Connecting technology, movement and emotion to study animals

Scientists are using accelerometers on various animals - from cockroaches to elephants - and correlating their movements with positive or negative experiences. So far they have found significant differences in how animals move their bodies during positive or negative states. This potentially gives us new, non-invasive tools for studying animal emotions! So cool! Now tell me, what does my Fitbit say about my mental state?

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Dogs + Humping: Match made in heaven

Leave it to two of my science-blogging faves, DogSpies and BuzzHootRoar to bring us the top reasons that dogs hump, complete with animated GIFs. We can all just go home now, science journalism is done.

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Does your kitty have a history? Photo by Galawebdesign via Wikipedia/Creative Commons

I think most of us who adopt a kitty from a shelter (especially if they are an adult) wonder about their past life, before we brought them home. Who fed them? Were they born under a bed or under a bridge? But how important is it to adopters to know that their cat previously lived in a home, with people? A new study, "Is There a Bias Against Stray Cats in Shelters?" suggests that there might be a bias against stray cats with an unknown history.

The authors of the paper, Kathryn  Dybdall and Rosemary Strasser, did three studies. In the first, they examined shelter records of adult adoptable cats (12 months or older) who had been listed as either owner-surrender or stray. Owner-surrender cats tended to be adopted on average in 26 days, compared to 32 days for stray cats.

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What's the science behind your relationship with your cat?

catpplAre cat people just a little different? Do we relate to our pets a little differently too? Yes. I wrote on this subject for the Dodo many months ago, and was interviewed for this excellent piece by Gwynn Guilford that was released this week on Quartz (qz.com).

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All the squirrel news that's "fit to print" - squirrels got busy in November!

 Squirrels love the holiday season!

cinciEvery year, the Cincinatti Zoo has a “Festival of Lights” – with millions of beautiful lights for their holiday festival. The squirrels historically chewed the wires and removed light bulbs – burying them as if they were nuts – leaving the zoo to switch to LED and not hang the lights until the very last minute. The video is pretty awesome.

Squirrel damage seems to be a theme in the news these days, with this article: “Squirrels are cute until they cause property damage” which outlines the many ways squirrels can damage your attic, trees, and bird feeders.

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Yep, this very blog turns one today. To celebrate, let's look back at my first post...a blog which was also my first post at the Berkeley Science Review (I LOVE RECYCLING!). It was about a study suggesting that cats might not like petting...and why I disagreed with the scientists' conclusions. Read all about it!

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How drool changed science forever

This fantastic article reviews a new biography of Ivan Pavlov, known for making dogs drool at the sound of a metronome (NOT A BELL!).  What we know about his study of physiology, what happened after he got his Nobel prize, and what drool can tell us about human psychology. Read all about it!

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A closer look at the map behind cognitive maps and free speech for faculty

Edward Tolman is the man they named the Psych building for at UC Berkeley - but do you know about his contributions to the field of animal cognition? Or how he stood up for free speech in the age of McCarthyism? I wrote about him at the Berkeley Science Review!

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Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work? 

It might seem intuitive to animal lovers that being with animals would be a good thing, and that is what much of the research on animal assisted therapy suggests. The problem is that these studies are fraught with problems (such as lack of controls and small sample sizes) that make it hard to trust the results. Perhaps the field needs some outreach on experimental design?? Hal Herzog tells us what's up here.

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Watching cats play for science

Can the movements of cats and athletes help scientists improve how robots land from a fall? Yes. Read more here! Plus gratuitous cute cat video (no cats were harmed).

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