Do you know what your cat does when she eats? You're probably giving me a little bit of a blank stare right now, like, she puts her face in the bowl and chews her food (or maybe like some cats, she doesn't chew it much at all…).
You throw your cat's food down and walk away so many times, but you might be missing some of the interesting behaviors that your cat is engaging in while she eats. Furthermore, a new study in the Veterinary Journal suggests that the behaviors that your cat engages in while she's eating might tell you just how much she likes the food.
Before we get into this new study, let's review some of the things we already know about how cats eat. Cats are obligate carnivores, and their teeth are really designed for shearing meat into strips, which they then swallow mostly whole. Not a lot of chewing going on… have you ever seen a cat throw up after they eat some dry food? It looks pretty much the same as it looked going down…
As obligate hunters, cats also engage in a few interesting behaviors while they are eating, such as placing some of their food on the ground or tilting their head to the side while they chew. This behavior is because if they were eating a bird or rat, the body would likely be dragging on the ground. The harder the food is to chew, the more you'll see a cat's head tilt. Cats also shake their heads when they pick up a food item or a small bite of food. Leyhausen attributed this behavior to the instinct to shake a bird that has been killed to loosen the feathers. Cool! Even your kibble fed kitty has instincts related to the cat's evolution as a predator.
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!
Do dogs just like to roll in stinky stuff for olfactory camouflage? Or is there something more complex going on? An alternative hypothesis suggests that worms might use our pets to gain their own benefits...read more of this fascinating idea here.
Three new marsupial species discovered in Australia; have sex until they disintegrate
It's gotta be tough being a male antechinus; you have sex until your body falls apart and then you die from stress while still desperately seeking one last "romp." It seems like a bad idea, but I guess as long as you get your sperm passed along before you pass, it will get your genes out into the world and your offspring will likely follow the same lifestyle. I'd like to know what the lady antechinus are up to. Read more here.
Citizen Science - Sea Lion Identification
When I hear about projects that get the general public interested in - and actually DOING - science, I get excited. Scientists in Western Australia are interested in how crowd-sourced photos of sea lion snouts can help them reliably identify individuals by their unique whisker patterns. Booyah!
Cats are more active before feeding time
If you have a cat, you may already know this - I even made a movie about my cat's obsessive circling around the house before mealtime:
Scientists have now found EVIDENCE that cats are more active by having them wear activity monitors and manipulating the number of times a day while holding the total amount of food constant! Feeding cats multiple, small meals a day increases their active time and may be a good strategy for preventing obesity (Personally, I also like food puzzles for cats!).