Sugar Gliders

“Morgana Mo” by H. Schofield (CC BY 2.0)

Petaurus breviceps  

Sugar gliders are a very popular pet in many homes across the globe. The cute face and quirky personality makes them interesting and fun pets for those who have the time and patience for these fascinating critters. They do require a lot of attention and can be quite vocal about this. Remember to always get them in pairs for lonliness is a terrible burden to bear.

Anatomy

These small adorable creatures are actually part of the marsupial family which means that although they may resemble a flying squirrel, they are not rodents. As marsupials, the females have a pouch which will carry and protect their joeys (babies) until they are ready to venture out into the world. The females also have two uteruses and vaginas allowing them to have 1-2 joeys at a time. The pouch can be found in the belly button region and I would not recommend trying to poke it. The female also has four nipples for nursing her young within this pouch. They become sexually mature around eight months.

“Sugar Glider Babies” by Robert Nelson (CC BY2.0)

The male sugar gliders also have some unique features such as the forked penis and a testicle sac that becomes visible when it matures. The testicles are attached to the body via a chord that does not contain nerve endings making it virtually painless to neuter the animals. They also have a scent gland atop their head and a smaller one on their chest and when the male is not neutered it will typically look like a bald spot due to the oils that are excreted for marking territory and marking the other gliders in their social group. Marking the other gliders allows the dominant male to recognize his group members by scent. The male gliders will also have a cloaca, a common chamber into which the rectum, bladder, and reproductive system empty, and then excreted through a vent opening found at the base of the tail. The males become sexually mature around a year and can be neutered at five to six months.


“Petaurus breviceps male ” by
 
Dawson at English Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5)

Both male and female gliders will have large eyes that protrude from the sides of their head due to their nocturnal nature. This enables them to have a large field of vision which helps them detect predators and navigate. The eyes appear to be black but are simply a very dark brown. Some gliders will have a thin blue iris. It is believed that gliders only see greys and red as suggested by the amount of cones and rods that have been identified in their eyes. It has also been observed that gliders excrete a white, milky substance from their eyes that is used for grooming.

These marsupials also have a very sensitive nose with cute wiskers. Gliders’ ears are disproportionate to the size of their heads however, the ears are able to move independently which makes them excellent listeners. Males tend to weigh 100-160g whereas females tend to be smaller and weigh in at 80-130g. Standard fur colors are grey with a black dorsal stripe and white underbelly. Female dorsal stripes are typically thinnner than the males. Captive and domesticated gliders come in a variety of colors including albino.

“White Sugar Glider” by Dave Hogg (CC BY 2.0)

A cool thing about gliders is that they have four hands instead of feet. These are used for grabbing and holding onto food stuffs and for climbing and gliding. Each of these hands have an opposable thumb and each finger have claws to help with latching onto things, the lower hands have fingers that are fused together for grooming and a padded thumb for holding onto branches or cage walls. It is absolutely adorable when they grab for treats that are being handed to them.

“Sugar Glider” by George Grinsted (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Watching gliders eat is really fun because of how they hold their food and take bites of fruit or treats. They have two small cute front teeth and two much longer lower teeth which are used for scooping fruit or sap. They can often be seen turning the food in their small hands to access the various sides of the food pieces. Luckily their teeth do not continue to grow so they will not chew nor be destructive. They use their long tongues for drinking water and juices, as well as for grooming. It is very cute when they lick pieces of their food to taste them before grabbing and eating it.

“Patagium” by Phil and Lisa (CC 2.0)

They are called gliders because they have what is called a patagium, which is the extra skin between their front and back arms that extend making them look like cute squares. They are not actually wings but they do allow the suggies to glide from one branch to another. When the glider is in this positon it is called an airfoil. The gliders’ tail is about haf the length of their bodies and is primarily used as a steering mecanism when they glide. Sometimes they will use their tails to carry small twigs but they are unable to hang from a branch using their tail. They use their hands to climb and hang from the cage and or branches.

Behavior  

Sugar gliders are very social creatures. In the wild they typically live in groups of 6-10 gliders. They are originally from Australia and New Guinea but can now be found in homes across the globe. When adopting a glider, it is always important to get them in pairs, a lone glider that is not given LOTS of attention will become extremely stressed out. If they are the same gender then it is ok to house them together. If there is a male and a female it is important that you neuter the male before housing them together. Breeding gliders requires a license. Always have more females than males and monitor dominant and aggressive behaviors between individuals.

