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.
The winners of the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition capture a rat brain, the mouthparts of a vampire moth and other small wonders
By analysing brain activity linked to hand and arm movements, a team has created a robotic arm that a paralysed woman can control with her thoughts
Adding laser tips to ordinary shoes can improve the stride and pace of people with Parkinson's disease
Technique could someday help repair injuries
Tiny microbes uncovered by the deepest-ever marine drilling expedition are analysed by scientists to see how they can survive under the seabed.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Speed, smarts, and the heart of a champion: using genomic analysis, scientists have identified DNA changes that helped turn ancient horses such as those in prehistoric cave art into today's Secretariats and Black Beautys, researchers reported Monday.
While their parents are off fishing, penguin chicks set up their own self-monitored babysitting service
Scientists have found the SS City of Rio de Janeiro, the most famous of San Francisco’s many lost ships, and produced 3-D sonar maps of the wreck.
Genome analysis of the two Antarctic-breeding penguins reveal the differing fate global warming might have on the iconic emperors and Adélies
A virtual replica of the first complete skull of a mysterious mammal is revealing the structure of its bizarre bones