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Microbes Make the Messages in Cat Poop

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Bacteria in the anal glands of a cat are responsible for chemical signalling via poop, study shows.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

Many species of carnivore use chemical signals in faeces as a way of communicating. Stinky secretions from the anal sacs, on each side of the anus, provide odours in poop that are used for chemical signals and scent marking.

Wolves and spotted hyenas use these to mark territory; it is believed domestic cats do too, although this behaviour is not fully understood. Striped hyenas, spotted hyenas, and ferrets use these chemical signals to recognize other individuals. Skunks and honey badgers even use these secretions as a form of defence, and if you’ve ever met a dog that’s been skunked, you know how bad that is. Now new research from UC Davis, published in PLOS One, sheds light on how the smells in these secretions are made in cats.

The anal sac secretions from domestic cats convey information about the sex of the cat and its reproductive state, and can also be used to …

Dogs Who Attended Puppy Class are More Trainable

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Going to puppy class has benefits for later dog behaviour, study shows.


By Zazie Todd, PhD.

Puppies have a sensitive period for socialization from 3 until about 12-14 weeks, during which it is especially important to have a wide range of positive experiences. Many people take their puppy to puppy class during this time, but some people wonder, “Is puppy class worth it?” A new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour finds several advantages for dogs that attended puppy class when younger compared to those who didn’t.

The study, by Dr. Ángela González-Martínez (Santiago de Compostela University) et al., took place in Spain and compared dogs who had completed puppy class one year earlier to those of the same age who had not taken a puppy class. The dogs were assessed using a questionnaire called the C-BARQ which was completed by their owner.

The results showed that dogs who attended puppy class were more highly rated as trainable, and were less likely to have non-social fe…

Scent and Scent-ability

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The benefits of nose work for ‘naughty’ and ‘reactive’ dogs
Guest post by Luisa Dormer and Sienna Taylor.


For many people, taking their dog to training classes is an enjoyable experience that helps to make the bond between them even stronger. For a number of dog owners, however, the thought of taking part in such activities can fill them with dread due to their dog’s ‘naughty’ behaviour. Examples of behaviours that are considered problematic include being destructive, hyperactive, straying and showing aggression towards other dogs (Wells and Hepper, 2000).

Dogs that are considered hyperactive, or have a tendency to stray or run off on walks, may have strong hunt, play and prey drives. Hunt and prey drives can be defined as the dog’s innate desire to pursue, capture and kill prey, whereas a play drive is the innate desire of a dog to want to play. Dogs that display behaviour such as barking, growling, snapping, biting and lunging when they see other dogs can be referred to as ‘reactive’…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club September 2019

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" a treat for dog lovers, but also essential reading for anyone interested in our relationship with nature, and what that says about us.” - Ed Yong.



This month's choice for the Animal Book Club is Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz.

From the book description,
"From Alexandra Horowitz, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Inside of a Dog, an eye-opening, informative, and wholly entertaining examination and celebration of the human-canine relationship for the curious dog owner and science-lover alike.  We keep dogs and are kept by them. We love dogs and (we assume) we are loved by them. We buy them sweaters, toys, shoes; we are concerned with their social lives, their food, and their health. The story of humans and dogs is thousands of years old but is far from understood. In Our Dogs, Ourselves, Alexandra Horowitz explores all aspects of this unique and complex interspecies pairing.  As Horowitz considers the current culture of dogd…

The Fear Free Shelter Program Reduces Stress in Shelters

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Fear Free has released free training for staff and volunteers in animal shelters.



Fear Free, known for its revolutionary approach to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress for pets at the veterinarian, has just launched the Fear Free Shelter Program. The program provides free online training for anyone who works or volunteers at an animal shelter that will teach them how to reduce stress for the animals and provide them with enrichment.

The program covers all stages from the intake of animals through to adoption. It also provides resources that adopters and foster homes can use to promote the emotional well-being of the pets in their care and ease the transition to a new environment.

The program was created by lead author Dr. Brenda Griffin, along with three veterinary behaviourists who all have experience in shelter medicine. Griffin is an adjunct associate professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida, and is also an instructor at the University of Georgia.

“We created the Fea…

Fellow Creatures: New Post on Animal Cruelty

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A recent court case in Nova Scotia considered the role of emotional suffering in an animal cruelty case. It's a first for Nova Scotia, but not the first time courts in Canada have considered emotional  harm as part of an animal cruelty case.

Read more about the science behind this in the role of emotional harm in animal cruelty at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures.

Photo: Lynette C/Pixabay

Companion Animal Psychology News August 2019

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The importance of play, chickens as domesticated animals, and beautiful cat photos – this month’s news.



My favourites this month “It took two weeks for her to start greeting friends normally (people she knows and loves). Before that, when they would come, she would run up to my bed and hide.” An important post from Eileen Anderson with a story from a dog owner about what happened when a trainer used a shock collar on her dog, and commentary from Eileen about the issues with shock collars and an unregulated industry.

“Play is so important for normal development that it takes a lot to deprive an animal of play and play deprived animals are a mess.” Giz asks, do animals work out, with lots of great comments about play. Compiled by Daniel Koltz.

Do cats hold a grudge?Dr. Mikel Delgado looks at two studies of the effects of different handling techniques on cats.

Traveling with your dog. Reviews.com interviews Suzanne Bryner of Lucky Fido Dog Training, and you'll find lots of great tips f…