Social Grooming: gliders will often groom each other by licking and running their hands through one another’s fur. As discussed in the Anatomy section, the gliders hands have extra padding on the thumbs to aid in this. Not only does the practice keep the colony clean but is also a bonding activity for its members.

Gliders are very playful creatures and pets and with their curious nature they can often find themselves in trouble if not properly supervised in a glider proofed room. In the wild they rely on their instincts for survival but as pets it is the owners responsibility to ensure their safety. Gliders can be seen exploring, climbing, jumping, and gliding during the night when they are typically active. They enjoy time out of the cage as well and will climb on EVERYTHING and chew cords if they are not watched. If you have the ability to install perches in your home for them to play on while out of the cage make sure that they have a safe landing space for when they glide down.

Handling pet gliders is a really important aspect of the bonding process and should be done daily. The bonding process establishes trust and love between owner and pet. Gliders that are not frequently handled do become nippy, as discusssed previously they do have long sharp teeth that can make you bleed. However, these teeth are small and it does not hurt that bad. Try not to flinch or pull away when the glider does bite, fast movements may frighten them. Handling the gliders also socializes the creatures and ensures that they are recieving enough attention. Once the gliders have bonded with you, it is a lot of fun to play with them and have them glide to you.

“Sugar gliders gliding” by reptile maniac (CC BY 2.0)

Gliders prefer to climb and jump instead of crawling on the ground where they would be easy targets for predators. They like to be up high and will often climb up to your shoulder or onto your head, be careful because they may try to glide from your head to another location. They are able to glide up to 50 meters in the wild in search of food. They are able to climb up a variety object, for example, my suggie climbed up a lamp post and also a tapestry in my room.

Gliders are known to love pouches. They will curl up in your pocket and snooze if you let them. Pouches are ideal for sleeping as it allows them to cuddle together in a safe space. Cage pouches are available online and in many pet stores. Travel pouches are ideal to assist in bonding and taking your gliders on the go. Like cage pouches they are available commercially and it keeps them cozy and warm, I usually put a small blanket into the travel pouch for them to curl up in as well. Do not take them outside in bad weather becuase they may become ill.

Noises

Crabbing: this noise typically indicates that the glider is frightened or agitated. Sometimes they will crab as a warning signal or a cry for attention. It can be compared to locusts or screeching and each glider sounds different, having its own variation in pitch.

“Sugar Glider Crabbing” by Tia (CC BY 2.0)

Barking: the bark sounds like a puppy yipping. Like the crabbing, the pitch and tone are unique to each glider. They will bark when they want attention, are excited, bored, annoyed, or are calling to their owner or colony members. It is also used as a warning call to other gliders in the colony to signl that there is a predator nearby. It may also occur at night if something strange such as a light or sound occur that startle the glider.

“Sugar Glider Barking” by Sirens of the Sea (CC BY 2.0)

Crying: is similar to whining. It is typically only made by joeys or a newer glider that misses its colony. Should the glider do this, try to give them attention and love to cheer them up.

Chattering/Chirping: is a noise that sounds like a mix between a chirp, teeth chattering, and low pitched squeaks. It is used to communicate with other gliders and with their owners.

Purring: sounds similar to a small drumbeat or cat’s purr. It means that the glider is happy but it is very faint and can only be heard when extremely close to it.

Hissing: It sounds like a sneeze but it is actually the sound that is made when the glider is grooming itself. The glider will spit into its hands which produces the sound and then run them through its fur or a colony member’s fur to clean them. The hissing sound can also be heard when they are newly introduced to one another and when the gliders wrestle together.

Sneezing: This is very similar to the hissing but sounds much more like an actual sneeze that a cat would make. Sneezing can occur due to an upper respiratory infection, especially if the glider has been in cold temperatures. The glider should be taken to your exotic veterinarian for treatment.

Singing: Typically only done by female gliders to their joeys.

“Sugar Glider Noises” by Elissa Brianne (CC by 2.0)

The Cage

The cage should be large enough for the gliders to climb and jump around. Typically a couple of platforms and hanging toys are good to have in there as well. The cage can be lined with shredded paper or pine bedding. Spot cleaning the cage daily is important to ensure that the gliders do no become ill. Cage covers or clean blankets can be used to keep the enclosure dark while they sleep during the day.

