Of course the easiest explanation would be that cats hate water and think you are in danger, but the truth may be a little more complicated than that.
The short truth is that nobody really knows why cats meow at you while you shower, but there are some probable reasons put forth by both professional and amateur researchers.
Cats Are Afraid Of Water
Some people have theorized that cats meow at you when you shower because they think you are in some sort of danger. However, if this is true, it may not be due to the water involved because if they aren’t seeing the water (such as when you have closed the bathroom door), then how would they know about it?
If the meowing is indeed a meow of caution or concern, then it could have nothing to do with water at all and more to do with their general behavior in regards to you, their owner.
Cats and Closed Doors
A concerned meow is usually due to what cats tend to perceive as danger, but after ruling water out, what are we left with? A number of other factors come to mind, especially their notorious separation anxiety. Many cats will follow you around the house, and if yours is one of them then think about the sudden shock of closing a door between you and them.
Cats tend to meow on one side of a door because they hate to be trapped. Think of putting a cat in a bedroom, basement, bathroom, closet, etc, and remember the sound of their cries. Sounds a lot like the same type of meow you hear when you take a shower, doesn’t it?
Showers Make High Pitched Sounds
Cats can hear very high pitched sounds. That’s why they created cat whistles, to get a cat’s attention. So one theory that makes sense is that a shower tends to cause the pipes to make fairly high pitched noises consistently throughout the shower. If you heard an annoying high pitched sound for a long period of time, that might make you go crazy as well!
A number of fake news websites dedicated to spiritual topics, holistic health and conspiracy theories push a fake but somewhat convincing narrative that cats and dogs can see spirits because they can see ultraviolet light
However, there is no data that suggests any animal can see beings made of light, and there’s a really easy way to prove it — with ultraviolet goggles.
The narrative of cats seeing spirits started after popular science sites like Live Science published articles discussing a research paper regarding ultraviolet light in mammals that suggest cats could see ultraviolet light. There’s just one problem: the study which Live Science mentions doesn’t say anything about proof of seeing light beings at all. That didn’t stop sites like The Mind Unleashed and Disclose TV from speculating about seeing spirits and running with it.
The study, published in 2014, concludes that some mammals can see UV light because of the way their lenses are shaped and structured.
We examined lenses of 38 mammalian species from 25 families in nine orders and observed large diversity in the degree of short-wavelength transmission. All species whose lenses removed short wavelengths had retinae specialized for high spatial resolution and relatively high cone numbers, suggesting that UV removal is primarily linked to increased acuity. Other mammals, however, such as hedgehogs, dogs, cats, ferrets and okapis had lenses transmitting significant amounts of UVA (315–400 nm), suggesting that they will be UV-sensitive even without a specific UV visual pigment.
A search through the study, however, does not suggest that it can see ghosts, or even any sort of light beings at all.
The simple truth is that if these UV light empowered mammals could see some sort of beings made of light that humans can’t, then all it would take for a human to confirm the existence of these beings would be to wear UV goggles or capture video with UV cameras. Alas, the fact that this hasn’t happened means these websites are simply pushing an exciting narrative to get you to click and make them some money.
UV Light In Mammals: The Actual Science
Just because there’s no evidence of cats seeing ghosts doesn’t mean the science isn’t still pretty cool! And it doesn’t mean cats don’t see things that we can’t. At least in terms of how much of a light range from the electromagnetic spectrum they can see versus that of humans, the research suggests that some mammals can in fact see UV light, which allows them to “see in the dark” despite having some trouble seeing in brighter daylight the way humans can.
As one paper from biologists R. H. Douglas and G. Jeffery at the Royal Society of Biological sciences says, although ultraviolet sensitivity is widespread among the animal kingdom, it is still considered very rare in mammals, being restricted to just a few species which have a visual pigment maximally sensitive below 400 nanometers. However, it also says that even animals without such a pigment will be UV-sensitive if they have ocular media that transmit these wavelengths, as all visual pigments absorb significant amounts of ultraviolet light if the energy level is sufficient enough to allow it.
