Fellow Creatures: A New Post

I  have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures on a wonderful initiative to interest girls in science, via canine science.

All this month, the bloggers behind Do You Believe in Dog?, Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht, are sharing inspiring quotes from female canine scientists to encourage girls to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They are using a girl's best friend to encourage girls to be scientists.

A girl with her pet dog... Using canine science to encourage girls to get into science
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

What Are the Five Freedoms (and What do they Mean to You?)

The five freedoms of animal welfare, the one most people miss, and what it means for pet owners.

The Five Freedoms and what they mean to dog, cat and rabbit owners. Beautiful puppy playing tug, photo by Bad Monkey
Photo: Bad Monkey Photography

When you get a new puppy or kitten, no one tells you your new pet has five main welfare needs that need to be met. But maybe they should, because they provide a framework for how we should care for dogs, cats, and other pets. Read on to find out what they are, how many pet owners know them, and why they matter to you.

The Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms were originally defined by the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council in the 1960s, and subsequently updated. They are now understood to apply to the welfare of all animals, not just livestock.

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigour. 
  • Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment. 
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering. 

The Five Freedoms define animal welfare and consequently you can find them on the websites of organizations like the ASPCA (with a downloadable poster), the BC SPCA and the RSPCA Queensland.  In the UK, the RSPCA and the PDSA write about how these welfare needs are enshrined in law.

The Five Freedoms tell us our pets have five welfare needs – diet, environment, health, companionship, and behaviour.

What are the Five Freedoms, and what do they mean for pet owners? They apply to the welfare of all pet animals, such as this sleepy cat pictured.
Many cats prefer to be solitary, while others enjoy companionship from other felines.. Photo: Anna Luopa / Shutterstock

Knowing About the Five Freedoms

How many pet owners know about these needs? Every year since 2011, the PDSA in the UK has released its PAW report on the welfare of pets. The 2018 report tells us how many people know about these five welfare needs.

The good news is that most people were able to identify four of the five welfare needs when shown a list.

  • 87% identified the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
  • 85% identified the need to live in a suitable environment.
  • 85% identified the need for a suitable diet
  • 67% identified the need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.

So what did most people miss?

  • Only 18% identified the need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals.

Unfortunately these needs are not as well known as they should be. Only 13% of pet owners were able to correctly identify all five of the animal’s needs.

And 29% of people thought that a need for human company was one of the welfare needs.

The Need for Companionship

Of course, for each animal these needs will be met in different ways.

Take the need to be kept together with (or apart from) other animals of the same species.

Guinea pigs need companionship from other guinea pigs and should not be kept alone. Because of this, in Switzerland it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig.

Rabbits are also very sociable, and prefer to live with at least one other rabbit that they are bonded with. (Remember to neuter them so as not to have too many rabbits).

Domestic cats as a species are flexible in their social behaviour. Some cats can live happily with other cats. This is especially likely for cats that have grown up together and/or that were socialized with other cats during the sensitive period for socialization (but there are no guarantees). On the other hand, as solitary hunters cats do not need other cats to survive, and some cats do not like to have to share their home with other cats.

What are the Five Freedoms and what do they mean to you? Companionship is one of the freedoms. These two happy dogs love to hang out together
Many dogs enjoy canine companionship. Photo: Bad Monkey Photography

Most pet dogs are sociable and like to have other canine friends. Luckily, if there are no other dogs in the home, it’s possible to arrange dog walks with other friendly dogs or visit doggy daycare or the dog park so your dog still gets to hang out with other canines.

However, if you have the kind of dog who – for whatever reason – does not like to hang out with other dogs, they should be kept separate. (This is especially the case if the dog is a risk to other dogs and will attack them).

So you need to consider the needs of the species as well as those of your individual pet.

The Five Freedoms apply to all pets, including guinea pigs like this one. In particular for guinea pigs, they should always have another pig as a companion
Photo: Ase / Shutterstock

The Welfare of Cats, Dogs and Rabbits

The PAW report looks at the welfare of the UK’s dogs and cats in terms of the welfare needs and is engagingly presented if you want to take a look (see the link below).