Toys should be cleaned and varied weekly to mentally stimulate the gliders. Hanging scavenger toys are a fun way to treat your gliders and to encourage their curiosity. A wheel is a nice addition for exercise. Gliders will also need a couple of pouches for sleeping in. Pouches, tents, and hammocks as well as cage toys can be purchased commercially and online.

The cage should also have multiple food dishes that are sturdy so that they do not tip over if the gliders leap away from them after grabbbing a bite to eat. A sturdy water dish or a water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage are also necesary. Filtered water should be used.

The gliders should be kept in temperatures between 75° F-80° F but can tolerate 65° F-90° F. I also like to keep small blankets in the cage pouches for them to snuggle up in. I often use old socks that have gotten holes in them because my gliders like to curl up in those and its really cute.

Feeding

“Enjoying a meal” by Alex Archambault (CC BY 2.0)

Sugar gliders are nocturnal and will need fresh food when they first wake up, so I typically feed mine around 9pm. They are omnivores and will eat a variety of items. In the wild the often choose to consume tree sap from acacia trees and the gum of eucalyptus plants. Nectar and pollen from flowers as well as insects are regularly consumed. Wild sugar gliders rarely eat fruit whereas pet gliders are often overfed fruits and underfed nectar and protein sources. The ideal sugar glider diet is varied and cannot be narrowed down to only two or three items.

Your glider’s diet shoud consist of 25% protein such as cooked eggs, cooked lean meat, crickets, mealworms, and pelleted diets that are available online and in most pet stores. Another 25% should be grean leafy vegetables with a small amount of fruit such as berries, apples, and carrots. The other 50% of their diet should be a pelleted nectar source. Vitamin and mineral powder supplements containing calcium are also required.

Sugar gliders do have a sweet tooth so they love getting treats. Honey sticks made for gliders are a great way to bond with the glider while letting them enjoy a tasty snack. Treats should not be fed to gliders in large quantities. Popular treats for gliders include almonds, peanuts, plain cheerios, and yogurt drops. Placing these items into scavenger toys or offering them by hand to your gliders is a great way to bond and get them to enjoy coming up to you.

Health

Make sure to find an exotic pet veterinarian that can do regular checkups for your gliders. Gliders are awesome pets and it is our job to keep them happy and healthy. Occasionally gliders will get bacterial or parasitic infections that will require medication, traumatic injuries that need surgery, or sadly they have organ failure or cancer. More common health problems include obesity, malnutrition, metabolic bone disease, dental problems, and stress related diseases.

“Boom! It is a Sugar Glider” by Joe McKenna (CC BY 2.0)

Obesity in gliders is due to a lack of space and the ability for the glider to exercise. Gliders that eat excess amounts of proteins, fats, and treats will often become obese and exhibit behaviors such as lethargy, heart disease, and arthritis. Thankfully this is easily reversed by increasing the glider’s daily amount of exercise, decreasing the amount of proteins being served, and decreasing the portion sizes while maintaining a balanced diet.

The signs of malnourishment in gliders are weakness, weight loss, dehydration and an inability to stand or climb. This can lead to more serious problems such as broken bones, bruising, and pale gums. If this happens to your glider, you should seek help from your veterinarian.

Metabolic bone disease, also called nutritional osteodystrophy, is a type of malnutrition due to low levels of calcium in the blood. This can lead to the glider having seizures. The treatment for this is a long term administration of calcium with supportive care.

Always check with your veterinarian if you have health related questions about your pets. Sugar gliders make great pets if you know how to treat them. Glide on!!!

“Parsnipkitty” by H. Schofield (CC BY 2.0)
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The Cat’s Meow

“Newly Adopted Kitten” by Ben N (CC BY 2.0)

A small kitten will meow at its mother to signal to her that he is hungry or cold. But as he grows his meows will change to the more advanced manners of communication such as tail and ear flicking that older cats do. Adult cats do not meow at each other. They will hiss, growl, or yowl at one another to indicate anger or fear or a desire to mate. Cats have modified their behavior with humans however, since we are unable to understand the nuances of each ear twitch cats will actually meow at humans during kittenhood and throughout adulthood.