The researchers also showed us that hooded seals native to the Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic have eyes that are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light. This allows the seals to actually spot polar bears hiding in the snow as UV is reflected by snow and ice but absorbed by the bears’ white fur.
This controversial move was welcomed by commercial rhino breeders, who argue that legalising safe, sustainable horn removal from living animals could prevent wild rhino poaching. But animal preservation groups have warned that any legal trade would have the opposite effect.
Poaching has indeed reached new heights this year. On March 7, a rhinoceros was killed in the Thoiry zoo, near Paris, and its main horn was sawed off and stolen. This is the first time a living rhinoceros in a European zoo has been killed for its horn.
That same week, in South Africa, 13 rhinos were found dead in a single day, decimated by poachers.
Only 62 rhinos were poached across Africa in 2006. The following year this figure shot up to 262 animals, then 1,090 by 2013, 90% of which were killed in South Africa.
Rhinoceros are divided into five separate species. Africa (mainly South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe) is home to white rhino (around 20,400 specimens, 18,500 of which are in South Africa) and the black rhino (5,200 specimens, 1,900 of which are in South Africa). As their names indicate, the Indian rhino (3,500 specimens living in India and Nepal), the Sumatran rhino (250 animals) and the Javan rhino (only 50 animals) are found in Asia.
Depending on its age and species, an adult rhinoceros can have up to a few kilograms worth of horn, the white rhino being the best endowed (up to 6kgs). Indian and Javan rhinos have only one horn, while the other three species have two.
In 2015, a total of 1,342 white and black rhinos were poached across the continent. Over the last few years, as many (or more) rhinoceros have been killed in South Africa than are naturally born in Kruger National Park and on private farms put together.
Bogus medicinal properties
Rhino horn, highly valued in China and Vietnam, is used in traditional Asian medicine to treat fevers and cardiovascular disease. More recently, it has been prescribed as a cancer treatment and an aphrodisiac.
While there is no scientific evidence for such medicinal properties, these unfounded beliefs are feeding soaring Asian demand for powdered rhino horn. Prices are skyrocketing: up to US$60,000 a kilo, which is more expensive than gold.
In truth, rhino horn is simply a formation of keratin, a protein found in human nails and animal claws, with a few amino acids and minerals, phosphorus and calcium.
Controlling a lucrative criminal market
Criminal trade in wild animals constitutes one of the world’s largest illegal markets, according to the UN, along with drugs, counterfeit products and human trafficking. Each year, it affects tens of millions of specimens of animals and plants.
With support from Interpol, Europol, the World Customs Organisation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), CITES applies the ban on rhinoceros-horn trading. Using a system of permits and certificates delivered under special conditions, CITES regulates the market for rhinos and about 35,000 other wild species, categorised into three groups according to the level of protection required.
The white rhino, which is not necessarily threatened with extinction, is an appendix species II for South Africa and Swaziland, meaning the trade there must be controlled in order not to jeopardise the animal’s survival. For all other African range states, the white rhino is listed on appendix I: all trade of this endangered species is forbidden, except for non-commercial purposes such as scientific research.
Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has sought assistance in controlling their trade.
Prior to the 2000s, and up until 2007, pressure on consumer countries (Yemen, Korea, Taiwan and China) to stop the rhino trade helped reduce poaching activity, leading to an increase in the African rhino population.
Likewise, there is still demand in China and Hong Kong for wealth-signaling objects made of rhino horn, such as libation cups and jewellery.
Where, then, do all these horns come from? According to UNODC, today the major shipments of rhino horn originate primarily in South Africa, followed by Mozambique (where rhinos are gone, but poachers have dipped into stocks at South Africa’s Kruger National Park), Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Both the United Arab Emirates and Europe have served as trading routes. In 2011, the Czech government discovered that some of its citizens were selling trophies they had hunted in South Africa to Vietnamese traders. Some 90 rhino horns were also stolen from museums and auction houses across Europe between January 2011 and June 2012 by the Irish Rathkeale Rovers, a gang since dismantled by Europol.
