Friday, March 04, 2011

we make great pets

An interesting pair of studies out recently on pets. In one via Discovery News, cats are found to be surprisingly good at reading, and manipulating, their owners:
The study is the first to show in detail that the dynamics underlying cat-human relationships are nearly identical to human-only bonds, with cats sometimes even becoming a furry "child" in nurturing homes.

"Food is often used as a token of affection, and the ways that cats and humans relate to food are similar in nature to the interactions seen between the human caregiver and the pre-verbal infant," co-author Jon Day, a Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition researcher, told Discovery News. "Both cat and human infant are, at least in part, in control of when and what they are fed!"

For the study, led by Kurt Kotrschal of the Konrad Lorenz Research Station and the University of Vienna, the researchers videotaped and later analyzed interactions between 41 cats and their owners over lengthy four-part periods. Each and every behavior of both the cat and owner was noted. Owner and cat personalities were also assessed in a separate test. For the cat assessment, the authors placed a stuffed owl toy with large glass eyes on a floor so the feline would encounter it by surprise.

The researchers determined that cats and their owners strongly influenced each other, such that they were each often controlling the other's behaviors. Extroverted women with young, active cats enjoyed the greatest synchronicity, with cats in these relationships only having to use subtle cues, such as a single upright tail move, to signal desire for friendly contact.

Then, in a separate study, researchers found that drug-sniffing dogs are not nearly as effective as believed. Often what the dogs are actually responding to is the subtle social cues of their masters. In fact, according to the study, dogs are more likely to get a false positive because of the owner's hunch even than because of the scent of sausage furtively left on a mark!

It is amazing how well we have molded cats and dogs for human companionship. On the other hand, it may be even more interesting how they have molded us. Take this article, for example:
Dogs, cats, cows and other domesticated animals played a key role in human evolution, according to a theory being published by paleoanthropologist Pat Shipman of Penn State University.

The uniquely human habit of taking in and employing animals -- even competitors like wolves -- spurred on human tool-making and language, which have both driven humanity's success, Shipman says.
Dogs, for instance, might have have been selectively taken in by humans who shared genes for more compassion. Those humans then prospered -- a.k.a. reproduced -- with the dogs' help in hunting and securing their homes.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear to researchers yet, dogs and cats also reduce their humans' blood pressure, and do so even more effectively than blood pressure medication.

1 comment:

Pet Lover said...

"Dogs, cats, cows and other domesticated animals played a key role in human evolution" Completely agree.