A cat’s meow is an active effort to acheive communication with humans. Often cats will meow to get attention, food, or to be let outside. They will often meow if they are lonely as well so that you spend more time with them. Cats also make other noises as well such as purring and thrilling/chirrups to indicate that they are content. Thrilling has also been suggested to be form of greeting to humans as it is a blend of a purr and soft meow. Maine Coon cats have been known to chirp at birds as well. These noises that they make are not actual communication in the sense that we think of. Humans use words to get ideas across but meows are not like that. Their tone, pitch, length, and frequncy is not exact words or demands but merely a noise they have learned will elicit a response from their owner. Through the thousands of years that cats ghave been at our side, they have evolved responses to interact with their human counterparts.

“Cat” by Stefan Muth (CC BY-SA 2.0)

So what noises can cats make? There are over 100 different noises that our feline compnaions can make. This impressive becuase dogs only make about 10 noises and cats specifically use the majority of these noises to interact with humans. Aside from mewoing, growling, hissing, purring, thrilling, and chirping, cats can also caterwaul which is a wail that they make when attempting to attract a mate. To hear these interesting noises check out this website.

Another reason a cat will meow or be vocal is when it is in pain. A cat’s pain tolerance and ego are high so if the cat is crying and groaning frequently, will not walk around or does so infrequently, is not eating/drinking, or appaers to be in distress a visit to the vet would be a a good idea. Cats meow to indicate needs, desires, fear, and pain. It is important for humans to pay close attention to and learn what they sounds and behaviors indicate so that they may interact more effectivley with their pets.

“Cats” by test_t51 (CC BY 1.0)

Housecats and ferals meow….so do large cats? Well, it depends on the species. Lions roar and purr. A tiger cannot roar or purr but they chuff. Caws are aggressive calls, such as a low growl of  a lynx that are done to fend off other lynx in their territory. This caw is an aggressive display that prevents a physical  altercation that would ultimately result in the death of one cat, it is less energetically costly to caw at a threat to estabish stregth and dominance. Lynx are also known to wail and bark. The variety of sounds that not only housecats but lareger, exotic species can make demonstrates the extensiuve evolutionary development of feline vocalization. While we may not understand every noise, cat lovers everywhere continue to learn and interact with their fluffy companions.

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The Mystery of the Fainting Goat

 “Faitning goats vs Exercise Ball” by Peahill Farm (Standard YouTube License)

Myotonic goats, or more commonly known as the fainting goat, are a popular pet becuase of their hilarious fainting behaviors. This is due to a genetic condition called myotonia congenita. Although they are called ‘fainting’ goats, they remian conscious during the experience [1]. This condition is also found in other livestock and sometimes in humans. It is a recessive genetic disorder that affects skeletal muscles in the organims by mutating the CLCN1 gene and inhibiting chloride channels [2].  This gene is responsible for muscle contractions and relaxations, and it is thought that mutations in the gene cause the muscles to become tense during the ‘Fight-or-Flight” response.  Whenever this goat becomes starled by something they tense up and fall to the side. This condition has the potential to cause harm if the goat is on top of a structure when this occurs.

This is a maladaptive trait that would lead to the goat becoming prey in natural environments. These goats have been bred as livestock for their meat since the late 1800’s and with the rise of the internet have become an entertaining spectacle. They are believed to have come to North America from Nova Scotia and are found  primarily in Tennessee. By the late 1900’s these goats had spread to Texas and were being bred for their size and reproductive rates. The larger goats weighing up to 175lbs are selected for as meat while smaller goats are bred as pets  [3]. Many people enjoy these goats as meals while other enjoy chasing them and the laughs that follow as they topple over.

“Tennessee Fainting Goat” by The She-Creature (CC by 2.0)

References: 

[1] Gibbens, Sarah. “Why ‘Fainting Goats’ Really Collapse in Fear.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 16 Feb. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/fainting-goat-fear-response-video/.

[2] NIH. “Myotonia Congenita.” U.S National Library of Medicine , 11 Apr. 2018, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/myotonia-congenita.

[3] Walker, Ryan. “Myotonic or Tennesse Fainting Goat.” The Livestock Conservancy, livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/tennfaint.

 

 

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The Domestication of Cats

“Cat” by Fung0131 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cats come in all sizes, some have been domesticated while others are wild animals. The differances between wild and domestic cats could shed light on the evolutionary pathway that has led to cats as human companions. Typically untrainable, cats would not have been selected for in early agricultural communites like dogs and horses were. The inability to get a cat to follow commands makes them practically useless as helpers.

