Monthly Archives: January 2016

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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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...

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The UK's got them...

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Wales has em...

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And everyone's got something to say about it!

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Then shamed for not making a jump

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

jumpfail

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