This week, I have things to say about two of my favorite species, cats and squirrels...
How can we know that cats love us?
A recent article in the Atlantic discussed the "love hormone" oxytocin, and how it is released when we interact with our pets (turns out other animals have it too, and their oxy levels may go up after interactions with US too).
Most studies have been on dogs, and one study showed that the effects of interacting with cats were less "loving" than interacting with dogs. Most research on human-pet attachment also finds reports of stronger attachment to dogs than cats. Why is this? Are our relationships with cats that different than those with dogs? Are the scales flawed? Is it our co-evolution with dogs that leads to this oxy release? There are still many unanswered questions.
There used to be an electric fence at the Czech-German boundary. While the Iron Curtain may have come down 25 years ago, red deer prefer to maintain that previous line in the sand, and are not crossing into "foreign territory." Read more here.
Police in Carboro, NC were concerned when there were reports of drive-by squirrel hunting within city limits. The hunters couldn't be bothered to get out of their car to take a shot at the rodents, and hunting in the city is illegal.
A man in Milford, CT who shot a squirrel in his yard was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm. An unregistered assault rifle was seized (although that's not what he shot the squirrel with), as well as several large-capacity magazines.
Squirrels cause problems
A dog was impaled on a post after he got distracted and chased a squirrel. Luckily he's okay!
A "pet" cat, Rocky, escaped and ran loose for two weeks before he was caught. This was the second time he had escaped, and violated the owner's agreement with the city that he would remained contained in her home.
Animal control officer's suspect Rocky is a bobcat, not a hybrid, and have confiscated the kitty while he gets genetic testing to determine his species. Officials have determined he will only go home if he's truly a hybrid. I hope this highlights a few things: the downside of the glorification of hybrid species as pets, the fact that many of these cats who are kept captive are declawed, and whether or not this is a good quality of life for the animal. An interesting case; I'm anxious to see what the blood test shows!
Did you know that just a few nibbles on Easter lilies can kill your cat? Turns out most people don't know...and the flower industry isn't doing anything to promote awareness. Read more in this article I wrote for the Dodo!
Warming trends are changing these male Puerto Rican coqui frogs - like its effects on other animals, they are getting smaller, and their calls are getting squeakier. The summary article did not comment on how this might impact their ability to attract mates, but the manuscript suggests that changes in male frogs' calls without corresponding changes in the females' frequency-dependent detection system could have dire effects.
My research examining how fox squirrels assess food and how these behaviors are influenced by factors such as season, food type and competition was recently published in PLOS|ONE, and thanks to open access, you can read it here; or you can read the abridged version at PLOS|ONE's blog, EveryONE.
Regardless, I encourage you to check out our video of these squirrel assessment behaviors:
Variable schedules of reinforcement are powerful, and keep us crushing candy
I can't decide if I love or hate Candy Crush, but I am definitely hooked. Here's why: intermittent and unexpected rewards lead to a bigger dopamine rush (when the reward center of your brain is activated). It also doesn't hurt that the images are of candy. Read more here.