It is hypothesized that cats became integrated into human society as they exploited early civilaztions that often became overrun with prey species such as mice. Humans tolerated the presence of wild cats as they began to incorporate themselves into the human world. The process is described as one of natural selection in contrast to the artificial selection that has created the domesticated dog. Through time and evolutionary adapatations, the more docile and agreeable cats were then transplanted by humans across the globe.

Domestic cats, F. silvestris catus, are a subspecies of cats that evolved from wildcats that had chosen to live in and close to human settlements like in the Fertile Cresecent. Genotyping of domestic cats has shown that they are derived from five lineages and can be traced back to F. silvestris lybicaFossils and ancient art places the domestication of cats at around 11,000-4,000 B.P [1]. These data also suggest that there was a singular domestication event that began the process.

“Elly” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

Mitochondiral DNA analysis of domesitcated cats suggests that divergence from the wild cats occured in sympatry. There is a marked phenotypic divergence in behavior of domestics and their less tame wild counterparts. Genes that made wild cats better suited to urban lifestyles were selected for geographically and concurrantly with humans.  The great diversity in housecats can be attributed to geographic dispersal along the Fertile Crescent and the thousands of years of evolution towards an increase in domestic genes in cat populations that integrated themselves into human settlements. The human preference for tameness provided an avenue for the translocation of tame cats to new settlements as human expansion continued. The adorable cats that we now snuggle in our homes are the result of wild cat’s exploitative behaviors that evolved into tamenss with increasing human contact.

References:

[1] Driscoll, C. A., et al. “From Wild Animals to Domestic Pets, an Evolutionary View of Domestication.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 106, no. Supplement_1, 2009, pp. 9971–9978., doi:10.1073/pnas.0901586106.

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Wild not Pets

“Albert Kinkajou” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

Exotic species such as lions, tigers, servals, kinkajous and leopards are dangerous wild animals. They may be cute and easily maintained when they are small babies, but soon they grow up to be predators. A four or five hundred pound tiger or even the forty pound caracal could eaily kill a human while just playing or if angered. Without proper training and sufficient resources many of these pets are eventually surrendered to sanctuaries or sold for entertainment. These creatures belong in the wild and protected, they should not be exploited or kept as pets. Conservation efforts and community support are important ways of saving these amazing creatures from cruelty and exploitation. I learned a great deal about the various species and life stories of the rescues during my service trip to the Carolina Tiger Rescue .

Reasons why they are not pets:

Firstly, they are wild, dangerous, and expensive to care for. They require lots of exercise, a suitable habitat, enrichment, stimulation, a safe enclosure, a place to sleep that is warm and dry, fresh  food and water daily. 

  • Caracals can jump ten feet into the air and take down gazelle that are three times their size. Humans, esepcially children, are easy targets for a full grown caracal.
  • The Kinkajou is a small, and very fluffy and cute, relative of the racoon. They use their long tails to aide in climbing as they spend most of their time in the trees. These nocturnal creatures are frightened easily and have extrmely sharp claws and teeth to fend off attackers. They typically will attack the face and genital areas.
  • Servals are another exotic cat species that are often taken as pets. While they are a lot smaller than tigers or lions, these cats are still dangerous. They are solitary and known to be aggressive. They are poached and humans are destroying their habitat.

“Elvis Serval” by H. Schofield (CC BY 2.0)

  • Cougars are a larger cat weighing in at 130-290 lbs. While they may be large to us, these cats can actually purr like the common house cat. However, their massive paws and sheer size are enough to demonstrate the power behind the cute face. They are solitary animals and are known to ambush their prey. I have had my house cat leap onto my head from the top of the refrigerator, now imagine that happening when the cat is a 250lb predator.
  • Leopards are beautiful cats that are strong enough to drag prey into the trees where they spend much of their time. This strategy is adaptive becuase it prevents hyenas from stealing the catch and also the leaopard is safe from a ground attack from the other large cat species like tigers and lions that share their habitat. A leopard as a pet will most likely never able to climb high into the trees like its free counterparts. Without proper excersize or enrichment the cat will experience frustration and/or display aggression.

