Pets Research

Free roaming cats: a phantom menace?

Mark Farnworth, from the Department of Natural Sciences at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, is curious about cats.

Cats as pets and cats as pests. Are cats a threat to biodiversity or are they possible caretakers of biodiversity?

This interview was fascinating, and the topic complex, so we are releasing it in two parts.

In this – part one – we introduce Mark’s research examining the issues, impact and attitudes toward free roaming (both owned and unowned) cat populations in New Zealand.

Part two can be found here.



Mark Farnsworth - Free roaming cats
Mark Farnsworth

Mark Farnworth: Research Gate Profile

Unitec: Dept of Environmental and Animal Sciences

G2Z Australia National Cat Action Plan:
Draft currently seeking feedback


Image credit: Flickr/Amber Brooke

Anthropology Pets Psychology Research

Anthropomorphism: are we guilty?

Are we guilty of anthropomorphism in dogs? As dog owners it’s very easy to humanise our pets.

Julie Hecht, MSc, is a researcher and science writer fascinated not just by animal behaviour and welfare, but how we think about animals and the consequences of those thoughts.

Take anthropomorphism (attributing human characteristics to animals or objects) as a key example.

In this episode of Human Animal Science we explore what actually happens when we think that dog is guilty; or that cat is grumpy.

We discuss why we anthropomorphise and how it impacts on the animals.


What is anthropomorphism in dogs?

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities.

In dogs, it can manifest as attributing emotions such as love, loyalty, and happiness to dogs, or expecting dogs to understand and communicate with us in ways that they do not. At least not in the same ways we do.

Do dogs know the difference between humans and dogs?

Dogs are intelligent creatures who are capable of complex social interaction, which means they’re able to pick up on our cues and learn from us.

However, studies show dogs actually see us as a member of their pack, not a separate species.

This means dogs do not necessarily know the difference between humans and dogs, but are capable of forming attachments to both.


Dog Spies:  |  Dog Spies Blog on Scientific American

Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab (Barnard College, Columbia University, New York)

The Bark magazine

Do You Believe in Dog?


Hecht, Miklosi, & Gacsi (2012) Behavioral assessment and owner perceptions of behaviors associated with guilt in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 139. 134-142.

Do dogs feel guilty? Jason Goldman | Scientific American

Hecht & Horowitz (2012) Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) Third Canine Science Forum, Barcelona, Spain. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8, e30.

Horowitz (2009) Disambiguating the “guilty look”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behavior. Behavioural Processes, 81, 447-452.

Horowitz (2007) Naturalizing anthropomorphism: Behavioral prompts to our humanizing of animals. Anthrozoös, 20, 23-35.

Image credit: Flickr/Brainware3000

Cognition Research

Sit, Stay, Scan: How do dogs think?

Greg Berns, MD, PhD from Emory University in Atlanta USA, specialises in the use of brain imaging technologies to understand human – and now, canine – motivation and decision-making.

Greg works as a neuroscientist working in the field of canine science. This allows him to use neuroscience techniques to assess how the brain of a dog makes decisions or reacts to stimulus.

In this episode, he speaks to Tim and Mia about his team’s research, named “The Dog Project”, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain activity in dogs.

Or to you and me, how dogs think.


Book: How Dogs Love Us

How Dogs Love Us: A neuroscientist and his adopted dog decode the canine brain

How Dogs Love Us by Gregory Berns - an insight into how dogs think
How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns (Hardcover)

For the last 2 years, Greg has pursued his dream of using MRI to decode what dogs really think.

Partnering with a dog trainer, Berns’ group has trained a team of volunteer dogs to hold still in an MRI machine.

Greg explains the sound of an MRI machine to be like a jackhammer, and how the dogs had to be trained to wear ear muffs to protect them from the noise.

How dogs love us - how dogs think
How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Burns (Paperback)

The data the team are collecting is revealing startling insights about how a dogs brains work and how they think. They are finding proof dogs really do love us!

In the process, they have broken new ground in elevating the rights of dogs to human-equivalents.

Available on Amazon (Australia) as Hardcover or Paperback.

Available on Amazon (US) as Hardcover or Paperback.


The Dog Project

Profile – Greg Berns, Emory University

PloS research article – Functional MRI in Awake Unrestrained Dogs

Opinion (NY Times) – Dogs are People too


IAHAIO, ISAZ and all that jazz

Maggie O’Haire, from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, speaks with Tim and Mia about the recent Chicago conferences hosted by the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations and the International Society of Anthrozoology.



International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) website:

International Society of Anthrozoology  (ISAZ) website:

image credit: Flickr/RalphHockens