Sorry Cat Lovers Felix Doesn’t Need You

Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

Though the old joke is a stereotype of a feline’s independent nature, that trope may have some scientific backing.

Cats do not form the childlike dependence on humans that dogs do, new research suggests.

That doesn’t mean people’s feline friends don’t bond with them, said Daniel Mills, a veterinary behavioral medicine researcher at the University of Lincoln in England.

“This is not about whether cats love their owners,” Mills told Live Science. Rather, it just means that Felis catus doesn’t look to its human owners as a source of safety and security, he added.

Strange situation

The new results are based on a test called the “Strange Situation.” In the test, which was developed for humans by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, researchers put a mother or primary caregiver and a baby in one room together and then asked the mother to leave as a stranger walked in to play. Ainsworth found that some tots would play joyfully while their caregiver was around, act fearful or distressed when the caregivers left, and then act happy when the mother figure returned. Those little ones were “securely attached,” Ainsworth said, meaning they saw their mom as a “safe base” from which to explore the world. By contrast, some youngsters seemed indifferent to their moms’ presence and absence, while others were tentative when approaching a returning mom, and still others showed a very erratic response.

Securely attached infants tend to do better in school, relationships and life in general than those with other forms of attachment, scientists have found.

A study published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE found that dogs similarly cling to their owners as a haven of safety when a threatening stranger is near. The researchers concluded that, just like human babies, these little fur babies could become securely attached to their caregivers. A small 2002 study suggested that cats could develop separation anxiety, but the findings weren’t carefully verified.

Self-reliant creatures

To see whether cats showed a similar puplike attachment, Mills and his colleague Alice Potter, who now researches companion animals at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in England, put cats in the equivalent of the Strange Situation. In the new study, owners left the cats in a room and a stranger then entered and tried to engage the kitties in play. The researchers selected cats whose owners said they were particularly attached to them.

Overall, cats lived up to their fickle reputation; they had quite variable behavior.

“The idea of developing behavior tests in cats is much harder than people perhaps realize,” Mills said. Researchers may “do a test and say, ‘Oh, this is the cat’s profile.’ If you do the test on a cat a few weeks or a few hours later, it’s different.”

The felines also showed no clear signs of attachment, other than slightly more frequent meows when the owner left them with the stranger, the researchers reported Wednesday (Sept. 2) in the journal PLOS ONE.

However, those meows could have been signs of frustration, a conditioned response, as cats tend to meow more if their owners chat with them, Mills said. The results suggest that, unlike dogs, cats don’t look to owners as a sort of security blanket. [Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?]

Love among equals?

Ask any cat person, however, and they would swear that Mr. Whiskers does love them. They may be right, Mills said. The new findings simply mean cats don’t see their human companions as parentlike figures. For instance, in the Strange Situation test, parents don’t form a secure attachment to their babies because they don’t see their children as a “safe base” — but it would be wildly inaccurate to say that parents don’t love their kids. It may simply be that feline-human love is rooted in something other than dependence.

It’s also possible that cats simply don’t wear their emotions on their fur, so to speak, and that another test might better gauge their attachment to owners, Mills said.

Still, he thinks the findings do reflect a truth about cats’ independence.

“If you think about it, why should cats depend on people for safety and security?” Mills said. “Cats are naturally very independent hunters.”

By contrast, dogs hunt in packs, and so may naturally gravitate toward others when looking to meet their needs, he added.

California’s Killer Bees Are Spreading North

Bad news for apiphobes: “Killer” bees are on the move in the United States.

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego recently collected hundreds of bees around the Golden State to determine how far north hybrid honeybees, or Africanized bees, have spread since they first arrived in the state in 1994.

They found that Africanized bees — which possess genes from both European and African honeybees — now live as far north as California’s delta region (about 25 miles, or 40 kilometers, south of Sacramento). And in the southern part of the state, so-called “killer” bees run the show. About 65 percent of the honeybeesthat buzz around San Diego County have a mix of European and African genes, the researchers found. [No Creepy Crawlies Here: Gallery of the Cutest Bugs]

“The pattern of Africanization we documented in San Diego County and elsewhere in California appears consistent with patterns previously documented in Texas, where Africanized honey bees first appeared in the United States,” Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego and co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

While Africanized bees have taken up residence throughout the American South, Southwest, Southeast and Western coastal regions, their ability to set up permanent colonies in the northern parts of the country seems to be limited by cold temperatures during the winter months, Kohn said. However, higher temperatures caused by global warming could mean that killer bees may continue to push north in the coming years, he added.

