Monthly Archives: September 2015

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Pizza rat vs. Milkshake squirrel

I love urban wildlife and the way they have adapted to exploit the resources available to them in the environment, like human food waste. This week, pizza rat and milkshake squirrel highlighted rodents' ability to carry large food items, and digest a variety of foods.

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Yet another klepto-kitty

Are cats becoming more likely to steal or is the internet just making us more aware of these thieving felines?  Yet another cat wandering the neighborhood and bringing goodies back home, such as undies and even a bag of weed. This kitty seems to have a preference for My Little Pony. Some cat experts have weighed in on this behavior before.  Read veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman's take here.

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Bird feeders spread avian "pink eye"

birddiseaseAs sad as this makes me to say, there is yet more evidence that bird feeders can do more harm than good (aside from attracting more squirrels than birds). A new study showed that birds who prefer feeders over foraging are major players in the spread of disease to other birds in their flock. If you feed birds, clean and disinfect your feeder every time you fill it please!!

 

 

 

What kind of movies do chimps want to see?

My undergrad advisor, who worked with Kanzi the chimp, told me that the chimps he worked with loved to watch football games and videos of chimps fighting. A new study, using non-invasive eye tracking, looked at what chimps look at when watching a video of humans, including one wearing a gorilla suit. By changing some features of the video on second viewing, the scientists could see what the chimps remembered, and what they expected to see.

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Are cats hard to understand?

grumpyNot if you try to understand how they communicate! Scientists agree: cats communicate with purring, meowing, and body language. Yours truly briefly quoted within, along with some of my cat-scientist heroes, John Bradshaw and Sharon Crowell-Davis.

 

 

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Squirrel Disruptions

Squirrel related power-outages were reported in Verona, WI, Eagle Mountain, UT (where the squirrel was “roasted”),  Windsor, Ontario (where the squirrel survived!), and Edmond, OK.

Regina, Canada, is taking action to protect squirrels from electrocution, installing “squirrel savers” to transformers, and consequently preventing future power outages. Turns out in West Liberty, IA, costs of power outage due to squirrel are running up towards half a million dollars, and with an insurance company refusing to pay, the city has to fork out another $5K for a consultant to research the claim.

And last year in Bryan and College Station, TX, squirrels caused over 300 power outages, leaving rodents responsible for around 30% of all power outages in the area.

To add to the mix, a squirrel started a brush fire in Camas, WA.

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#CuteOff focus: the "uncute"

There was a recent craze on twitter to post pics of cute animals, using the hashtag #CuteOff. Despite the tendency for us to find vertebrates cuter than invertebrates (think fuzzy, big eyes, the kinds of things we find cute), there are plenty of examples of cute sponges, jellies, and worms out there in the world! Check them out!

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See the results on twitter here.

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Squirrels steal bird food...and bird calls?

Squirrels are infamous for busting into birdfeeders, but now they are stealing bird calls? Huh? Turns out that when predators are in the area, birds and squirrels join forces to spread the news, even using a similar warning sound to get the message out more effectively.

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Hearts across the animal kingdom

Heart disease: common in humans, rare in the wild. By placing heart monitors on many species and training them to use a treadmill, scientists at UC Santa Cruz have compiled some interesting data on how hearts and heart disease differ across species! Even the laziest lion is an elite athlete compared to most of us desk-bound humans, and your cat's heart is smaller (relatively speaking) than a dogs, because of their stalk-and-rush hunting style. Read more here!

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NAUGHTY OR MISUNDERSTOOD? You decide!! Photo via Flickr/CreativeCommons LicenseTommy Hemmert Olesen https://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyhj/
NAUGHTY OR MISUNDERSTOOD? You decide!! Photo via Flickr/CreativeCommons LicenseTommy Hemmert Olesen
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyhj/

Are cats naughty or just misunderstood? Those of us who work professionally to help people solve behavior problems in their cats would be more likely to say the latter – I am careful in my own descriptions of behaviors as undesirable as opposed to inappropriate – because most of those "problem" behaviors are normal responses to an unsuitable (or perhaps even inappropriate!) environment.

So given that cats may be misunderstood, how can we increase owner understanding of a cat’s behavioral needs? A new study, The prevention of undesirable behaviors in cats: effectiveness of 7 veterinary behaviorists' advice given to kitten owners, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, took a look at whether a standardized behavior discussion between vets and new kitten owners could prevent misunderstandings later.

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