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Your Dog Doesn't Like People Who are Mean to You

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A new study performed by Kyoto University shows that dogs don't like people who are mean to their owners.

Three groups of 18 dogs were tested in a roleplaying scenario where the owner needed help opening a box. In each group, the owner and dog were accompanied in a room by two other people. In the first group, one of the strangers helped the owner open the box, while the second stranger passively did nothing; in the second group, one of the strangers actively refused to help, while the second stranger remained neutral and did nothing. In the control group, both strangers did nothing.

After witnessing the interaction, the dogs were then offered food from both strangers. The loyal companions were more likely to refuse food from the strangers who actively didn't help their owner. There was no notable difference in acceptance of food between neutral and helpful strangers.

"We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest," said Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University.

Dogs not accepting food is a big deal, because dogs love food. The study shows that the canines are capable of working and thinking collaboratively.

The study will be published in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour.

[h/t: Yahoo! News]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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