The import of trophies
Though the international rhino horn trade has been forbidden since 1977, CITES recognises some exceptions. It allows, for instance, limited hunting of Appendix II and I species, including, under exceptional circumstances, of endangered white and black rhinoceros
This allowance recognises that well-managed and sustainable hunting is actually consistent with and contributes to conservation efforts. It provides both livelihood opportunities for rural communities and incentives for habitat conservation. And it generates benefits that can be invested in conservation.
It also demonstrates that effective conservation, management and monitoring plans and programs are in place in a number of African range states, meaning that some populations are recovering enough to sustain limited off-takes as trophies.
Though bringing these rhinoceros-hunting trophies (including horns) hunted in South Africa home as personal property is authorised by CITES, their sale is not. Trophies may then be exported to certain African countries under specific conditions (a non-detriment finding by the exporting country is required beforehand).
Between 2006 and 2011, 1,344 hunting trophies, including African rhino horns from both species [were legally exported](https://cites.org/sites/default/files/fra/cop/16/prop/F-CoP16-Prop-10.pdf (page 5) as personal property. They mainly came from South Africa, where just under 75 trophy-hunting expeditions were organised prior to 2006, and to a lesser extent, Namibia. Vietnam was the top importing country, ahead of the US, Spain and Russia.
After a sudden upsurge in requests for hunting permits from Vietnam, where it was discovered that rhino horns had been illegally sold, South African authorities in 2012 put an end to permits for Vietnamese nationals.
Opening the market?
As demonstrated in last week’s South African court case overturning the ban on the rhino trade, some countries are showing signs of restlessness under the current CITES regime.
Swaziland, for instance, would also like to see change. During the last international meeting of CITES signatory parties in late September 2016, this small country submitted a proposal to allow limited regulated trade in white rhino horn. It has a small population of about 75 white rhinos living protected in parks.
Between 1988 and 1992, an intense period of poaching wiped out 80% of Swaziland’s rhino population. This left it with a large stock of horns that it would like to be able to sell. The proposition was voted down by the majority of CITES countries.
Now, South Africa’s legal U-turn could open a new avenues for the rhino trade. Most South African farmers believe that the ban only encourages poaching and that they themselves could fulfil Asian demand by providing horns from living animals.
Farmers know how to cut the horn with a saw so that it will grow back, a painless procedure for the animal that is put under anaesthetic for around 15 minutes. Protecting rhinos on ranches costs them millions of dollars as they face raids from poachers.
The current poaching crisis differs from a prior crisis in the 1990s in two ways. First, the illegal rhino horn trade has been taken over by organised crime groups because it is less severely punished than other illegal trades (although this is changing thanks to new legislation introduced in most countries).
Then there’s the skyrocketing traffic to East Asia, which reveals the region’s ever-growing demand of miscellaneous African animal products for traditional Asian medicine, from rhino horns to elephant ivory and, now, the skin of domestic African donkeys
What can be done?
Conservation groups should remain resolute at this critical juncture.
It is now up to Asian authorities to raise awareness and discourage the use of rhino horn. China has already taken steps in this direction and, in November 2016, Vietnamese authorities burnt a stock of rhino horn.
Still, some say it will take a generation to change attitudes. Can the planet’s remaining 30,000 rhinoceros survive until then?
When you think about typical African wildlife, a few animals almost certainly spring to mind: zebras, wildebeest, lions, cheetahs and buffaloes. But fossil records tell us that these species aren’t originally from Africa.
In fact, their ancestors originated in Asia when Africa was separated from the rest of the world by sea, between 40 and 50 million years ago. Members of the “Big Five” and other animals most of us consider thoroughly African only arrived on the continent after the formation of a land bridge in the Levant (a section of the ancient Eastern Mediterranean) with Asia around 30 million years ago.
Before that, a very different group of mammals – the Afrotheria or “African beasts” – lived on the continent. This superorder, or clade, consists of several creatures you’d recognise today. Among them are dassies (rock hyrax), sea cows, golden moles, sengis (elephant shrews) and aardvarks.
These animals are all related to elephants; though they look very different externally, inside they share unique DNA signatures inherited from a common ancestor born more than 60 million years ago on African soil. Most are still endemic to the continent.