“Rajah Tiger” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

  • Tigers are massive creatures that can chew through bones. The paws can get as large as a humans face and they can weigh over 500lbs. They crouch in the tall grasses and stalk their prey, often it is too late to react when they attack. White bengal tigers all share a single ancestor and the inbreeding that humans forced has caused those with this recessive gene to also inherit disadvantageous genes that cause disabilites and birth defects.
  • Lions are as large as and sometimes larger than tigers, powerful, aggressive, and deadly. They live in large prides and the females hunt in groups. By taking a lion into the home you are separating it from the pride, forcing it into solitude. The natural instinct to hunt and anxiety from lonliness induces aggressive behaviors that can lead to the death of the owner and lion.

“Reina prowling the enclosure” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

Separating animals from their natural habitat forces them into an unsuitable environment, lacking in stimulation, exercise, and socialization. Natural insticts are punished and when the creatures become too aggressive or big to handle they are dumped at sanctuaries, if the animal is lucky, or sold to those who would further mistreat them. This is true for all wild animals that are exploited. They are not domestic species but have been stolen from their homes to be pets, trophies, and entertainment for humans who do not understand their natural lifestyle.

Abuse and Fear 

There are many sanctuaries that help and save wild animals from cruel fates. But what is done to those who had previously ‘owned’ these wild creatures? As dangerous and exotic creatures they make attractions more appealing to guests. Tigers jumping through hoops of fire. Elephants forced to carry people on their backs all day at amusment parks and zoos to be forced into a small cage at the end of the day. They are whipped and beaten if they disobey. Orcas have been a center stage species for Seaworld until recently when  their small enclosures and poor living conditions caused enough stress that a whale killed a trainer. Since that event in 2010, many advocates have come forward to end the orca shows and get justice for the maltreatment of these captive orcas [1]. Many steps have already been made, but progress has been slow in changing the minds of the people and legislators.

Many of the servals that were rescued at the Carolina Tiger Rescue were dropped off becuase owners realized that they were not fit to be pets. Others came from zoos that no longer met regulations after the Zanesville, Ohio tragedy. Sebastion the lion is a rescue from a haunted house attraction along with a tiger and wolves. The flashing lights, loud noises, and fog machines created a stressful and terrifying home for these animals. These are just some stories behind these magnificent creatures and why owning them is cruel.

To learn more about helping exotics and fighting for animal rights go to: https://carolinatigerrescue.org/  

References: 

[1]  Howard, Brian Clark. “Controversial SeaWorld Orca Shows End in California, but Continue Elsewhere.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 4 Jan. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/seaworld-final-orca-show-california-killer-whales/#close.

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AB Spring 2018: Animal Rights

“Saber Tiger” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

Keene State College offers many amazing opportunities for their students. Events such as Resumania, Career Clinics, and community service trips provide students with valuabe information and life  experiences to guide them after graduation. With skilled and knowledgable staff and student leaders these activities nurture curiosity in a way that inspires learning. Students are encouraged to develop skills and build relationships that will aide them moving forward. An amazing way for students to build connections, give back to the community, and gain experience in occupations that interest them are the annual Alternative Spring Break trips.  These trips are sponsored by the Community Service Office that offers trips in the winter, spring, and summer.

“Caprichio” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

After applying to the program for the Spring 2018 alternative break trip and being accepted, I was very excited. I applied to the Animal Rights  service trip that takes students to the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, NC.  I ultimately would love to work for a rehabilitationa and release center for large cat species and this gave me a first hand look at what that would mean. The experience was incredible and gave me a deeper appreciation for our ecosystems, wildlife, and our duty to preserve their beauty. A group of KSC students and students from Rowen University worked together to complete various porjects on the grounds around the sanctuary, at the food prep station, and inside the sanctuary as well. We were able to meet many of the rescued animals, learn their stories, and help their  humans with some interesting chores.

“AB Group” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

Aside from the amazing animals that we were able to see, we learned about grounds keeping, caring for exotics, and working as a unified team to complete difficult tasks. Working in the freezers to clean, organize, and repair them, taught  me a lot about the various feline’s diets.They keep the pelts of animals such as horses and sheep for enrichment for their cats, a curious mind is a healthy mind. Stimulation helps keep these magnificent creature entertained and happy. Items that could no longer be kept were brought to the burn pile, which in itself was epic. The burn pile was fun to watch, and scattered about the area were bones and skulls  that the vultures had dragged away. The trick was to burn and char the raw meat, that way the vultures do not scatter it about the grounds. Why do the vultures leave charred meat alone?