There are a few reasons why the range of Africanized bees in California and other states is important, Kohn told Live Science. For one, these bees are highly aggressive, he said. People in California, Arizona and Texas (as well as several other states) have been seriously injured or killedafter enduring thousands of stings from Africanized bees, which are quick to defend their hives. Knowing where those hives might be is a good starting point for preventing future attacks, Kohn said.

But scientists don’t just want to track the migration of Africanized bees because of their killer instincts. Kohn and Yoshiaki Kono, a graduate student in UC San Diego’s Department of Biological Sciences and lead author of the new bee study, are also curious about the spread of the Africanized bees’ more desirable qualities, such as their resistance to some of the diseases and mites that are killing off honey bees in other parts of the country, Kohn said.

The flight of the honeybee

The story of killer bees started in the 1950s. In an effort to breed honeybees better suited to South America’s tropical climate, a biologist in Brazil imported a subspecies of bee (Apis mellifera scutellata) from southern Africa to interbreed with bees from Europe. But winged insects are hard to contain, and several swarms of African bees escaped into the wild.

The runaway bees bred with local populations of European honeybees, and their hybrid descendants spread, mating with other European bees along the way. This intermingling of the African and European honeybees’ gene pools is known as Africanization because it’s the African genes that generally prevail, according to Kohn. The typical Africanized bee in California has a genome made up of 70 to 80 percent African genes and only 20 to 30 percent European genes, he added. [On the Hunt: Honeybee Scouts Find Food]

African genes, and the qualities they are associated with, are dominant because they are favored by natural selection, Kohn said. An Africanized bee’s slightly larger size and high reproduction rate give it certain advantages over non-Africanized bees, for example.

Africanized bees also appear to be more resistant to certain diseases and parasites compared to European bees, Kohn said. In fact, there are many studies that back up this claim. One study, published in 2010 in the journal Experimental and Applied Acarology, found that Africanized bees may be more resistant to the parasitic mite Varroa destructor (an insidious foe inside bee colonies) because of the bees’ grooming behaviors and the lowered fertility of the mites inside the brood, or honeycomb of the Africanized hive.

Right now, most of California’s Africanized bees are feral — the study found that only 13 percent of managed hives in San Diego County carried the African mitotype (mitochondrial DNA), as opposed to 70 percent of feral hives in the county. Most beekeepers prefer European honeybees because Africanized bees are so much more difficult to manage, Kohn said.

But, there may be a way for beekeepers to get the disease resistance they’re looking for in European bees while minimizing the risk that Africanized bees pose.

“By dissecting the genomes of Africanized honey bees to find regions responsible for advantageous traits, we may be able to combat recent declines in managed honey bee populations that are so critical for food production,” Kohn said.

Disease-resistant bees that aren’t likely to kill anyone could be a win-win for everyone.

Pepper Spray to get rid of attackers

Pepper spray is a kind of self defense product. Pepper spray was originally invented by a mailman who has to deal with unfriendly dogs during his work. Pepper spray is a chemical compounds that is used for self defense against attackers and animals. The attackers are generally drug abusersScience Articles, drunkers and rapists. The effect of pepper spray differs from man to man based on their tolerance capacity. It causes irritability to eyes in the form of tears and pain. The composition of spray includes oleoresin capsicum and OC gas. It is a powerful weapon for self defense for man and woman both. Now a days the policemen also uses this spray on their duty. Pepper sprays are very easy to use. The attacker is on the ground after three minutes if you use pepper say. Pepper spray is very easy to acquire also because you do not need any registration for that.

The effects of pepper spray are very serious that includes: Temporary blindness which can remain for twenty to thirty minutes.

Immediate closing of eyes.

Difficulty in breathing that can last for three to ten minutes.

Difficulty in speaking.

Uncontrolled cough.

Runny nose.

Burning sensation of skin.

Pepper spray are very small in size and can be kept in pocket. Thus you are assured about your safety because it is always near to you. They can be concealed in rings. In this type of pepper spray the ring is filled with an alkaloid powders. It can be used from a distance of about two feet. the only thing you needed is to just press a button. Pepper projectile is also available which can be fired using a paintball gun. Now a days triple action pepper spray is also available whose composition includes tear gas with OC gases and oleoresin capsicum. Pepper sprays are provided with canisters so that if the powder in the weapon gets finished you can refill it. You just need to remove the old canister and fill it with the new one.

If you are buying a pepper spray you need to keep in mind that the amount of pepper should be eight percent and a minimum of two million SHV( Scoville Heat Units).It is the highest intensity of pepper permitted legally. If the pepper content is less than this than spray is of lower quality. The pepper spray is not so expensive so any person who is conscious about his safety can use pepper spray.

