How can you tell when an animal is bored? Researchers have found that mink housed in boring conditions consume more food treats between meals, and lie awake for a large portion of the day compared to mink that live in interesting environments. The study, published November 14 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Rebecca Meagher and colleagues from the University of Guelph, Canada, quantifies, for the first time, signs of boredom in an animal.
Exposing mink to a variety of stimuli including puffs of air, objects to chase, and candles, the researchers found that animals housed in homes enriched with other stimuli such as water to wade in consumed fewer food treats when not hungry, and did not lie awake without sleeping as much as animals housed without these stimuli.
Although providing caged animals with sufficiently stimulating environments is considered critical for their well-being, defining what may be considered adequate stimulation has been a challenge. Inactive or sluggish animals are often called bored or depressed, but these terms are yet to be clearly defined for non- human subjects.
The authors of this study suggest that their results are a first step towards defining boredom in caged mink. According to the study, "Such means of defining boredom for non-human animals are very much needed, since reducing boredom is often stated as an aim of enrichment, and yet to date we have had no means of judging success at achieving this goal."
Lead author Meagher adds "Many people believe that farm and zoo animals in empty enclosures get bored, but since the animals can't tell us how they feel, we can only judge this from seeing how motivated they are for stimulation."
Meagher RK, Mason GJ (2012) Environmental Enrichment Reduces Signs of Boredom in Caged Mink. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49180. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049180
Public Library of Science: http://www.plos.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Check out these colorful images of crystallized alcoholic beverages
Large stretches may be no more than biological baggage, say researchers after comparing genome with that of other mammals
Specially designed mobile games can help scientists answer important questions about cognition, a team finds.
Tinnitus is a chronic ringing in the ears that can be debilitating. Now, an implant that stimulates a nerve in the neck could eliminate the sounds for good
New fossils suggest it was not just bird-like dinosaurs that had elaborate feathers – the other major dinosaur group had them too
Natural Trap Cave holds the fossils of thousands of animals who plunged to their deaths over tens of thousands of years
What’s scarier than a tyrannosaur? Three tyrannosaurs.
The timing of when a girl reaches puberty is controlled by hundreds of genes, say scientists.
After the world's most expensive salvage operation, the ill-fated Costa Concordia is being floated back to Genoa, where it will be chopped up for scrap metal
Hijacking how neurons of nematode worms are wired is the first step in an approach that could revolutionise our understanding of brains and consciousness