKING? and DOES (S)HE UNDERSTAND ME? This desperation leads to endless click-bait about what exactly is going on in our fuzzy friends' minds.

What is my cat thinking?

A new device (that has no peer-reviewed testing that I can find) - basically a fancy collar that measures activity - claims to tell you if your cat is playful (OK, that I believe), or happy or annoyed.  The collar will measure heart rate and temperature (how accurately?), but consumers should know that we have no accepted measures of "happiness" or "annoyance" in pets. I feel pretty confident in saying this collar cannot tell you what your cat is thinking. BUYER BEWARE!

My Thumbnail

...continue reading

Share Button

If squirrels had body image issues…

They’d be in trouble because the hot topic on the internet these days is FAT SQUIRRELS. Folks, they need to store up for a long, lean time…let them get chubby!

Canada's got em...

My Thumbnail

The UK's got them...

My Thumbnail

Wales has em...

My Thumbnail

And everyone's got something to say about it!

My Thumbnail

Then shamed for not making a jump

My Thumbnail

But it’s not just the chubby ones who have a problem!

jumpfail

...continue reading

Share Button

If not, perhaps you should! I was interviewed by The Shorty and Kodi show (AKA the SHOKO SHOW), on the benefits of clicker training cats. The Shoko Show is a fantastic website and YouTube channel (and all over other social media) with lots of helpful information on cat care and rescue.  Check out the interview here!

shoko

Share Button

11 Comments

Trying to make sense of the pheromone mess.

Image 1First things first! Some of you might be wondering what the heck Feliway is! Feliway is a “feline facial pheromone analogue (also refered to as FFP or FFPA).” It is a human-created chemical copycat (no pun intended) of the pheromones that your cat deposits when they rub their scent glands on objects (or even on you). Pheromones are chemicals that many animals use to communicate – and in cats, these chemicals are quite important! The face (cheek, forehead, chin) and paws have important scent glands, and of course urine or spray marking contains pheromones – cats use all of these scent glands to mark their turf and communicate with other cats.

Now, when scientists came up with idea to manufacture a synthetic version of these pheromones they must have thought they hit the animal behavior jackpot. Imagine, a product that could convince a cat they just sprayed somewhere, so why bother doing so again? Or being able to convince animals that they should feel nice and cozy and secure because the pheromones that their mom would have released are being diffused throughout the environment?

...continue reading

Share Button

booksLike most cats, I love to help, but I won't sit on your keyboard while you are trying to type, I promise. This week, I helped Julie Hecht (over at Dog Spies, the finest dog-blog around) compile a list of the best books for cat lovers! Whether you need to do some last minute shopping for a friend, or are making a New Year's resolution to understand cats a little better...I recommend you check it out!!!

 

Share Button

It's been a rough few months...I submitted two manuscript revisions (one of which has been accepted! Huzzah!)! I went to New York City to be a panelist at the Better with Pets Summit! And I'm madly preparing for my final experiment that I hope will lead to my receiving a PhD sooner rather than later.

But, until the graduate school tidal wave returns...it's time to find out what squirrels have been up to for the last two months (no surprise, they've been busy).

Squirrels’ Reign of Terror

Marin County on high alert

squirrelattackThe biggest news of late is the report of EIGHT separate squirrel attacks in a neighborhood in Novato, CA. Some of the attacks occurred when a squirrel jumped from a tree onto its victim. The problem began a few weeks ago, when the squirrel entered a school, biting a teacher and a student before being chased out of the building.

More recently, a squirrel attacked an 87 year old man, giving him injuries on his hands and face. Because of the proximity of reports, and similar behaviors reported, animal control believes the same squirrel was involved in all of the incidents.

My Thumbnail

This weekend, police reported they believe the squirrel is dead, as attacks have ceased. Warning flyers have been posted in Novato just in case he is not.

...continue reading

Share Button