One of the figures that caught my eye is that 12% of dog owners have never trained their dog, a percentage that has not changed much over the years of the PAW reports.

24% of dogs were left alone for 5 or more hours on weekdays. As a general guideline, it is recommended that dogs should not be left alone for more than 4 hours.

And although 80% of people thought their dog was the right weight, 40% did not know how much the dog weighed or what the body condition score was.

For cats it is even worse, with 65% not knowing how much the cat weighs or the body condition score.

And 77% of cat owners said they would like to change at least one of their cat’s behaviours. The most common were scratching furniture (27%) or carpets (22%). (Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats and it’s up to us to provide good scratching posts). As well, 17% reported the cat waking them up, and 17% said the cat begged for food.

Weight was also an issue for rabbits, with 77% of owners not knowing the rabbit’s weight or body condition score.

And companionship is also a major concern, because 54% of rabbits are kept as solitary animals. The PDSA report says “Living a solitary life will be seriously impacting on the physical health and mental wellbeing of our pet rabbits.”

What are the five freedoms, and what do they mean for pet owners? One of the five welfare needs is companionship, and rabbits (like this one) prefer not to be solitary but to live with other rabbits they have bonded to
A solitary life is bad for rabbits. Photo: Ostapenko / Shutterstock

Updating the Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms have been tremendously helpful in providing a framework to improve animal welfare.

If we don’t provide them for our pets, they will be stressed and unhealthy. It is also important to note that many behaviour problems are, at least to some extent, a result of the animal’s welfare needs not being met.

More recently, a complementary approach to animal welfare called the Five Domains has been proposed by Prof. David Mellor. One of the things about this approach is that it emphasizes the need for positive experiences, not just minimizing negative experiences. You can read more about the Five Domains model here.

Whatever kind of pet we have, it’s important to think about how to provide for good welfare in terms of health, environment, diet, behaviour and companionship.

What do you think is the priority for improving people’s knowledge of what their pets need?

Further Reading

Five fun things to do to make your dog happy today and how to make the world better for dogs.
Five things to do for your cat today and how to make the world better for cats.


Farm Animal Welfare Council (2009) Farm Animal Welfare in Great Britain: Past, Present, and Future.
Mellor DJ (2016). Moving beyond the "Five Freedoms" by Updating the "Five Provisions" and Introducing Aligned "Animal Welfare Aims". Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 6 (10) https://doi.org/10.3390/ani6100059
PDSA (2018) Paw Report. Available for download at https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4371/paw-2018-full-web-ready.pdf 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Companion Animal Psychology News November 2018

Women in canine science, people who care for parrots, dogs in Paris, and more... the latest news from Companion Animal Psychology.

The latest newsletter from Companion Animal Psychology, with women in canine science, animals in art, and animal welfare for vets

Some of my favourites from around the web this month

"Clearly - dogs are awesome. So is science!" Women are thriving in canine science - tell a girl you know! At Do You Believe in Dog?, Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht are celebrating the women in canine science, and encouraging girls to get interested in a career in science. Don't miss the daily inspiring quotes on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

“...it is the only study I know of which has demonstrated that petting and playing with a therapy dog can reduce human distress even when the interactions are not facilitated by a sympathetic handler” How important is the animal in animal-assisted therapy? Hal Herzog on an important new study that tests the use of therapy dogs with children. A must-read.

"This way of structuring veterinary and animal science as subjects within animal welfare is not only intuitive, but also aligns with the veterinarian’s ‘…special duty to protect animal welfare and alleviate animal suffering’ and the profession’s role as ‘experts’ in animal welfare". The role of animal welfare in veterinary science education and research by Kat Littlewood, on the holistic, Five Domains view.

Thousands of dogs have been killed unnecessarily due to misguided ideas about breeds. Sara Owcstarczak-Garstecka on the problems with breed-specific legislation, writing at The Conversation.

“In addition to it being pure fun, I also learn something every single time I watch dogs interact with other dogs and with humans, and also when I watch and listen to the humans talk with one another.” Why it’s important (and fun) to study free-ranging dogs by Marc Bekoff.