Snakebites in Costa Rica Rise Along with El Niño Cycles

Both the hot and cold phases of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (known as El Niño and La Niña, respectively) are accompanied by an increase in snakebites in the Central American country, according to a new study published today (Sept. 11) in the journal Science Advances. Here’s how the climate cycle might be tied to slithering creatures: Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they get their body heat from outside sources. That means their activity is sensitive to climatological factors.

“Snakebites, probably the most neglected of the neglected tropical diseases, [are] another disease showing changes in [the] face of climate change,” study researcher Luis Fernando Chaves, a scientist at the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Nagasaki University in Japan, told Live Science. [See Photos of Snakes from Around the World]

Snakebites are relatively rare in the United States, but pose a huge problem in many regions, particularly southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A 2008 study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that at least 421,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes worldwide each year, and some 20,000 die — but those are conservative estimates. Given spotty statistics and reporting, the number of bites could be closer to 1.8 million and related deaths might reach 94,000, the authors reported.

Costa Rica is home to 22 species of venomous snake, according to the Costa Rica Star. The one that most often bites humans is the terciopelo (Bothrops asper), which can be deadly without antivenom treatment. [The World’s 6 Deadliest Snakes]
A female Terciopelo snake from the Caribbean basin of Costa Rica.
A female terciopelo from Costa Rica’s Caribbean Basin. In 2013, Discovery producer Steven Rankin was bitten by a terciopelo while scouting a location for the show “Naked and Afraid.”
Credit: Davinia Beneyto
View full size image

What made Costa Rica useful for studying snakebites, however, was its widely available and free healthcare system. Not only do doctors keep good records of snakebites in the country, Chaves said, people also have access to healthcare after a bite, meaning even the poorest victims get reported.

Chaves and his colleagues studied a database of snakebites that occurred between 2005 and 2013 — 6,424 in total. They found some predictable patterns: There are fewer snakebites at higher elevations, where the climate is cooler. Every degree Celsius increase in average temperature was linked to a 24 percent increase in the number of snakebites. Poorer areas were harder-hit than wealthier areas, in part because poor people in rural areas are often farmers or farm workers, which puts them in direct contact with snakes, Chaves said. Poverty-stricken citizens are also less likely to have well-built homes that keep snakes out, he added.

Snake weather

The crucial finding, however, was an odd increase in snakebites during both El Niño and La Niña. El Niño brings hot, dry weather to Costa Rica; La Niña brings cool moisture.

It’s simple enough to explain why hot weather might lead to more snakebites: Snakes are more active when it’s warmer, Chaves said. The increase in snakebites linked to the cool weather of La Niña is a little more complicated. The researchers think this increase is linked to El Niño, too, though. Costa Rica has a torrential rainy season, so El Niño’s drier weather (which is just less wet) is actually beneficial for plants compared to the usual deluge, Chaves said. More productive plants translate to more prey animals for snakes, which likely lead to a serpentine population eruption.

This is all well and good for the snakes until the El Niño pattern fades, at which point the snakes lose their abundant food supply. The prospect of starvation probably pushes snakes into areas they wouldn’t normally go — near humans. This delayed reaction to El Niño’s warmth could explain why the number of snakebites goes up again months later, during the cold La Niña. The snakebite count drops again when neither climate pattern is in play, the researchers found.

“This pattern is different from what has been observed for other diseases affected by El Niño,” Chaves wrote in an email to Live Science. “For example, in vector-borne diseases (those diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other bloodsucking insects), only one phase tends to be important.”

Snakebites qualify as a neglected tropical disease, according to the World Health Organization, partly because victims tend to be poor and living in rural areas, without access to quality healthcare. In Africa, in particular, the need for antivenom outstrips supply, said study researcher José María Gutiérrez, a scientist at the Clodomiro Picado Institute in Costa Rica, which produces antivenoms for Central America.

Adding to the problem, the manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur recently announced it can no longer afford to produce Fav-Afrique, an antivenom effective against 10 sub-Saharan African snake venoms. Supplies — already short — will run out next year.

The Fav-Afrique shortage won’t affect Costa Rica or Latin America, as it’s specific to sub-Saharan snakes, Gutiérrez told Live Science. Clodomiro Picado and other manufacturers do make antivenom for Africa, he said, though they don’t meet the full need.

“The problem of antivenom availability in Africa is much more complex than the decision of a company to stop production,” Gutiérrez said. “It is a multifactorial health problem that demands multifactorial analyses and solutions.”

 

Say Aaaah Zoo’s Aardvark Gets 2 Teeth Pulled

Getting a tooth pulled is never fun, but it’s especially irksome if you’re an aardvark. Ali, an aardvark at the Cincinnati Zoo, recently learned this lesson firsthand after two infected teeth landed her in the dentist’s chair.