The ancestral line of all these creatures is deeply rooted in Africa, except for the sea cows which was a mystery for a very long time. Their genes confirm that they’re Afrotherians. So one would expect them to have their evolutionary origin in Africa, but the oldest fossils ever recorded were actually found in Jamaica, on the opposite shore of the Atlantic Ocean. One set of fossils was found in 1855; a second in 2001. These belonged to the four legged Prorastomidae, a family of primitive, amphibious sea cows which looked like hippos.
This discrepancy suggested that sea cows’ ancient ancestors weren’t African, which is paradoxical for representatives of the Afrotherians. But thanks to two more recent fossil discoveries, one in Senegal and one in Tunisia, my colleagues and I at the University of Montpellier in France were able to solve this mystery. Sea cows are quintessentially African. Here’s how we found out.
A deep dive into geological time
Decades of collaborations between palaeontologists from the University of Montpellier and various African countries has resulted in the university having a vast collection of beautiful fossils. By 2013, most of these had already yielded their secrets – but two were still puzzling the experts.
One was a vertebra found during a dig in Senegal. The other was a piece of ear bone found in Tunisia. After hours of anatomical comparisons and endless discussions with specialists all around the world, we finally managed to prove that these remains belonged to the earliest known sirenians – the family to which sea cows belong.
The vertebra was nearly identical to those found in Jamaica. The piece of ear bone was a little older (dating back 48 million years) and looked more primitive than those of the Jamaican species. These evidence suggest that sea cows existed and were already widespread in Africa well before their descendants crossed the ocean and reached the New World. Both ancient Jamaican and African sea cows had four legs and lived on land. Like ancient Cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – sea cows started as terrestrial animals and later evolved into aquatic mammals.
A live heritage
Now we can confidently say that sea cows are truly 100% African mammals. They’re in good, if limited company: there are fewer than 100 extant Afrotherian species but they represent a sixth of overall mammalian genetic diversity.
Mammals are divided into six big clusters called clades. One clade represents all living species descended from a single common ancestor – so, if we could come back in the past, we would see all the lineages of existing mammals coming down to only six remote ancestors.
When geneticists discovered that the very different animals who make up the Afrotherian clade were related, they also realised that Afrotheria were becoming increasingly rare. Most went extinct after they were out-competed by the arrival of Asian species in Africa 30 million years ago.
Confirming that sea cows are Afrotherians means the clade is more diverse than we thought, and adds to an understanding of its evolutionary history. That, in turn, helps us understand its current standing and even examine scenarios for its future conservation.
Daniel the “emotional support duck” is a pretty big deal, both in the animal and human world. His 15 minutes of fame began after he was spotted on a flight in the US – from Charlotte to Asheville, North Carolina – waddling around the plane in a nappy and some stylish red shoes.
He is said to help his 37-year-old owner, Carla Fitzgerald, battle the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she has had since an accident in 2013.
The use of “emotional support animals” has become big business recently – particularly in the US – and it’s not just ducks like Daniel that humans have claimed make a helpful addition to their day-to-day lives.
There have also been reports of emotional support pigs, cats, turkeys, chickens and even miniature horses. It seems that all types of animals are increasingly being used to assist patients – in the belief they can help people with autism, PTSD and other conditions function in their everyday lives.
But of course, despite this new wave of popularity, interacting with animals has long been considered to be good for people. There has also been issues raised with the number of animals used in this way – with some animal researchers raising animal welfare concerns. Therapists have also expressed their concern at the rise of “emotional support animals” – with many in the profession feeling not all of the animals used are legitimate “support animals”.
“Emotional support animal” or “pet” aside, it is maybe obvious that one of the main benefits that comes from a friendship with animals is that they are a source of “non-verbal” and “non-judgmental” companionship for both adults and children. These are friends who will be there for us day in day out. Friends who will always be up for a walk or a chin rub, or a game of fetch.
Many pet owners also describe the “social lubricant” effect of their pet – reporting lower incidences of loneliness and depression.
Contact with animals is also widely regarded as an essential and natural part of childhood. I still remember my very first pet rabbit with deep affection. That rabbit “Fiver” – yes, I was a Watership Down fan – represented my first real responsibility for another living being. She was also a great friend and confidant.
