17 Comments

TIPS FOR THE UNWARY


Cat Scan“CAT SCAN”

Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? Every time we read something that says animals can’t do something, another animal proves us wrong.

In the past scientists said that only humans could learn to use tools, but I have seen crows and ravens in Alaska working together to gain access to a cart full of shrimp which was covered with a tarp. When a banana and a stick were dropped outside a chimpanzees cage all he had to do was pick up the stick and drag the banana into the cage. Yet scientists said he couldn’t do it.

We keep hearing that animals don’t grieve, cannot look into the future, or being concerned for the well being of others, but a dog will grieve when his master dies, and cats sometimes lie down next to a person who is on the brink of passing away in hospitals.

Dogs absolutely can tell time and recognize body language. Charlie proves that every day. I have known humans who couldn’t do that! I think the best claims about human exceptionalism to be funny ones, such as Mark Twain’s ‘Man is the only animal that blushes-or needs to.’

It’s hard to prove a negative claim because the evidence keeps changing. and tests vary between species. Often poor performance in the animals had more to do with how they were tested than with their mental powers.

In one experiment researchers conducted a mirror test—to see if an animal recognizes its own reflection. They placed a mirror on the floor outside an elephant cage. They put a body mark on the elephant to see if it would touch it. It failed to touch it, so the verdict was that the animal lacked self awareness.

But Joshua Plotnik modified the test by placing an eight foot mirror inside the enclosure with the elephants. They could feel it, smell it, and walk behind it. The researchers were worried about the elephants curiosity, because the mirror was mounted on a wooden wall not built to hold off a four ton elephant smelling it.

One Asian elephant, named “Happy”, recognized her reflection. Marked with a white cross on her forehead above her left eye, she repeatedly rubbed the mark while standing in front of the mirror. She connected her reflection with her own body. Years later, Josh Plotkin has tested many more animals at Think Animals International, in Thailand, and his conclusion holds; some Asian elephants recognize themselves in the mirror. The challenge is to find tests that fit an animal’s temperament, interests, anatomy, and sensory capacities.

We know that some primates can paint pictures, a local gorilla living in Palo Alto once gave me a nice show at the gallery of his paintings, and and even supplied a movie showing how he accomplished them.

So don’t shortchange the animals, they were probably here first.

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17 comments on “TIPS FOR THE UNWARY

  1. And a dog knows to look in the direction you are pointing with a finger or a foot to find a treat but a wolf can not learn to do that. So interesting.

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  2. I know Einstein was a genius, but that was well before Milo was born.

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  3. Oh, do I have a delight for you! I just came across this short piece titled “The Language of Dogs” last week, and it’s completely delightful. It’s amusing, in the best way possible.

    When it comes to smart, I’ll put my sneaky, persistent, manipulative cat up against anyone. She really isn’t malicious, but she certainly knows how to get me to do what she wants. Decide at 3 a.m. you’re ready for a brushing? Prowl the house, yowling at 150 decibels. Ready for your 10 p.m. treats? Come over to the computer, sit up, and turn off the computer with your paw. (There’s a protective cover over the button now.)
    Want a little outdoor time? Let yourself out the sliding glass door, and then close it behind you!!! so your mistress will go crazy searching for you until you decide to come and scratch to be let back in.

    Sigh. She’s sixteen — 85 in human years — and there’s not a chance she can be reformed.

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    • I will certainly give you that. Everyone knows a cat runs the house and doesn’t care who knows it. I give her a solid A plus for knowing how to turn the computer off, and closing the sliding door. I can vouch for the fact that at 85 years she will do just as she pleases. The little story was delightful.

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  4. Dinah knows when it is time for my afternoon iced coffee. She knows which vendor or workman/woman who comes to the Rancho likes dogs. Goes directly to that person. She knows that the Judge really doesn’t like dogs but that he has a penchant for throwing chips and nuts to dogs that beg. All you say is true. But I will wager that my Labrador is smarter than your JRT…. đŸ™‚

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    • My JRT is quicker and faster than your Labrador he can slip out the open door before anybody knows he is gone.. Charlie rings a bell when he wants to go out, brings in the mail from mailbox, sometimes even opens it!

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      • No question, he is quicker. Dinah usually has 10 extra pounds she is packing around from eating all of these disgusting things on the Rancho! She picks up her toys and comes to us when she wants to go out and she would eat the mail were she to be able to retrieve it from the box. Gee. Just writing this makes me want to retract my statement! However, when I see a JRT leading the blind, then I will capitulate…

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  5. My old Basset hound knew every rest stop between Sacramento and Oregon. Long before we reached them, he would begin lobbying for a stop, wagging his tail with such frenzy that there was no way of resisting him. I’ve always believed that animals have intelligence, much more than we credit them with. Good post! –Curt

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  6. I am extremely allergic to cats. Touching them or even touching their dander where they sat equates to hours of sniffling and sneezing. So when I arrive somewhere as a guest where a cat resides, guess who comes to rub my leg, (or even sit on my lap). You guessed it! The cat!

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    • What a shame. Many people are allergic to those guys. We had a couple of friends through the years who suffered badly. One woman came when we got a small kitten who insisted on running back and forth under the couch where we were sitting. I didn’t know she was allergic until she began sneezing uncontrollably. Another man borrowed a jacket of my husband when on a fishing trip which our cat had been on, and he swelled up like a balloon. I can understand how you must feel. We haven’t had one for years.

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