Friday faves

Your cat's sniffer is better than you thought

A recent paper by Kristen Shreve and Monique Udell reviews the importance of olfaction to cats, and how understanding this importance may help us better support feline welfare. In this interview, Shreve incorporates her recent work on training cats to suggest...perhaps a future role for cats as detection animals...search and rescue cats anyone?

My Thumbnail

...continue reading

1 Comment

Dominance: An illusion when it comes to dog-human relationships

domThe always astute John Bradshaw wrote a lovely summary this week as to why trying to assess your relationship with you dog through the lens of a hierarchy is misguided and a possible welfare issue. Read it here!

Could a parrot serve as a witness?

echofascinating story of a parrot who knew too much...while humans have a long history of placing animals on trial, this is a new case questioning whether a talking parrot who had been previously owned by a mob boss could provide court evidence against him. ...continue reading

I get by with a little help from...mongooses?

Warthogs in Uganda may find themselves being bitten by ticks. A solution? Lie down and let the mongooses climb on them to snack on said ticks. This type of relationship, where both species benefit, is called a mutualism. Read more here.

My Thumbnail

Group living necessitates cleanliness

Some insect species are highly social, while others, even if closely related, are not. Scientists recently compared groups of social and asocial ants, bees, wasps, and termites. The more social species had weaker immune systems, but also tend to demonstrate high levels of hygiene and mutual grooming, which may be essential to their survival.

My Thumbnail

Ugly and overlooked

ugly

 

A new study shows that conservation efforts in Australia are typically focused on the "good" (aka cute) species, while those most in need, such as native rodents and bats, are overlooked.

 

This trend is not specific to Australia, as the Ugly Animal Preservation Society has tried to shed light on this problem for years (their motto: "We can't all be pandas")!

 

 

Bird Brilliance

Birds may use alligators as security guards -- previous studies show that birds that nest near alligator habitat produce more offspring. But a new study also showed that alligators near nesting birds were heartier, suggesting that the nesting birds may "pay" for this security service with a few babies that fall out of the nest...into the alligator's mouth. Read a summary here.

My Thumbnail

 

crowWhy are New Caledonian crows good at some tasks and not others? Is it the nature of the test? Researchers in New Zealand looked at the reasons that primates performed better on "self-control tasks" in a recent study that compared cognition across many species (hey I was one of the many authors of that study!) - could hands and experience with humans have an effect?

Meanwhile, a new paper explores the fact that corvids and parrots show cognitive abilities on par with primates, despite having a VERY different brain structure (which lacks the neocortex that is often considered responsible for "higher functions"). Summary here.

...continue reading

Does your dog love you?

We spend a lot of time worrying about whether our pets love us. How would you even prove it? @DogSpies' Julie Hecht contemplates the question, and encourages just living with the answer "probably."

My Thumbnail

Fat cats won't stop loving YOU if you put them on a diet

fatcatIf your cat is obese, that is a problem! Pet owners who worry that putting their feline on a diet might turn them into grumpy cat should worry no more. A study found that reducing an overweight cat's calories made them MORE affectionate toward owners. Remember: putting your cat on a diet should be done in concert with your veterinarian.

 

 

Cats are part of the family

A new survey of cat welfare in Australia found that most owners consider their cat part of the family, and feel confident in their ability to provide for their cat. However, most cats have not been to the vet for a yearly check-up and other findings suggested that owners are not meeting all of their cat's welfare needs. Nice summary from Zazie Todd on her blog Companion Animal Psychology here!

My Thumbnail

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!

My Thumbnail ...continue reading

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!

My Thumbnail

...continue reading

Do monkeys mind poop in their food?

In the 1950s, scientists discovered that rhesus macaques in Japan washed their food before they ate it. Recently, other studies have tried to determine if the monkeys really care if their food is dirty. Experimental methods included rolling sweet potato chunks in sand, and placing wheat grains or peanuts on real monkey poo, or fake poo. I won't give away the ending, you should read about it yourself!

My Thumbnail

...continue reading

Dogs: Always dressed up

Why do animals have white patches? Does your dog or cat have "mittens" or a white tail tip? It appears that domesticating animals somehow has selected for this pattern of coat colors...and @DogSpies is going to tell us more!

My Thumbnail

...continue reading

The cricket equivalent of a box of chocolates?

Male crickets give the female an edible packet of proteins to consume during mating. This sort of "nuptual gift" is fairly common in insects, and may allow physiological and behavioral changes that increase the chance of a successful mating! The longer it takes the female to eat the packet, the better the sperm transfer. Other insects give dead insects or even their own body as part of this pre-nup arrangement, so seems like crickets are getting off pretty easily (no pun intended!).

My Thumbnail

...continue reading