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.
My goal as a cat behavior consultant is to further people’s understanding of their cats – inside and out! Many of the calls for help we get are to help clients whose cats are experiencing litterbox avoidance. Sometimes the reasons are obvious. Other times I’m on a housecall for an unrelated problem, and I see some things going on in (or out of) the litterbox that I wish weren’t happening.
First of all, there is a good reason to have a litterbox for your cat (even if your cat goes outside) and clean the box daily (even if you don’t want to): your cat’s “output”, so to speak, is a key to their health. Cats are notorious for hiding pain, and sometimes what you can find in the litterbox is the first sign of illness. But it’s also important to know, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR WHEN YOU’RE SCOOPING ANYWAY? I’m here to help you out.
Feeding corticosterone (a stress hormone) to zebra finches had the opposite effect of what scientists expected - it made the birds MORE social, but those "friendships" were more fleeting than those exhibited by control birds, who spent more time with family and closer friends. Read more about the recently published study here.
Squirrels and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter. I remember the first year we put out a jack-o-lantern, only to find tiny nibbles and bits of pumpkin all over our porch. Great! Well, Halloween was just a few days ago, so it’s not too late to look at some squirrel-related Halloween stories.
With only one or two games left in the World Series, there are many baseball fans out there right now who aren't changing their shirts, or who are wearing certain colors every day, or are maybe skipping that shave...in the hopes of bringing their favorite team to a win. I'm more than a little excited because my team is in the running. But can any of us really help our team win through our behaviors?
The uncanny valley is that strange feeling you experience when you see something that is almost, but not quite, human-like, such as animation in a film or video game, or robotic movements that mimic our own. You may even experience this feeling when you see other primates. Some folks have suggested that "the valley" may be what caused us to kill off Neanderthals (although I'm still looking for a more reputable source on this topic)!
Long story short, turns out that a recent study suggests that monkeys are also disturbed by almost life-like images of other monkeys. Marc Bekoff gives some nice explanations for why animals might be hardwired to look for stimuli that match expectations of what other members of their species should look or act like (or as another scientist points out, these likenesses may not be visual at all, but could be sound or olfactory-based). Read it all here!
What is the deal with emotional support animals? For the record, they are not the same thing as a service animal - but there's a lot of confusion about what is allowed and what isn't - and it's easy to fake a letter. Patricia Marx goes undercover and explores what happens when you bring a "therapy turtle" to a museum. Read here!