Showing posts from April, 2014

Feeding the Felines: Does Food Intake Change with the Seasons?

>Do you ever feel like you want to eat more in the winter than in summer? It could be that your cat is the same. Photo: Nadezhda Nesterova / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD This page contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you. New research by Samuel Serisier et al (2014) investigates how much cats choose to eat at different times of year. The results show seasonal variations in food intake in cats that were allowed free access to food. The study took place over a four-year period in the South of France. 38 cats took part, including 7 Bengal cats, 6 European shorthairs, 5 Maine Coons and a range of other breeds. There were 17 male cats (almost all neutered) and 21 female (of which ten were spayed).    The cats were all healthy, although 16 of them were overweight at the start (and end) of the study.  The cats were resident at the Royal Canin Research Centre. 8 of the cats were indoors-only, and the rest of

What Is A Typical Animal Hoarder?

Sometimes we hear their cases on the news – dozens of sick and frightened dogs or cats removed from the home of an animal hoarder. But is there a typical profile, and how big is the problem? By Zazie Todd, PhD A study by Calvo et al (2014) investigates 24 cases of animal hoarding in Spain between 2002 and 2011.  Photo: schankz / Shutterstock Animal hoarding is not simply having large numbers of pets; it also involves a lack of care for those pets, such that they are sick, not receiving veterinary care and living in unhygienic conditions. The hoarder is usually in denial about the situation and still acquiring more animals. As well as any mental health issues, the person may also suffer physical health problems from a living situation littered with animal urine, faeces, and even dead pets.  For the humane societies who take in the animals, it can be a difficult problem to deal with given the sudden intake of so many creatures in poor health. Calvo et al say, “An

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help At-Risk Boys?

If existing behavioural programs aren’t working, can therapeutic sessions with a dog help boys who have problems at school? Photo: criben / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD A new paper by Abbey Schneider et al (2014) investigates the success of a program designed to help boys who are considered ‘at-risk’ – by matching them up with a specially trained dog and handler. In Colorado, a group of elementary schools take part in a program called the Human Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC). It is designed to help girls and boys who have problems such as hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, or depression. These children are usually given an Individualized Education Plan to help them in school, and several behavioural support systems are also available. When these supports are not enough, children can be referred to HABIC. The Animal Assisted Therapy program matches each child to a specific dog and handler, with whom they spend 10-12 sessions. The first is a meet-and-greet, and i

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Dog owners tend to over-estimate the intelligence of their dog in several ways, but get it right in other ways. So how clever do you think your dog is? Maybe as smart as a four year old child? Photo: DragoNika / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Canine researchers have been investigating dogs’ cognitive abilities: whether they can solve puzzles, recognize our emotions, and so on. But are ordinary people aware of these findings, and do they have a realistic view of dogs ? A paper by Tiffani Howell (Monash University) et al investigates owner’s beliefs about their dog’s intelligence. The research, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, involved a web survey that was aimed at both dog owners and non-dog owners. However, because the overwhelming majority of answers came from people who did own dogs, the analysis was restricted to this group. Although respondents were perhaps not typical of the average dog owner – they were mostly female (90%) and educated at post-se

How About that Doggy at the Hair Salon?

Can we speed up the process of re-homing shelter dogs by getting the dog out of the shelter and into the community? Photo: AdamEdwards / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Every year, many dogs find new homes through animal rescues and shelters, but some have a long wait and many are never re-homed.   What if there was a way to free up shelter space and encourage people who would not visit the shelter to adopt? A new paper by Heather Mohan-Gibbons et al (2014) assesses the success of a scheme in which dogs were moved to foster homes that had the job of finding a suitable new home for the dog. The background to this research is the high rate of euthanasia of shelter dogs in the US (and other countries). Although there are no official national figures, Mohan-Gibbons et al report a range of estimates from previous research, including that only a quarter of such dogs are re-homed. So ways of increasing the adoption rate are urgently needed. At the same time, many more people

Follow me!