Aardvarks, the only extant species in the order Tubulidentata, are unusual animals — and they have unusual teeth, said Jack Easley, a Kentucky-based veterinarian who specializes in dentistry. Easley was one of several veterinarians who helped extract Ali the aardvark’s two problematic teeth last month at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Unlike most other mammals, aardvarks don’t have enamel in their teeth. (Enamel is the hard, visible part of the tooth that covers up the more sensitive tissues beneath it.) These soft teeth typically serve aardvarks well, because in their native African habitat, the animals only eat easy-to-chew insects like termitesand ants, Easley told Live Science. [Photos: World’s Cutest Baby Wild Animals]But in zoos, aardvarks don’t always eat soft insects, which may not be readily available. Instead, they eat a special, pelleted feed or some other manufactured food, said Easley, who noted that, sometimes, this diet can lead to dental disease. Ali, who is 11 years old, is also middle-age for an aardvark, which may have contributed to the decline in her dental health, he added.

Zoo staff first noticed that there was a problem with the animal’s health back in January, when Ali developed a weird-looking, swollen eye. The problem seemed to be resolved with a dose of antibiotics, but when the medication was finished, the ulcer came back, said Jenny Nollman, an associate veterinarian at the Cincinnati Zoo.

“When it didn’t clear up completely, we investigated it further,” Nollman told Live Science. “That’s when we got into the CT [cat scan] and MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] — the more advanced imaging — to try to really get a better diagnosis.”

In July, zoo staff accompanied Ali to a nearby hospital to try to pinpoint the root of the problem. The CT scan and MRI suggested that what appeared to be an eye problem was actually a tooth problem, Nollman said. That’s when zoo vets reached out to Easley, one of very few veterinarians in the United States who is board-certified in veterinary dentistry.Ali the aardvark’s two infected teeth. Unlike most mammals, aardvarks don’t have a hard layer of enamel covering the crown of their teeth.

Two of Ali’s molar teeth were so infected that the bone and tissue supporting her teeth had formed what’s known as a periodontal pocket, Easley said. This led to the formation of a fistula, or an abnormal passageway between two body parts that are not usually connected. In Ali’s case, the fistula formed between her sinus and the periorbital sac (the tissue surrounding the eyeball), causing her eyeball to look inflamed and leak out pus.

To fix this problem, Easley and another certified veterinary dentist traveled to Cincinnati to pull out Ali’s infected teeth. But there was one small problem: Unlike humans, aardvarks can’t say “ah.”

In addition to having weird teeth, aardvarks have strange mouths. The animals have long tongues and deep oral cavities, with the teeth located all the way in the back (about 12 inches, or 30 centimeters, inside their mouths). These oral openings are very small, measuring only 1.5 inches (4 cm) across, according to Easley.

To reach inside Ali’s mouth, Easley had to make a small incision in the animal’s cheek. After removing the two infected molars, the veterinarians packed the hole left by the extracted teeth with an antibiotic-coated gauze material and left Ali to heal over the next three to six weeks.

Yesterday (Sept. 1), Nollman performed a checkup, and the resilient little aardvark seemed to be doing quite well, she said, though it will take Ali a few more weeks to fully heal.

“[Ali] has not missed a beat through this whole thing,” Nollman said. “Her appetite has never decreased, and she has been very active.”

Birds of a Feather Photos of Hummingbirds Hawks & Jays

In the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona, black-chinned hummingbirds have a clever strategy to keep their nests safe: They recruit unknowing hawks for home security. Hummingbird nests cluster near hawk nests, and those hawks keep away the predatory jays that snatch hummingbird eggs, researchers reported Sept. 4 in the journal Science Advances. A female black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) perches on a twig. The daily survival rate of a hummingbird nest built nearby a hawk’s nest is 31 percent, compared with only 6 percent for hummingbird nests not near hawk roosts. (Credit: Harold F. Greeney, Yanayacu Biological Station

Pet Scam The Animal Control Officer Who Wants Cash

On the heels of pet-flipping comes the latest ruse facing dog owners: Scammers posing as animal control officers.

It’s occurred sporadically but not extensively in the past.  Now it seems on the rebound – at least in retiree-rich South Florida. TV station WPTV reports a case in which a couple living in an over-55 community lost $550 to an imposter claiming there had been complaints about the couple’s dog.  He threatened to impound the pooch unless they immediately paid. They obliged.

“He had a badge, had an ID, gave us a business card and represented himself completely as being part of an independent company for animal care and control,” said the community’s HOA president.

If you’re approached the same way, don’t be fooled. Better to make a quick call to the local Animal Control department – or its reported vendors – to check such claims, no matter what paper “proof” of authority is represented.

“If anybody comes to your house and says give me money. I’m from the county. I’m going to take your dog. That’s not us,” said an official with Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control Operations.