Month: April 2019

A possible cause of endocrine disorders in older cats

Dr. Miaomiao Wang, of the California Environmental Protection Agency has published a study of older cats in Northern California that suggested a link between higher levels of per and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances in cats with hyperthyroidism.

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PFAS is found in chemicals that are used in industrial processes and consumer products. These chemicals are found in many household products such protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, and  insecticide formulations, just to name a few products.

More research is needed but it is a good idea to keep this in mind. If there are health issues from this chemical in cats, we have to suspect dogs as well. Dogs are more likely to chew these products than cats are.

Goats recognize human emotions

Dr. Alan McElligott led a study at Queen Mary University of London that determined goats react to human facial expressions. Dr. McElligott found that goats prefer smiling or happy faces to ones that were angry. The study also showed that they also use the left hemisphere of their brains to process emotions.

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Previous studies have shown that dogs, cats and horses and many other animals also recognize facial expressions in humans and react to them accordingly. With each study we learn more about the animal kingdom and how alike in many ways all animals are.

 

Virtual dog helps prevent dog bites

Dogs Trust and the University of Liverpool researchers have created a virtual reality dog that people can approach and interact with that displays signs of aggression.

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The purpose of the project is to educate people, including children, how to recognize signs of aggression in a dog in a safe environment. As the user approaches the dog its behavior changes to include lip licking, lowering of the head and body, front paw lifting, growling and showing of teeth. The team plans to improve the virtual dog to show a variety of behaviors and situations.

This is an excellent project and I hope that it will succeed and be used worldwide to help educate people and teach them how to recognize and understand canine body language. This could also work with all types of animals and would be a safe fantastic way for people to learn about animal behavior.

Do cats respond to their name?

Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa from the University of Tokyo with Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., who is currently an associate professor at Sophia University in Tokyo conducted a study to see if cats recognize their own name. The researchers felt that since cats are not as social as dogs and other mammals, that they may not respond to their name the way more social mammals do.

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What they found is that cats do respond to their name if their owners use the cat’s name often. It is interesting that previous research has shown that cats do distinguish between their owner’s voice and a stranger’s voice, can follow a person’s pointing finger to find hidden food, and may change their behavior depending on their owner’s facial expressions.

In my experience I have successfully taught my cats to come when called, sit and stay and do other things. This required that they understand and respond to their name as well as other words. I am glad that some researchers are looking into ways to validate the intelligence and abilities of cats. As for cats not being social in my experience some are very social, and some are not so social. I have owned cats that behaved more like dogs than cats. More research needs to be done.

Sleepovers for shelter dogs

A team of researchers from the Canine Science Collaboratory have determined that if volunteers take shelter dogs home for a few days, it reduces their stress level. The benefits of this mini-vacation last for a while after they are brought back to the shelter.

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The researchers found that the sleepovers provided a break for the dogs from the stress of the shelter. The team found that dogs in a shelter cannot get the sleep that they need because of how busy and noisy it is in a typical shelter.

The team is also looking into other programs that allow dogs to leave shelters, such as field trips and long-term foster care. With a grant from Maddie’s Fund, they are enrolling 100 animal shelters across the country in a study to understand how foster care impacts the dogs in shelters.