Rest Assured: Your Cat Really Does Like You

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Cat owners are an insecure bunch. We are always looking to scientists to prove whether or not our feline friends truly love us, since they are not as endlessly affectionate as dogs. The data doesn’t always bear out—studies have found that your cat might not be purring out of love but rather manipulating you for food, and that cats who allow themselves to be petted show higher stress hormone levels after.

A new study in Behavioural Processes, though, is one that cat owners should find reassuring. Sometimes, our cats like us even more than food. In tests with both shelter animals and pets, cats expressed a preference for human interaction over preferences for food or toys, as Motherboard reports.

Like many pet studies, this one is small: the Oregon State University–led study used 19 pet cats and 20 shelter cats. (The researchers intended to study 25 of each, but some cats were too nervous or uninterested to complete the tests.) Each of the cats was placed in a room either in its home or at the shelter, where it was given opportunities to play alone with different toys, eat different meats, smell different natural scents (like gerbil or catnip) on a cloth, or hang out with a human for short periods of time.

During the human interaction test, the people alternately played with the cat, pet it, or talked to it for several minutes at a time. The stimuli (including, in the human condition, the person interacting with the cat) moved around the room to make sure the cat was actually drawn to it, and the cats were tested in each category with 12 different stimuli total.

At the end, the researchers figured out what the cats had spent the most time doing—playing with a certain toy, eating, smelling the cloth, or interacting with the person—and set up a trial where the cat could pick from all of them.

Overall, the study found that cats preferred hanging out with humans (either their owners or people at a shelter) more than even food (though food came in second). Half of the cats chose to interact with the person in the room instead of the food or toys it had shown a preference for.

This suggests that cats do occasionally see us as more than just a meal ticket … though they also want that out of you, too.

[h/t People]

A Same-Sex Penguin Couple Has Adopted an Egg at a Berlin Zoo

LisaStratchan/iStock via Getty Images
LisaStratchan/iStock via Getty Images

At first glance, king penguins Skip and Ping don’t appear to be too remarkable a sight when viewed by spectators at their enclosure at Germany's Zoo Berlin. But look closer and you may see one of them nurturing an egg under one of their skin folds. Skip and Ping, a same-sex penguin couple, have effectively adopted an egg and hope to raise it as their own baby.

A story by writer Liam Stack in The New York Times details their pursuit of parenthood. According to Stack, the penguins arrived at Zoo Berlin in April and were observed to have a degree of baby fever, trying to coddle everything from a rock to a fish. Taking note of their coupling, zookeepers passed on an unhatched egg laid by a female at the zoo. They immediately took to it, taking protective measures and growing ornery when employees got too close. Ping has taken to sitting on the egg in the hopes it will hatch.

That’s not guaranteed. Zookeepers aren't certain whether the egg was fertilized. If it is, it’s likely to crack open in early September, giving Skip and Ping an opportunity to expand their family.

Earlier this year, a same-sex penguin pair named Sphen and Magic began rearing a chick in Australia’s Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. The doting parents sang to and fed their adoptive offspring.

[h/t The New York Times]

Airlines Are No Longer Allowed to Ban Service Dogs Based on Breed

chaivit/iStock via Getty Images
chaivit/iStock via Getty Images

As the species of service and emotional support animals have become more diverse, airlines have had to make some tough decisions. Birds, monkeys, and snakes have been barred from boarding airplanes with passengers, but even more conventional pets like dogs have been rejected based on their breed. A new rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) aims to change that. As Travel + Leisure reports, the agency now forbids airlines from discriminating against service dogs of particular breeds, including pit bulls.

Last year, Delta banned all pit bulls from flying, regardless of whether or not they were certified therapy animals. United Airlines also banned pit bulls last year, along with 20 other dog breeds, including pugs, bulldogs, mastiffs, and shih tzus.

Under the new DOT guidelines, these policies are no longer legal. The statement reads: "The Department’s Enforcement Office views a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal to not be allowed under its service animal regulation. The Enforcement Office intends to use available resources to ensure that dogs as a species are accepted for transport."

The new rule applies specifically to service animals, or animals that have been trained to perform a job that's essential to their owner's wellbeing. Emotional support animals, which don't require special training and aren't covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, don't qualify.

Even if a pet is a certified service animal, airlines still have the right to reject them in certain cases. Air travel companies can request documents related to an animal's vaccination, training, or behavior history. If they find anything in the papers that indicates they're not safe to fly, airlines can turn them away on that basis.

In the same statement, the Department of Transportation clarifies which species of service animals should be allowed on flights. Miniature horses are now included on the list of service animals airlines must allow to fly, while ferrets, rodents, snakes, reptiles, and spiders are the only species airlines can ban outright.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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