Thursday, November 28, 2013

Science confirms that cats are assholes

Admit it, cat owners. This is not a surprise:

Cats recognise their owners' voices but never evolved to care, says study
Any cat owner will tell you that although they are sometimes kept as pets, felines are beholden to no one.
A new study from the University of Japan has confirmed this, showing that although pet cats are more than capable of recognising their owner’s voice they choose to ignore them.
The study tested cats in their own homes by playing them recordings of strangers and their owners calling their names. The cats' body language revealed that they did distinguish their owner's voice from the other. But they couldn't be bothered to get up and do anything about it.

The scientists suggest that this is due to the evolutionary history of cats, which haven't been selected for thousands of generations to attend to human commands. What the authors of the study seem to be more confused by - as am I - is the human side of the equation:
The study concludes by observing that “the behavioural aspect of cats that cause their owners to become attached to them are still undetermined.”
In other words: so why the heck do people like them anyway?

Three cats ignoring Flickr user Virany.


Monday, November 25, 2013

New heights in bad animal traditions

Some traditions have been going on for so long, it's hard come up with something original. You'd think that dogs eating homework and birds pooping on cars would be included. That makes these two stories all the more impressive.

-Rome drowns in bird droppings as austerity bites
Rome is facing a "guano alarm" as millions of starlings leave the city covered in a thick layer of droppings, Italian media report.

Some four million starlings annually overwinter in the capital, but this year spending cuts have derailed efforts to discourage the birds from settling in central areas. In previous years, anti-starling measures have included pruning plane trees and broadcasting amplified cries of birds of prey through loudspeakers.

The tree-lined Lungotevere, the boulevard running along the river Tiber, is particularly badly affected. Sections of it are thick with droppings, creating slip hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders alike.  Pedestrians arm themselves with umbrellas or run for cover. The situation is so bad that some residents bang on pots and pans in the streets and squares to scare the birds away, just as people used to do in years gone by.
- Dog Needs Surgery After Eating Girl’s ‘Volcanic’ Homework
It’s the oldest line in the classroom – “My dog ate my homework.” But in this case it was painfully true.
“I made a volcano project out of candy and I pinned the candy to a foam base,” Payton said. “I woke up one morning and I came down to my desk and it was just all over the floor.”
An X-ray showed fifty straight pins in the dog's stomach. They were removed by a vet. The homework was done over - this time, with glue.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Emu Invasion

Today I had planned to write about deer in places they shouldn't be, for instance:

-The one in Indiana that smashed through a window into an elementary school and smashed out through another one ("This is the third one we've had," said a school official)
-The one in France that got stuck on a garage roof and had to be rescued
-The one that broke into a crab restaurant in Long Island and caused several thousand dollars worth of damage

But heck, we've seen all that before. What we haven't seen is this:
Emus are stopping traffic in the main street of Longreach in western Queensland as the drought forces them into town to look for food.

The emus have been walking residential streets in Longreach for some months but they are now in the main street, halting traffic and feeding in garden beds.

Longreach Mayor Joe Owens says they seem at home.

"They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs," he said. "When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. They just toddle across as they please."
And don't think this is the normal way of life in Australia - they haven't seen this before either:
Grazier and naturalist Angus Emmott says he has never seen them in the centre of town and it is quite a novelty.

"I think the locals are quite enjoying the scene of having them outside their shop fronts - that is something I haven't observed before," he said.

"The roos and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can. It is doing away with their natural cautiousness of man, so they are marching right up into the main street."
Don't miss the rest of the photos here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brilliant bad animal headlines

Brilliant headlines, I meant, but now that I think of it, these are some pretty brilliantly creative and successful bad animals too - not that that's a good thing:

Man’s thumb nearly bitten off after giving escaped monkeys an egg sandwich
Ricky Strong had four monkeys pounce on him, and one of them nearly bit off his thumb.

“I had to hit ‘em and fight them off me and I went to run and get away and I actually face planted into that tree. And then I ran out of here bleeding running all the way down here and two of them come chase me running me all the way to my house.”

The monkeys got loose midday Thursday from a Wedgewood shed.

Strong’s hand is now in a cast, his shirt has claw marks in it, and his jeans are stained with his own blood.

And this all started because he gave one of the escaped monkeys an egg sandwich.

“He actually came to me and walked up my arm,” Strong explained.

Strong walked with the monkey back to the shed where the other three primates were.

Strong was about to leave and then a cat showed up.

“And when it did, the one monkey threw like a toolbox at the cat,” says Strong.
Then a dog got on a deck and started barking and all four of the monkeys jumped on Strong.
License to Quill
With needle-sharp quills, some longer than the average human forearm, porcupines sport one of nature’s most frightening defenses against predators. But a new study shows they can be fearsome killers as well. Researchers in Italy have found that the rodents can slay dogs, foxes, and even badgers. Scientists monitored porcupines in Tuscany for about 18 months... In one such case, two porcupines ran backwards, forcing a dog into their den, where they fatally impaled it with their quills. Other porcupines killed four other predators, two badgers and two foxes, over the study period; such deaths have never been previously recorded in scientific literature.
Mutant Rats Have Invaded British Parliament; Experts Blame Evolution
The British government is reportedly spending the equivalent of more than $11,000 a month fighting mutant rats that have infested Parliament.

According to the Daily Star, pest control experts at the House of Commons spent £7,000 (about $11,216) dealing with poison-resistant -- ergo, "mutant" -- rodents in a single month. That bill represents an increase of 15 percent from two years go.

That's not all. The rats are apparently spreading across the UK. International Business Times reports that the mutants look like normal rats, but eat poison pellets intended to kill them "like feed."

"Normal rats are being killed off by poison, so these resistant species are taking their place. It's only natural that their numbers are expanding," British Pest Control Association spokesman Richard Moseley told the Metro. Ain't evolution a rat bastard?

