Guinness World records crowns oldest cat

August 14, 2015

Guinness World Records crowns oldest cat
Guinness World Records named 26-year-old Corduroy the world’s oldest cat this week. Corduroy, who lives in Oregon with his owner, Ashley Reed Okura, earned the title after the previous record holder, Tiffany Two, died at the age of 27 years, two months and 20 days. USA Today (8/14)


COLORADO weather may be behind plague incidence

August 14, 2015

Weather may be behind Colo. plague incidence
With wet, cool conditions in Colorado, small mammal populations are thriving, along with the fleas they harbor. That may explain an uptick in human plague, which has infected 12 Coloradoans since 2014, killing two. The bacteria is carried by small mammals, including squirrels, chipmunks, rats, rabbits and prairie dogs, and disease can be transmitted to people who handle an infected animal or are bitten by an infected flea. Experts warn residents to wear repellent, use flea protection agents on pets and avoid touching wild animals, even if dead. The Denver Post (8/14)

COLORADO chimps have human rights lawyer gets nations first animal law ‘professorship’

Chimps-have-human-rights lawyer gets nation’s first animal-law ‘professorship’
Matt Lamb – University of Nebraska-Omaha •August 13, 2015

The University of Denver is one step closer to unleashing a real Planet
of the Apes.

Its law school recently created a professorship devoted to animal rights
through a “generous gift” from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

The professorship’s first recipient, the university’s own Justin
Marceau, is not only an accomplished attorney, educated at Harvard and
first in his class at Boston College.

He’s also trying to get two chimps released from a research facility on
the legal theory that they have human rights.

“The ALDF Professorship is the first known position of its kind in the
country,” the group said in a press release. “Once relegated to the
‘back seat’ of practice areas, animal rights law has recently
experienced a tremendous surge of interest and commitment.”

Marceau has long worked with ALDF, most recently representing the group
in a successful Idaho lawsuit challenging the state’s criminal
prohibition on undercover documentation of questionable agricultural

hotel for cats has plenty of feline-friendly amenities

August 13, 2015

Hotel for cats has plenty of feline-friendly amenities
Since it first opened in the 1980s, the Morris Animal Inn in Morristown, N.J., has evolved to meet the demands of cat owners who want to pamper their feline friends. Visiting cats enjoy gourmet food, playtime, classical music and iPad games, among other options. Associated Press (8/12)

build your own feeder so indoor cats can hunt for food

August 12, 2015

Build your own feeder so indoor cats can hunt for food
Ben Millam built a feeder that rewards his cat Monkey with kibble after it drops a plastic ball into the machine, and following his instructions, cat lovers can do the same. His cat has to “hunt” the balls — which Millam hides throughout the house — and then drop the balls in the machine to get the tasty reward. The Oregonian (Portland)


scientists discover why cats have vertical pupils

August 11, 2015


Scientists discover why cats have vertical pupils

Wolves and foxes are closely related and share many of the same
characteristics. But look at their eyes – where wolves have rounded pupils
like humans, foxes instead have a thin vertical line. But it isn’t just
canines -across the animal kingdom, pupils come in all shapes and sizes. So
why the differences?

It’s a question that has long interested scientists working on vision and
optics. In a new study published in the journal Science Advances, colleagues

from Durham, Berkeley and I explain why these pupil shapes have developed.

Goats, sheep, horses, domestic cats, and numerous other animals have pupils
which vary from fully circular in faint light to narrow slits or rectangles
in bright light. The established theory for this is that elongated pupils
allow greater control of the amount of light entering the eye. For instance,

a domestic cat can change its pupil area by a factor of 135 from fully
dilated to fully constricted, whereas humans, with a round pupil, can only
change area by a factor of 15. This is particularly useful for animals that
are active both day and night, allowing for much better vision in low light

The cat on the right has got its night-vision goggles on. (Mark Sebastian
(L); Kurt Bauschardt (R), CC BY-SA)

However, if the only reason for elongated pupils was to control the amount
of light entering the eye, the orientation would not be important:
horizontal, vertical, or diagonal would all offer the same advantages.
Instead, the pupils are almost always horizontal or vertical, which suggests

there must be other benefits which explain this orientation.