Is doggy daycare right for your dog? Hannah Cappellini explains for Wag the Dog and Company. Don’t miss the checklist of questions to ask any daycare you are considering.

Your cat will work for food. Mikel Delgado has lots of tips on how to get your cat interested in food puzzles.

The bygone British dog show – in pictures.  The Guardian shares some photos from Shirley Baker’s book, Dog Show 1961 – 1978.

Meet the colourful people devoting their lives to parrots. A picture story at National Geographic by Mary Bates with photographs by Miisha Nash. Beautiful.

Jean Donaldson talks to Barks from the Guild in this podcast about her upcoming webinar for dog trainers on resource- guarding and the importance of education for trainers.

Cat domestication: from farms to sofas   A Nature video explains what we know about cats were domesticated.

Animals in art

The Art Institute of Chicago recently digitized its entire collection so that it is available for viewing over the internet. Whilst browsing, I was taken by this photo by André Kertész that shows the concierge’s dog looking out from a balcony at the street below.

Companion Animal Psychology News: Animals in Art photo of a dog peering over a balcony in Paris
Paris, The Concierge’s Dog, by André Kertész, 1926.

Also by André Kertész is this photo called Mr. Caillot’s Dog and the Keys to Notre Dame, Paris, from 1928.

Companion Animal Psychology News November 2018, Animals in Art: portrait of a dog with the keys to Notre Dame
Mr. Caillot's Dog and the Keys to Notre Dame, André Kertész, 1928.

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club

This month the Animal Book Club is two years old!

This month’s book is Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John Pilley and Hilary Hinzmann. No doubt you’ve heard of Chaser, and the book is a fascinating account of how Chaser was trained and the scientific process to document it.

You can find a full list of all the books at amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub or on the book club page.

Support Companion Animal Psychology

If you love Companion Animal Psychology and find it a useful resource, did you know you can support me on Ko-fi?

Companion Animal Psychology provides free information on evidence-based ways to care for dogs and cats, and running the site takes a lot of time and resources, so I am grateful for the support. Ko-fi does not charge fees.

A special thank you to Jessica Wheatcraft, JillClaire, and the anonymous people who have supported me so far.

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

This month I covered a randomized controlled trial that found encouraging results from the use of pheromones to help resolve aggression between cats that live in the same home, in conjunction with education from a veterinary behaviourist.

I also wrote about new guidelines on how to feed pet cats from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

And in a post that will be of special interest to dog trainers, I looked at the kind of reinforcement that makes dogs run faster. It's really great to see scientists paying attention to what motivates pet dogs.

This month I am especially grateful to the people who leave thoughtful and kind comments on the blog or on social media. A problem with my page counts (affecting many people who use blogger, and under investigation by Google) made it seem that readership suddenly plummeted. So it's good to know you're all still out there!! One of the best things about this blog is all the wonderful people I have met through it and I am grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and dedication to dogs and cats.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Do dogs run faster for more treats or better quality treats?

Scientists find out which rewards dogs will run faster for, and the results explain why you need to use good treats in dog training.

Do dogs prefer better quality treats or more treats? The implications for dog training from a study of what makes dogs run faster, like this beautiful dog running through a field.
Photo: Dora Zett / Shutterstock

Modern dog trainers use positive reinforcement to train dogs, and that reinforcement often takes the form of food (see the ultimate dog training tip to find out why).

When you want a dog to come when you call them, you want to use your best training treats as a reward.

But scientists have paid surprisingly little attention to what dogs consider worth working for – until now.

A recent paper by Dr. Stefanie Riemer et al, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, looks at the relative effectiveness of quality and quantity of reinforcement as measured by how fast dogs run to the bowl they can eat it from.

Pet dogs were trained to run along a walkway that was 20 metres long in order to obtain food. The type of food (quantity or quality) was shown by the containers that were visible to the dog from the start position.

The first study compared one piece of dry food to five pieces of dry food. This was signalled to the dog by the presence of one or five blue bowls containing the food.

But dogs did not run any faster for a greater amount of the dry food.

In the second study, the scientists compared a piece of sausage to a piece of dry food. The type of reinforcement available was shown by the food being in a black or a white bowl.

