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New study finds certain people are ‘cat whisperers’
People with veterinary experience generally achieved higher scores.

Results could lead to better understanding of cat’s needs

A new study from the University of Guelph has revealed that certain types of people are adept at reading cat’s facial expressions.

More than 6,300 participants across 85 countries were asked to watch 20 videos featuring closeups of cat’s faces displaying a range of emotions and reactions to different stimuli.

Sounds and surroundings were edited out, and none of the videos featured expressions of fear, such as flattened ears or hissing, as these are already commonly understood.

Participants were asked to state whether the emotion being portrayed was positive or negative.

Results of the study further supported the notion that cats are difficult to read. With the average score being 12 out of 20. However, 13 per cent of participants – dubbed ‘the cat whisperers’ by researchers – scored 15 or higher.

Women were more likely to be a part of this group. As were younger adults and those with veterinary experience. Surprisingly, people who reported a strong attachment to cats did not necessarily score higher than those who didn’t.

“The fact that women generally scored better than men is consistent with previous research that has shown that women appear to be better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion, both in humans and dogs.” Said Prof Georgia Mason, who led the study with Prof Lee Niel.

According to the researchers, the fact that people with veterinary experience scored higher did not necessarily indicate a natural skill but rather a learned ability, resulting from the need to discern a cat’s well-being in practice.

“The ability to read animals’ facial expressions is critical to welfare assessment.” Commented Prof Niel. “Our finding that some people are outstanding at reading these subtle clues suggests it’s a skill more people can be trained to do.”

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Rare chimp birth announced at Edinburgh Zoo

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) welcomed the birth of a critically endangered western chimpanzee on Monday 3 February at Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

The baby girl will be named in the coming days through a public vote, and staff will carry out a paternity test during its first health check to determine the father.

Mother Heleen's first infant, Velu, was born in 2014, making this new baby only the second chimpanzee born in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Budongo Trail team leader Donald Gow said: "While we celebrate every birth, this one is particularly special because our new arrival is a critically endangered Western chimpanzee, a rare subspecies of chimpanzee."

Image (c) RZSS/Donald Gow. 

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BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.