And it is this realisation, that animals can be good for children’s development that explains why so many recent studies have focused on animal and children interactions.
But while dogs and horses are the most commonly used species for therapeutic and educational interactions, a range of other animals – ducks and miniature horses aside – have also been used successfully.
A recent study, for example, examined how interactions with classroom guinea pigs impacted on children with autism. And it was shown that for these children, spending time with the guinea pigs resulted in significantly improved social skills and motivation for learning.
There are also other identified developmental benefits for children interacting with animals. Evidence suggests that children exposed to animals may have improved immune systems and a reduced incidence of allergies.
But of course, despite the benefits to both children and adults, the welfare of animals used in therapeutic, educational or other interactions, is also important.
Swimming with dolphins and direct encounters with other exotic species has previously attracted attention for therapeutic value – especially for children with physical and intellectual disabilities – though recent gudielines now strongly advise against the use of such species. This is both due to animal welfare concerns and concerns for human participants.
This is why any animal involved in such interactions needs positive and ethical training, along with high health and welfare standards. All of which will help to make sure that the animals people are engaging with in these environments are happy animals – which can then in turn help to create happy humans.
Issues around children learning to read are rarely out of the news. Which is hardly surprising – becoming a successful reader is of paramount importance in improving a child’s life chances. Nor is it surprising that reading creates a virtuous circle: the more you read the better you become. But what may come as a surprise is that reading to dogs is gaining popularity as a way of addressing concerns about children’s reading.
There is a lot of research evidence indicating that children who read extensively have greater academic success. The UK Department for Education’s Reading for Pleasure report, published in 2012, highlights this widely established link.
Keith Stanovich, an internationally eminent US literacy scholar (now based in Canada) wrote a widely-cited paper in 1986, describing this virtuous circle as the “Matthew effect” (a reference to the observations made by Jesus in the New Testament about the economic propensity for the rich to become richer and the poor, poorer). A downward spiral impacts upon reading ability and then, according to Stanovich, on cognitive capability.
Underachievement in groups of children in the UK is recognised in international studies – and successive governments have sought to address the issues in a range of ways. Reading to dogs, so far, has not been among them, but it’s time to look at the strategy more seriously.
Many children naturally enjoy reading and need little encouragement, but if they are struggling their confidence can quickly diminish – and with it their motivation. This sets in motion the destructive cycle whereby reading ability fails to improve.
So how can dogs help?
A therapeutic presence
Reading to dogs is just that – encouraging children to read alongside a dog. The practice originated in the US in 1999 with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) scheme and initiatives of this type now extend to a number of countries. In the UK, for example, the Bark and Read scheme supported by the Kennel Club is meeting with considerable enthusiasm.
The presence of dogs has a calming effect on many people – hence their use in Pets as Therapy schemes (PAT). Many primary schools are becoming increasingly pressurised environments and children (like adults) generally do not respond well to such pressure. A dog creates an environment that immediately feels more relaxed and welcoming. Reading can be a solitary activity, but can also be a pleasurable, shared social event. Children who are struggling to read benefit from the simple pleasure of reading to a loyal, loving listener.
Children who are struggling to read, for whatever reason, need to build confidence and rediscover a motivation for reading. A dog is a reassuring, uncritical audience who will not mind if mistakes are made. Children can read to the dog, uninterrupted; comments will not be made. Errors can be addressed in other contexts at other times. For more experienced or capable readers, they can experiment with intonation and “voices”, knowing that the dog will respond positively – and building fluency further develops comprehension in readers.
For children who are struggling, reconnecting with the pleasure of reading is very important. As Marylyn Jager-Adams,a literacy scholar, noted in a seminal review of beginner reading in the US: “If we want children to learn to read well, we must find a way to induce them to read lots.”
Reading to a dog can create a helpful balance, supporting literacy activities which may seem less appealing to a child. Children with dyslexia, for example, need focused support to develop their understanding of the alphabetic code (how speech sounds correspond to spelling choices). But this needs to be balanced with activities which support independent reading and social enjoyment or the child can become demotivated.