Dogs ran significantly faster to get the piece of sausage than the piece of dry food.

Interestingly, they still ran fast when the reinforcement was changed to dry food instead of sausage, perhaps because it was a novel item. But the scientists note the pet dogs may have had prior life experience of sometimes receiving no or lower value reinforcement, and this could also explain this result.

The next question on many dog trainers’ minds will be about the effects of one versus multiple pieces of sausage. However this was not tested, so remains a question for future research.

Prior to testing preference by running speed, the scientists did a more standard preference test to see how much time dogs spent looking at, sniffing or attempting to lick the different food items when they were inaccessible behind a wire mesh.  These results, contrary to the runway task, showed a preference for both quality and quantity.

This is a small study as only 19 pet dogs completed all parts of the experiment, so more research is needed. But it is really nice to see researchers paying attention to this kind of question.

The results show that the quality of treats makes a difference to dogs. If you want good results in training, it’s important to know what motivates the dog.

If you love Companion Animal Psychology, you can support me on ko-fi.

Riemer, S., Ellis, S. L., Thompson, H., & Burman, O. H. (2018). Reinforcer effectiveness in dogs—The influence of quantity and quality. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 206:87-93. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.016

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy associate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Celebrating Two Years of the Animal Book Club

Great books about animals, discussed amongst friends… The Companion Animal Psychology Book  Club is two years old.

Celebrating two years of the Animal Book Club for people who love books and love animals

This month the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is two years old.

I started the book club in November 2016, intending it to be a small group. Within a couple of days several hundred people had joined and I stopped accepting new members because I did not want the group to get too big.

The first book was The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis, which remains one of my favourites of all the ones we’ve read. Other personal favourites include Being a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, and Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog. I was also pleased to re-read Plenty in Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao with the book club.

But it's really hard to pick favourites because I've enjoyed them all, and every single one is well worth reading! Rather than mention them all here, you can see a full list in the Animal Book Club Amazon store or on the book club page. If you're looking for something animal-related to read, it's a great place to find a good book.

Members choose the books, and they are always excellent choices! This month’s book is Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John W. Pilley with Hilary Hinzmann.

Celebrating two years of the animal book club. Here, a dog relaxes by a book.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to interview the authors of some of the book club choices, which has been a real honour (and great fun too). You can read those interviews here:

The book club reads ten books a year, taking January and July off. If you’d like to join, follow the instructions on the book club page.

Celebrating two years of the animal book club for people who love animals and love books

I also recently started a Facebook group called Animal Books for those who would like to chat about books, share news about new titles and interviews with authors, without the commitment to read a book a month. The group shares the same commitment to humane and kind treatment of animals (and people) as the Animal Book Club.

I always post the book of the month to this blog, and many people read the books alongside the book club too.

Celebrating two  years of the animal book club for people who love animals and books. Here, a fox curls up to sleep

Along the way, I’ve had fun choosing some nice photos for the announcements of each month’s book. But since it gets expensive to keep buying stock photos, I’ve switched to a standard frame that uses some of my favourite images.

Would you like a sneak preview of what we’re reading next month? It will be The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.

What are your favourite books about animals?

Celebrating two years of the animal book club. Here, a cup of coffee and a book by a pond of koi carp

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Feed Your Cat: The Modern Guide to Feline Foraging

The best way to feed cats has changed. Instead of leaving kibble in a bowl, here’s what you should do now.

How to feed your cat. Instead of leaving kibble in a bowl (pictured), here's what to do instead
Photo: Africa  Studio / Shutterstock

It used to be simple: put kibble in a bowl and leave it out all day.

But that’s not how we should be feeding our pet cats. A new consensus statement from the American Association of Feline Practitioners explains the way we feed cats now.

The AAFP says are several reasons to think more carefully about you feed your cat. One is the increase in overweight and obesity in pet cats, which is bad for their health (see: how to help a fat cat lose weight).

Another reason is that using food puzzles for cats is a great enrichment activity that engages cats’ hunting instincts. This is especially important now that most pet cats are kept indoors for a lot or all of the time.

As well, having the right feeding system can help to keep feline stress levels low. This is especially important in households with more than one cat.

