Monday, 14 May 2012

...Pets Act Like Kids.

Dogs and cats have been with us for a long time now. We domesticated them 1000s of years ago after realizing how we mutually benefit from each other. Dogs have great hearing but we see better and having a big warm animal next to you in a cave during winter was pretty nice too. During all this time our furry little friends figured out a thing or two as well.
This isn't what it looks like
One of the cool things (I think) about dogs is their ability to follow and interpret our body language. When we point at something they look at where we are pointing. Even looking to the left or right with our eyes will send a dog's head turning. These are called ostensive cues. Dogs would even go against what we would expect based on these cues. During a recent study a group of control dogs were left alone with two plates of food. One plate had more and tastier food on it than the other. On their own the dogs would chose the bigger plate. Next, humans would enter the room and show a preference to the smaller plate. They ate from it, smiled, and acted as though they liked it better than the bigger plate. After, dogs would chose the smaller plate.

It doesn't work the other way around.
Where dogs are easily fooled, cats try and fool us. Researchers studied many recordings of different purrs cats make and found a particular type of purr. This purr communicates an urgency and a certain unpleasantness to it that annoys the owner. The owner would do anything to make it stop, usually by feeding the cat or paying more attention to it. Cat owners are more susceptible to it than non- cat owners suggesting its something and owner learns from the cat.

No surprises that the cat is the manipulator.
Kids do both as well. Before kids can communicate verbally they use both ostensive cues and crying. We often say body language makes up 70% of all communication, maybe this is because we learn this first. And anyone who has had kids can tell you they can distinguish between a cry for food and a cry because they need changing.

And that is what I learned today.

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