Creating a virtuous circle
Breaking a negative cycle will inevitably lead to the creation of a virtuous circle – and sharing a good book with a dog enables children to apply their reading skills in a positive and enjoyable way.
Research evidence in this area is rather limited, despite the growing popularity of the scheme. A 2016 systematic review of 48 studies – Children Reading to Dogs: A Systematic Review of the Literature by Hall, Gee and Mills – demonstrated some evidence for improvement in reading, but the evidence was not strong. There clearly is more work to do, but interest in reading to dogs appears to have grown through the evidence of case studies.
The example, often cited in the media, is that of Tony Nevett and his greyhound Danny. Tony and Danny’s involvement in a number of schools has been transformative, not only in terms of reading but also in promoting general well-being and positive behaviour among children with a diverse range of needs.
So, reading to dogs could offer many benefits. As with any approach or intervention, it is not a panacea – but set within a language-rich literacy environment, there appears to be little to lose and much to gain.
Over the past few years, cats have increasingly attracted media attention due to a number of scientific studies reporting that a Toxoplasma Gondii (T. Gondii) infection is linked with mental health issues, including schizophrenia, suicide and intermittent rage disorder. Since domestic cats are the primary hosts of T. Gondii – that is, they provide an environment within which this parasite can reproduce – it is often speculated that cat ownership may put people at increased risk of mental illness, by exposing them to it.
However, only a handful of small studies have found evidence to support a link between owning a cat and psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. And most of these investigations have serious limitations. For instance, they relied on small samples, did not specify how participants were selected, and did not appropriately account for the presence of missing data and alternative explanations. This can often lead to results that are born out of chance or are biased.
To tackle these limitations, we conducted a study using data from approximately 5,000 children who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children between 1991 and 1992. Since then, these children and their families have been followed up to gather information on their health, as well as on their demographic, social and economic circumstances.
So, unlike previous studies, we were able to follow people over time, from birth to late adolescence, and address a number of the limitations of previous research, including controlling for alternative explanations (such as income, occupation, ethnicity, other pet ownership and over-crowding) and taking into account missing data.
We studied whether mothers who owned a cat while pregnant; when the child was four years old; and 10 years old, were more likely to have children who reported psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia or hallucinations, at age 13 and 18 years of age. Although most people who experience psychotic symptoms in adolescence will not develop psychotic disorders later in life, these symptoms often indicate an increased risk for such disorders and other mental illnesses, including depression.
So are cats bad for your mental health? Probably, not.
We found that children who were born and raised in households that included cats at any time period – that is, pregnancy, early and late childhood – were not at a higher risk of having psychotic symptoms when they were 13 or 18 years old. This finding in a large, representative sample did not change when we used statistical techniques to account for missing data and alternative explanations. This means that it is unlikely that our results are explained by chance or are biased.
While this finding is reassuring, there is evidence linking exposure to T. Gondii in pregnancy to a risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, or health problems in the baby. In our study, we could not directly measure exposure to T. Gondii, so we recommend that pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter and other sources of T. Gondii infection, such as raw or undercooked meats, or unwashed fruit and vegetables. That said, data from our study suggests that owning a cat during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for offspring having psychotic symptoms later in life.
Imagine you’re a cat, and, every time you meowed, the loud voice of a snooty-sounding British gentleman kindly informed your human guardian of your every thought and feeling (well, the thoughts and feelings you had before you were terrified by the sound of the voice).
A new product called the Catterbox – the world’s first talking cat collar – purports to do just that, using Bluetooth technology, a microphone and a speaker to capture a cat’s meow and translate it into an English-speaking human voice.
It’s not a joke; nor is it the first time a company has tried to use technology to translate cat meows for humans. A few years ago, the Meowlingual promised to interpret feline vocalization and expressions, but it didn’t exactly fly off the shelves or revolutionize our relationships with cats.
Still, the fact that these devices exist speak to the obsession humans seem to have with figuring out what their cats are thinking and feeling. Cats have a reputation for being hard to read – their mind is a “black box” – and some animal scientists have suggested that cats are just too challenging to even study.
