Scientists have now sequenced the genomes of 54 kitties, including a few wild species. While the emphasis is on learning more about diseases that are common to cats (and in some cases, also in humans), a larger sampling of cats, and hopefully collecting of other data (like BEHAVIOR) will mean a better understanding of what makes cats cats, and how domestication has shaped their bodies, brains, and behavior.
Can cats make you take your medicine?
We know that cute influences our cognition and increases our focus. Now a company is hoping that it will help you take your pills. Patients with type 2 diabetes will be send medication reminders alongside cute cat photos in the hopes that it will increase adherence to medication regimens.
I think most of us who adopt a kitty from a shelter (especially if they are an adult) wonder about their past life, before we brought them home. Who fed them? Were they born under a bed or under a bridge? But how important is it to adopters to know that their cat previously lived in a home, with people? A new study, "Is There a Bias Against Stray Cats in Shelters?" suggests that there might be a bias against stray cats with an unknown history.
The authors of the paper, Kathryn Dybdall and Rosemary Strasser, did three studies. In the first, they examined shelter records of adult adoptable cats (12 months or older) who had been listed as either owner-surrender or stray. Owner-surrender cats tended to be adopted on average in 26 days, compared to 32 days for stray cats.
I enjoyed this NYT piece on a recent review paper on the possible dangers of laughter, including hernias, dislocated jaws and peeing your pants.
Should Santa bring kittens and puppies down the chimney?
It's always interesting how we respond to science that goes against our intuition. My instinct is always to tear it apart, but also try to consider the evidence. A recent ASPCA survey found that pets received as gifts were at no greater risk of relinquishment than pets acquired in other ways (they also found that over 20% of all randomly phone people had received a pet as a gift - which just seems high to me!) - what do you think? Dog Spies is on the case, as always bringing us animal-based thoughtfulness.
Our complicated past and present with elephants
This is more of a book review than anything, but it made me go to the library and check out Behemoth, by Ronald B. Tobias, which details the history of the elephant in the United States. Unfortunately, for most elephants, the story does not end well. Perhaps what is most fascinating is that elephants were often held responsible for "moral transgressions" which sadly led to abuse, corporal punishment and even being sentenced to death. I'm looking forward to reading this book!