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.
Technology 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?
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.
Bees sleep more after hanging out with bees than they do after spending time alone - five hours more! It could be the flood of information they have to process after encounter so many of their colony members - the extra sleep may help with learning and memory. Read more here!
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.
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.
What's the science behind your relationship with your cat?
Are cat people just a little different? Do we relate to our pets a little differently too? Yes. I wrote on this subject for the Dodo many months ago, and was interviewed for this excellent piece by Gwynn Guilford that was released this week on Quartz (qz.com).
For some strange reason, we are really good at matching photos of strangers and their dogs. This finding has been demonstrated in a few studies, and a new study delved deeper - and it turns out that if you can't see the eyes of either the dog or the owner, it is ever so much harder to match the two...so whatever it is that makes people and their dogs seem like they belong together - it's in the eyes!
No, but we've got lots of other things to talk about!
What factors lead some cats to develop behavior problems? And what effect does early experience have on kitten behavioral development? There are still many elusive and unanswered questions, but a new study brings us a little closer to understanding some of the relationships between age of spay/neuter (s/n), household variables (such as number of other pets, use of punishment), kitten personality factors (such as fearfulness) and report of behavior problems by owners.
I'm about to dive into the Sante Fe Science Writing Workshop, but I didn't want anyone to be squirrel deprived...so here goes this week's This Week in Squirrels
Dog goes crazy...over a squirrel
Squirrels don't just make people crazy...they've got an effect on dogs too. If you haven't seen this cute video of a dog making some interesting sounds when he spots a squirrel, check this out!
Like everything else, squirrel hunting is big in Texas
Squirrels used to be the most popular game animal in Texas, which has no "bag limit." But changes in the habitat have made gray "cat" squirrels more elusive, and since they are legally considered game animals, there is no management of squirrel habitat in the Lone Star state. Deer hunters dominate the land, squeezing out squirrel hunting. But there are still plenty of folks who want to nosh on skillet fried squirrel.