But while a talking cat collar isn’t likely to solve the mystery of the meow, scientists have already discovered a few helpful things about human-cat communication and cats’ environmental needs.
A 20,000-year head start
Domestication of both dogs and cats has likely had a huge influence on their behavior, especially the way they interact with humans.
Because cats have had a much shorter period of coevolution with humans than dogs, they’ve been subject to less selection for facial expressions that we translate in dogs as “easy to read” and “human-like.” For example, we see something as simple as “eyebrow raising” in dogs as a sign of sadness and vulnerability.
For this reason, many will either dismiss cats as inscrutable, or use venues such as LOLCats to imagine what cats’ thoughts might be (mostly disparaging toward humans, it appears).
Our pet cats have meows that are shorter and of a higher pitch than their wild cousins. Humans tended to rate domestic cat cries as more pleasant and less urgent, showing that humans can identify which meows are from domestic cats and which are from a closely related wild cat. Meanwhile, a 2009 study demonstrated that humans could discriminate an “urgent” purr (one made by a cat while soliciting food from its owner) from a nonurgent one.
Many cat owners already assign meaning to meows, depending on their context. When your cat woefully cries at 5 a.m., you might be certain he wants food. But what if it’s just petting? Or wants to go outside?
This is where the cat-human communication seems to break down. People know their cat wants something. But they don’t seem to know just what.
Nicastro did another study that found people were just so-so at being able to assign meaning to a meow. Experimenters recorded cats when hungry (owner preparing food), in distress (in a car), irritated (being overhandled), affiliative (when the cat wanted attention) or when facing an obstacle (a closed door). Participants could classify the meows at a rate greater than chance, but their performance wasn’t great (just 34 percent correct).
A similar study in 2015 by Dr. Sarah Ellis showed that even when the cat belonged to the participant, only four out of 10 humans could correctly identify the context of the different meows. And no one performed better than random chance when classifying meows of unfamiliar cats.
This suggests a few possibilities: meows might all sound the same to humans; perhaps some sort of learning occurs when we live with a cat that allows us to be slightly better at recognizing their meows over those of unfamiliar cats; or we might rely very heavily on context – not just the meow – to tell us what our cat might be thinking.
I have to admit, I’m not one of those people who finds cats difficult to understand. I accept that all cats have different needs than I do – and those needs include mental and physical stimulation (such as vertical space and play with interactive toys), appropriate outlets for normal feline behaviors (such as multiple litter boxes and scratching posts) and positive interactions with people (but as research has shown, in order to be positive, the interaction almost always needs to happen on the cat’s terms).
My bet? Those “urgent” 5 a.m. meows most often come from cats who either have learned that meowing is the only way to get attention or are not having their environmental and social needs met. But providing for those needs is going to be a lot more effective than trying to get your cat to talk to you through a novelty collar.
In its press release for the Catterbox, Temptation Labs claimed the device will “inject more fun” into a cat’s and human’s relationship. I can’t imagine it will be much fun for cats (who have much more sensitive hearing than humans do) to be subjected to a loud sound near their ears every time they meow.
At best, the Catterbox is a sorry attempt at a humorous ad campaign to sell cat treats. At worst, we have a product that does nothing to help us actually understand cats.
Instead we have a cat collar that promotes anthropomorphism and will probably simultaneously terrify the cats that are wearing it.
When a dog goes to drink water from his water bowl, we usually don’t think much of it. They lap, lap, lap the water quickly and somehow get the water into their mouths. Well, this GIF explains exactly what’s happening with a slow-motion view of a dog’s tongue during the drinking process. It looks like a hand scooping up water from a tub!
In 2004, a farm pig in China weighed almost a full ton at 1984 lbs. Its owner, XU Changjin, a farmer of Wafangdian city China, said the pig had only reached the age of 5 before it passed on in 2004. A professor by the name of Liu Mingyu, said the pig had reached such a large size that it was too big to move around normally and died from general lack of exercise. XU Changjin had the pig stuffed and Liu made the pig ready to be exhibited in the Liaoning Provincial Agricultural Museum in China.