This year I was ecstatic that the ISAZ (International Society for Anthrozoology) conference was going to be so close to home and in one of my favorite places - Davis, CA! This conference focuses on human-animal interactions of just about every type you can imagine - from our relationship with pets, animal assisted therapy, education, training, wildlife conservation, and SO MUCH MORE! This was my third time attending, and I got to present some of my research on people's personality traits and their relationship with pets.
This conference is also a great opportunity to connect with amazing folks, talk about research ideas, sow seeds for collaboration, and do a lot of socializing over drinks and food! Plenty of social media representation at the conference - folks like John Bradshaw, Hal Herzog, Carri Westgarth, Molly Crossman - who you should be following on Twitter if you love learning about our relationship with other animals!
If you couldn't be there, no worries, I've put together a Storify of all the tweets I could find relevant to the conference presentations and events! If you'd like to check it out...click here!
Letting your pet cats outdoors is a controversial topic (and apparently a cultural issue - here in the States, we lean more towards keeping them inside, and the Brits think we're nuts!). Does it prevent behavior problems? Maybe -- but I have to say I have PLENTY of behavior clients with indoor/outdoor cats who fight with other cats, urinate or spray inside the house, or have aggression or attention seeking issues. So letting cats go outdoors is not the panacea for all feline behavioral ills as some might have you believe (I've previously written about some reasons to keep your cats indoors).
A new book "Cat Wars" might have you thinking that cats are the only source of avian woes (I've also written on this topic before for The Dodo - so don't forget about humans, squirrels, raccoons and other animals that make life rough on songbirds).
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!
This year's conference features a keynote from one of my fave cat scientists, John Bradshaw; sessions on the history of human-animal interactions, shelters & animal welfare, animal behavior, attitudes toward animals, and animal assisted therapy. My research collaborator and I will be presenting our work developing a scale to measures pet owner's care for their cats.
Every now and then I find a click bait study pretty amusing. A new study (including measuring human brain activity) finds that over the last 15 years or so, our attention spans have gotten even shorter (from 12 seconds to 8 seconds). The culprit? Perhaps cell phones and the huge amount of information we try to take in by staying "connected." Goldfish, who haven't been impacted by changes in technology, are still holding strong with 9 seconds of attention to give to a task. The Onion had something to say too.
We've all heard that cats are mysterious and don't communicate, but those of us who work with cats are trying to bust those myths. This article interviews a few cat experts (including Sharon Crowell-Davis, John Bradshaw, and moi! How'd I end up in that mix???) about how cats communicate and how to better understand what they are trying to tell us.
What your cat is trying to tell you: Stop playing with the tin foil!
A fascinating new study was just published that suggests that certain high-pitched sounds (including crumpling tin foil) can trigger seizures in older cats. I have a lot of thoughts about this that will likely merit a blog post next week. In the meantime: read away!
What's up in canine science?
A lot as usual! @DogSpies talks with Dr. Monique Udell, about the state of dog science, and points the way to some current open access dog studies (meaning: you can read them even if you aren't affiliated with a university!!!) in her latest blog.
That big, bumbling sunfish isn't so lazy after all
I love seeing the sunfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which is apparently the only place to have captive sunfish on display). They look so ancient and blobby, but turns out their quite good at hunting. Scientists attached accelerometers and cameras to some sunfish to see what they get up to. Turns out: eating lots of jellyfish!
Bees have a pretty complicated problem to solve: figure out which flowers have nectar, and when. Felicity Muth explores the latest research on bee cognition, and as you will see, it's pretty amazing.
You know you think your dog looks guilty, but...
Does your dog really feel guilty?
Anyone who works with pets and their owners hears this statement MANY times: "He KNOWS he's done something wrong." It turns out that these doggy (and even feline) behavioral cues that many humans interpret as guilt have more to do with the owner's behavior than the pets. "Dog guilty look expert" DogSpies delves deep into this issue! A must read!
Who would have guessed that the big research questions of 2014 would be all about cats (okay, I’m biased)? Do cats really love us? Do they recognize our voices? Do they hate petting? Why do they love boxes? Does anyone understand them (even our vets?)? Why are cats so mysterious???
Leave it to two of my science-blogging faves, DogSpies and BuzzHootRoar to bring us the top reasons that dogs hump, complete with animated GIFs. We can all just go home now, science journalism is done.