Different sort of mutant political rat by Flickr user Kenya Allmond.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Disrespecting the Dead

There are a ton of bad animal stories I need to catch up with. But when you get a story about animals desecrating a cemetery, it's just got to stand alone. From The Telegraph:
As a way to save money at a village churchyard, it had seemed like a splendid idea.

But a scheme to let loose a flock of sheep in a graveyard to keep the grass down has backfired, after they grazed on floral tributes and mementoes left for loved ones.

The ten ewes were introduced to Holy Trinity Church in the aptly-named village of Grazeley, Berkshire, because the parochial council said it could no longer afford anyone to mow the lawn.

But Nicola Millard, whose grandparents are buried there, said: “The condition is awful - basically they’ve ruined all the flowers and bent forward one of the headstones, and there is a lot of debris over the graves.”

Vic Jerrom, who has several generations of ancestors buried there, described the damage as 'very disrespectful' to those laid to rest.

"It's a mess, the sheep are grazing on the graves and of course there is sheep droppings everywhere. It's despicable" he said.
And from the local media:
Vic Jerrom, secretary of Grazeley Village Hall committee, said he has had several people complaining about the sheep.

He said: “I have had two people saying they were absolutely in tears and one said she couldn’t get to her father’s grave to put a wreath of poppies on it."
 Don't miss additional photos of the carnage at that link.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Everything old is new again

Anji Thornton-Randall and Andy Dawson with Bluebell and some of her ill-gotten gains.

These are all examples of classic bad behavior we've seen many times before - but isn't tradition grand?

Swedish beaver grinds traffic to a stop
Motorists in central Sweden were left in a jam on Friday apparently due to the work of a busy Swedish beaver.

The traffic jam occurred at lunchtime near Borensberg in Östergötland, where police have blamed a beaver for felling a tree, which resulted in a blocked road and long queues of motorists.
Cat dials the police
MOST people who dial 999 when there’s not an emergency risk being charged with wasting precious police time. But Bruce Lee, a caller from Kilburn, is expected to escape prosecution: he’s a pedigree Singapura kitten.
Officers broke down the door of his owner’s flat on Thursday morning after the home-alone cat accidentally stepped on the house phone, dialling 999.
Not taking any chances, police rushed to the scene, only to find Bruce Lee hiding under a mountain of clothes in a wardrobe.
Fox gets into bed with human
A DARING fox decided to seek out a midnight snack before snuggling up on Jessica Lambert’s bed.
Jessica, 11, woke up to find the animal in her downstairs bedroom at home in West Mersea. She gave it a stroke and excitedly popped upstairs to tell her parents about their house guest.
Mum Charlotte said: “It had gone through two large cat flaps. We have a cat and dog which use them, and the fox was the size of a labrador.
“Luckily, Jessica loves animals so she wasn’t scared, and just stroked it before coming upstairs to tell us. I thought she was dreaming, but when we came down it was back in the pantry.”

Finally, another traditional tale, but with a twist - look who the owners are:

Meet Bluebell, Wokingham's kleptomaniac cat burglar
The mischievous moggie has nabbed socks, a rugby ball, clothes and even Sellotape, and her owners are both police officers. While most moggies proudly present birds and mice to their humans, the two-and-a-half-year-old has also been hunting everything from pants to house keys.
Miss Thornton-Randall, 35, a Detective Constable with CID, joked: “We have tried giving her a curfew and have put a bell on her collar. She’s a little monkey."
Miss Thornton-Randall said: “Not long after she was with us, things kept going missing and then appearing in the house. Like the plug from the sink is loose, it doesn’t have a chain, and it went missing, we looked everywhere. Three days later there it was on the carpet outside the bedroom door. The same with Andy’s razor from the bathroom.”
Bluebell then ventured further afield and as her home backs on to Fishponds industrial estate, a collection of workmen’s items found their way into the couple’s home including insulating tape and heavy duty gloves Miss Thornton-Randall said: “Last year we went away and someone looked after the cat and they sent us pictures of things she brought back including a long, chiffon scarf. “
She must go into people’s houses because she brought back a rubber duck like you would have in the bath. She once brought back a Radley purse with someone’s door keys in it – we had to take it to the police station.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Catching up with bad animals

A few of the things bad animals have been up to while I was too busy on the other side of the planet to keep an eye on them:

Fire officials say hungry pup started Wash. apartment fire
Fire officials say a dog reaching for treats turned on a stove and started a fire causing smoke damage to an apartment in the central Washington city of Wenatchee.

Wenatchee Fire Marshal Mark Yaple tells KPQ radio that it appears the black Labrador was reaching for a bag of dog food left on a stove top when it turned on the stove with its paw.
Meerkats 'pay rent' to dominant female to stay in group
Some subordinate female meerkats wet-nurse a dominant female's offspring in exchange for not being evicted from the group, a study suggests.
Man attacked in Moyock by escaped monkey
Rick Story was bitten as he helped owner Richard Shiflett get some of the monkeys back to the garage where they're kept.
"It really did a number on my thumb. It ripped it right here, and right here .. Tried to rip it right off I think," he said.
Finally, I have to give credit to one part of the mainstream media that was on the case while I was gone- on Slate:

Sea Otters Are Jerks. So Are Dolphins, Penguins, and Other Adorable Animals
Dolphins kill other marine mammals and fish just for fun and commit infanticide. This only gets creepier given the recent suggestion that dolphins actually have names that they call one another. I can’t say I look forward to the day when scientists discover dolphin slurs. Seeing a dolphin at sea should be just as chilling as how many people feel when they see the sinuous silhouette of a shark.

That photo is not the dog in question, but another dog that has been known to do the same thing, so it's an isolated incident.