Pupils fit for every niche
Our work has focused on the visual benefits of vertical and horizontal
pupils in mammals and snakes. One of the most interesting factors we found
is that the orientation of the pupil can be linked to an animal’s ecological

niche. This has been described before, but we went one step further to
quantify the relationship.

We found animals with vertically elongated pupils are very likely to be
ambush predators which hide until they strike their prey from relatively
close distance. They also tend to have eyes on the front of their heads.
Foxes and domestic cats are clear examples of this. The difference between
foxes and wolves is down to the fact wolves are not ambush predators –
instead they hunt in packs, chasing down their prey.

In contrast, horizontally elongated pupils are nearly always found in
grazing animals, which have eyes on the sides of their head. They are also
very likely to be prey animals such as sheep and goats.

We produced a computer model of eyes which simulates how images appear with
different pupil shapes, in order to explain how orientation could benefit
different animals. This modelling showed that the vertically elongated
pupils in ambush predators enhances their ability to judge distance
accurately without having to move their head, which could give away their
presence to potential prey.

Grazing animals have different problems to deal with. They need to check all

around for prey and they need to flee rapidly in case of attack. Having eyes

towards the side of their head helps them to see nearly all around them.
Having a horizontal pupil enhances the amount of light they can receive in
front of and behind them while reducing the amount of light from above and
below. This allows them panoramic vision along the ground to help detect
potential predators as early as possible. The horizontal pupil also enhances

the image quality of horizontal planes and this enhanced view at ground
level is also an advantage when running at speed to escape.

So, vertically elongated pupils help ambush predators capture their prey and

horizontally elongated pupils help prey animals avoid their predators.

We realised our hypothesis predicted that shorter animals should have a
greater benefit from vertical pupils than taller ones. So we rechecked the
data on animals with frontal eyes and vertical pupils and found that 82% are

what is considered “short” (which we defined as having a shoulder height of
less than 42cm) compared with only 17% of animals with circular pupils.

We also realised that there is a potential problem with the theory for
horizontal elongation. If horizontal pupils are such an advantage to grazing

animals, what happens when they bend their head down to graze? Is the pupil
no longer horizontally aligned with the ground?

We checked this by observing animals in both a zoo and on farms. We found
that eyes of goats, deer, horses, and sheep rotate as they bend their head
down to eat, keeping the pupil aligned with the ground. This remarkable eye
movement, which is in opposite directions in the two eyes, is known as
cyclovergence. Each eye in these animals rotates by 50 degrees, possibly
more (we can only make the same movement by a few degrees).

KANSAS, ACLU could challenge ag-gag law

August 8, 2015

A court recently struck down an Idaho law that barred undercover filming of livestock facilities. Those types of videos are sometimes used by animal rights activists. The ruling could lead to a challenge of a similar Kansas law.
Warren Parker, with the Kansas Farm Bureau, says videos can be edited and twisted to paint a negative picture. He says the law helps prevent people trespassing on to farm property to film the videos, where they could introduce disease. He says livestock producers keeping their farms closed to cameras isn’t about protecting abuse.
“It’s not necessarily trying to hide something. There may be some very good reasons for it and it’s protection of that livestock,” says Parker.
But ACLU of Kansas Legal Director Doug Bonney says the law isn’t needed, because livestock producers can already prosecute trespassers or sue people who publish inaccurate videos. He says the law unfairly targets activists interested in animal welfare and food safety.
“These laws are unnecessary, and they target specific groups based on their message for censorship, which is a violation of the First Amendment,” says Bonney.
Bonney says the ACLU may challenge the Kansas law, but they’re waiting on a lawsuit over a similar law in Utah.