New Research into Animal Brains Helps Us Understand them Better
Though some truths might 'hurt'
New research, which is to be presented at the 50th International Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology in Edinburgh, Scotland, is promised to help people better understand the inner workings of animals. From livestock to household pets, experts are working to better understand the behavior of animals so that they can better serve them and care for them.
Studies that will be presented at the conference may not make pet owners particularly pleased, as one study is to prove how feral cats and those allowed to roam about the neighborhood are far happier than those kept inside of a house.
The studies may further disappoint dog owners, as they show that stray dogs are actually much more content than dogs who are left alone for a large chunk of the day. However, it does not mention a conclusion on dogs whose owners are home with them for a majority of time.
Papers will also be presented to discuss how chickens and pigs use vocal expressions to signal how they are feeling, and livestock with ears that can move often use them to communicate happiness and distress to their fellow animals. It has also been noted that rats’ ears go pinker when they are happy, while horses often have wrinkles around their eyes to express their joy.
Professor Cathy Dwyer team leader of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), said:
“We accept that animals are sentient so this is really all about understanding what think, feel and experience. That’s not easy. A lot of people who have pets know when their dog is happy or sad because they know the animal well but we are interested in developing more objective measures that can be used to look at animal emotions in general, and help improve welfare standards.”
Dwyer asserted that the conference would help dispel myths surrounding pet ownership, possibly giving people a better understanding and insight into their lives and comfort. She states that many pet owners over-manage their pets’ lives, which can lead to increased unhappiness experienced by the pet.
With further research and understanding, we can significantly improve the lives of our pets, in addition to livestock.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.