Read on to find out the modern way to feed a cat.

Use puzzle feeders

Puzzle feeders are toys that make the cat work to get the food out. For example, a ball with a hole in that lets pieces of kibble fall out when the cat pushes the ball around. Or something the cat has to reach into with a paw to get the kibble.

There are many different commercially available food puzzle toys, but it’s also very easy to make your own. Most are designed for dry food like kibble, but some also work with wet food.

When your cat is new to food puzzles, you need to make them easy and use treats; over time, your cat can progress to more difficult food toys.

For reviews of many different types of food puzzles, check out foodpuzzlesforcats.

How to feed your cat: Multiple small meals a day with food toys, different locations, and separated resources

Frequent small meals for cats

The AAFP recommend the cats’ daily calorie count is split into multiple small meals throughout each 24 hour period.

Although they do not specify how many meals a day is ideal for cats, International Cat Care suggest you feed your cat five (or more) small meals a day.

Since it is likely you will be out for some of those meals, you can use an automated feeder and set the timer to provide a meal when you are at work.

Feed High Up and in Different Places

Cats like to be high up, and so food does not have to be provided on the floor. In fact, the AAFP recommend that you use high places to feed your cat.

But they caution that for some cats, such as those with arthritis, this may not be possible.

For all cats, change the location of the food instead of feeding in the same place each time. This way cats have to use their senses (such as their nose) to forage for it.

Keep food and water separate

Cats prefer to have their resources separated, so that means food should be kept separate from water. And it needs to be in a place(s) the cat feels safe.

How to feed your cat: multiple small meals a day, via food toys, and other rules of feeding cats these days
It's easy to make DIY food toys for your cat. Photo: jessjeppe / Shutterstock

As well, food and water should of course be in a different location than the litter boxes.

Separate food in multi-cat households

If you have more than one cat, you need to take account of the relationship between the cats when feeding them.

Although some cats may get on well and not mind, most cats would prefer to eat separately. Remember they are solitary hunters and would normally hunt and eat on their own.

So if you have multiple cats, make sure their food is separate. They should be able to eat their food in peace without seeing the other cats.

If need be, you can get crafty and put one cat's meals in locations other pets cannot reach or squeeze into, and/or use automatic feeders that will only open for the correct animal's microchip.

Keep an eye on your cat’s weight

Your vet will weigh your cat at each appointment, but the AAFP recommend that you monitor your cat’s weight. If you have any concerns, speak to your veterinarian.

They also say that treats should not make up more than 10% of the cat's daily calorie intake.

How to feed cats

So that’s how to feed cats: Five (or more) small meals a day, via puzzle feeders left in different locations, preferably high up, separate from the water bowl, and away from other cats in the household.

If you have any questions or concerns about you cat's weight or food, speak to your veterinarian.

Do you already follow these guidelines when feeding your cat? How many meals a day do you give your cat?

P.S. If you love Companion Animal Psychology, you can support me on ko-fi.

You might also like:  Five things to do for your cat today and how to make the world better for cats.

As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club November 2018

"The most scientifically important dog in over a century." —Brian Hare.

Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words is the Animal Book Club choice for October

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for November 2018 is Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John W. Pilley with Hilary Hinzmann.

From the back cover, 
"Chaser has fascinated dog lovers and scientists alike. Her story reveals the potential for taking out dialogue with dogs well beyond "fetch." When retired psychology professor John Pilley first got his new Border collie puppy, Chaser, he wanted to explore the boundaries of language learning and communication between humans and man's best friend. Exhibiting intelligence previously thought impossible in dogs, Chaser soon learned the names of more than a thousand toys and sentences with multiple elements of grammar. Chaser's accomplishments are revolutionizing the way we think about the intelligence of animals. John and Chaser's inspiring journey demonstrates the power of learning through play and opens our eyes to the boundless potential in the animals we love."

Will you be reading too?

Visit the Animal Book Club Amazon store or the book club page to buy this or other book club choices.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Bond Between A Horse And His Rider

Different riders recognize that they have an exceptional bond with their ponies, and they are correct. Different steeds and their riders ent...