June 17 – Not So Grumpy Cat

Today’s factismal: Cat videos are the most popular thing on YouTube.

If you love animals, or just enjoy goofing off, odds are that you’ve spent some time watching silly pet videos on YouTube. They range from the uber-popular “Grumpy Cat” to short one-offs produced by kids playing with their parent’s camera. But one thing that all of those videos have in common is that they are popular. How popular are they? Just look at the numbers. Last year, YouTube had a total of 2 million cat videos and the average cat video was seen some 13,000 times for a total of 26 billion views; that makes them the most-viewed thing on YouTube.

And it is no wonder. Researchers have long known that pets can improve a person’s mood and ability to think (what researchers call “affect” and “cognitive ability”); this has become so common that it even has its own name – “pet therapy”. Pets such as cats and dogs have been used to aid elders, patients in hospitals, and even with those on the autism spectrum. And it isn’t just cats that provide therapy; dogs, birds, and even horses have been used to help people in need. Though we’re not sure how pet therapy works, we do know what it does; it improves our emotional health. A recent study showed that people tended to have lower levels of anxiety, sadness, and annoyance after watching a pet video. So watch away!

But we don’t just feel better from watching pets; they can feel better (or worse) from watching us . And that’s where the citizen science comes in. The Center for Canine Behavior Studies is trying to determine what makes dogs act out. Why are some dogs always cheerful and friendly while other dogs suffer from behavioral problems such as whining, scratching, destructiveness, and failure to housebreak? How does the emotional state of the owner affect that of the dog? And how can we better match the dog to the owner to prevent abandonment? To help them answer those questions (and more!) all you have to do is register and answer a questionnaire on the site:
http://centerforcaninebehaviorstudies.org/

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