“The Memorial Garden” by H. Schofield (CC by 2.0)

 

Inside the santuary surrounded by Roman, Reina, Sebastian, and Sheba the lions, and Carolina, India, Caprichio, and Rajah the tigers is a beautiful Memorial Garden. We enjoyed the cats, sun, and bonding as we raked, mulched, and drove the gators. On trips to the burn pile we passed by Anthony Leopard and from the burn pile we could see bobcats, servals, and caracals in their distant enclosures. Their stories were sad, but their futures look bright. These expereinces have given me a new perspective on our impact to the world around us. This trip has solidified my desire to one day help save and protect wild cat species.

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Personality of Domestic Cats

“Jasmine” by H. Schofield. (CC by 4.0)

Every cat lover knows that each kitty is special and full of personality. Feline behaviors vary depending on the owner and the presence of other animals in the household. Although we may have loved cats since they ruled in Egypt with the Pharaohs, we as a society have not taken a serious look into the factors and behaviors that create the varying personalities we see in cats, both small domestics and their larger wild counterparts.

Recent research into the underlying individual personality traits of domestic cats has shed light onto interesting behaviors. This information can aide cat owners and handlers in understanding how to create happy and healthy living environments  for feline companions based upon their personality. A study by Carla Litchfield and her colleagues investigated the “Feline Five” personality traits, similar to the “Big Five” personality traits in humans.  The personality categories for non-human mammals have been categorized as neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, impulsiveness and agreeableness. All of these are linked to specific behaviors that can explain personality and communicate information about the cat to the owner.

Litchfield and her team did an intensive study using questionnaires for 2,802 cats [4] in Australia. The goal of the study was to determine the amount of reliable factors that could demonstrate personality in domestic cats and to classify them into traits. The study found that neurotic cats tended to display insecure, anxious, fearful, and shy behaviors whereas agreeable cats were more affectionate, gentle, and friendly towards people. The impulsive kitties showed erratic and reckless behaviors and dominant cats were found to be aggressive bullies. An interesting observation in the study was that high scores in extroversion were linked to self-control similar to the Scottish wildcats, and these cats also tended to be active, curious, and inventive in their typical behaviors.

This information is helpful for anyone with cats because this understanding of feline personality traits, one is better able to care for and maintain a nurturing and happy life for their fur babies. If a cat scores significantly high or low in any category, there may be an underlying stressor which diminishes quality of life. Extremely neurotic cats may suffer from additional anxieties that lead to skittishness, if recognizes the problem can be addressed and the cat’s anxieties alleviated. Low scores in agreeableness which are seen in aggressive behaviors can indicate a lack of socialization, neglect/abuse, frustration/irritation, or it is acting out from a prolonged pain or sickness [4]. These signs are important to listen to as a cat owner because it helps to maintain a satisfying life for pet.

“cat” by Chris (CC BY-SA 2.0)


References:

[1] “Big Five Personality Traits.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits.

[2] Chris. “Cat.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 22 Feb. 2010, www.flickr.com/photos/xcxsxvx/4377571151/in/photolist-7EQcoF-89doan-ehMkDv-ZsPUTG-8pWM6P-8LzBGk-dTvhwH-5Z9rgN-ajvTTn-Y8Vqyt-5NXwzp-drSZn2-71Mq9F-9SZgp4-aFPp92-8h6NoK-72emSG-XoixAV-6M7V5s-ZL6d2X-dZzmtF-9r7Phn-CpwzsU-eEskBV-px999e-W9SQVD-nRbtxb-aq265o-6RTTiD-4q1D11-FsvcBb-6Vrnsx-3zUzT4-W9SQdX-6FCD2w-3F7Tr-W9SRje-scHLRD-jLV2vW-4wDqX1-njSH5S-7kvJve-GnV46k-Yur51c-9FjVn4-Z7NEYu-CE4RS1-9hoYWU-XoitQt-eeDEdJ.

[3] Hill, Jenny. “Cats in Ancient Egypt.” Ancient Egypt Online, 2008, www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/cat.html.

[4] Litchfield, Carla A., et al. “The ‘Feline Five’: An Exploration of Personality in Pet Cats (Felis catus).” Plos One, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183455.

[5] “Neuroticism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroticism.

[6] “Scottish Wildcat.” Wikipedia, 17 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_wildcat.

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