|CAIRC Contribution to Study of Human-Animal Relations
Receives International Recognition With IAHAIO Affiliation
In October, the Companion Animal Information
and Research Center (CAIRC) was formally recognized as an affiliate
member of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction
Organizations (IAHAIO). All of us at CAIRC are proud to announce our
new membership in IAHAIO.
We believe that this formal recognition
of our affiliation with IAHAIO stems from the value placed on CAIRC's
contribution to the study of relations between humans and companion
animals, as well as the close accord between our objectives and those
of the international organization.
IAHAIO is a non-governmental organization
(NGO) with international recognition in this field, which received
official backing by the World Health Organization during its Prague
Conference held in 1998. The Japan's national member of IAHAIO is
the Japanese Animal Hospital Association (JAHA).
Today, the study of human-animal relations
is gaining increased recognition as a scholarly field. The social,
psychological and physiological benefits that humans derive from relations
with companion animals have been made plainly evident. We believe
that our affiliation with IAHAIO will provide us with an excellent
opportunity to further enhance our contribution to the development
of this field.
Please contact JAHA or CAIRC for guidelines
on submitting papers for presentation at the 9th International Conference
on Human-Animal Interactions, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
September 13-15 2001.
IAHAIO President Dr. Dennis Turner Visits Japan
Holds Press Seminar Organized by CAIRC
CAIRC organized a press seminar on Nov.
2 at Hotel the New Otani, Tokyo, on the occasion of its new membership
in IAHAIO, featuring Dr. Dennis C. Turner, president of the international
organization. Dr. Turner is a specialist in animal behavior who received
Doctor of Science degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1974. He
is currently director of the Institute for Applied Ethology and Animal
Psychology (I.E.A.P) in Hirzel/Zurich, Switzerland. He also heads
the IEMT-Konrad Lorenz Trust, and is a Senior Research Associate and
Lecturer at the Zoology Institute of the University of Zurich, where
he conducts research on Companion Animal Ethology and serves on the
teaching faculty at the university's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Turner has introduced a number of innovations that have furthered
research in this field, and his presentation included the following
"In the past decade with scientifically
controlled studies, researchers of human-animal relationships have
discovered many more benefits of social interaction with companion
animals than ever suspected. When we speak to and stroke our cats
and dogs, our faces and voices show a number of stereotyped changes
that indicate a relaxed status. We all know the results of studies
showing that stroking an animal indeed reduces our pulse rate and
lowers our blood pressure.
such calming effects of stroking a pet dog or cat can only be expected
where past experiences with such animals have been positive. A colleague
of mine in the United States was also able to show that the effect
was strongest when one's own dog was being stroked, rather than a
strange dog even though all participants liked all dogs. There
is definitely something personal about the human-pet relationship.
"A few years ago Professor James Serpell
published a landmark paper in the British Journal of the Royal Society
of Medicine showing an increase in measures of quality of life upon
acquiring a dog or cat and a significant reduction in the number of
complaints about minor health problems such as headaches, hay fever,
vision problems, lower back and back pain.
"Five years ago Professor Warwick Anderson
discovered in a study with a sample size of over 6,000 that male dog
and cat owners showed significantly lower triglyceride and cholesterol
levels than non-owners all other heart risk factors such as smoking
habits, amount of exercise etc., being the same in the two groups.
"Four years ago, Professor Garry Jennings
from the Baker Medical Institute in Australia announced that pet owners
sought out their private physicians less often than non-owners (8%
less often for dog owners, 12% less often for cat owners) and required
significantly less medication."
As the elderly proportion of our population
increases, it will become all the more important to ease the symptoms
of those who suffer minor ailments. Through ongoing research, it may
be possible to show that this can be accomplished through maintaining
relationships with companion animals. If we can demonstrate that pet
ownership can help people cut down on hospital visits, and keep blood
cholesterol and triglyceride levels down, the health benefits of keeping
pets should become even clearer as would their ability to help
reduce medical costs as well.
76% of Cat Owners Rate Their Own Cats "Ideal"
Dr. Turner continued the seminar with a
presentation of his own research findings.
"For many years now, I have been studying
the human-cat relationship, combining ethological (or observational)
and psychological methods. In one project, we asked several hundred
cat owners to assess their cats and relationships to their cats with
reference to 31 traits such as 'proximity' and 'curiosity' by placing
an 'X' along the continuum at that point between the two extremes
of 'very weak' and 'very strong' which they felt best described their
"After completion of the form for their
actual cat and relationship, they were asked to fill it out a second
time using circles to mark where, in their opinion, the ideal cat
and ideal relationship would be found. We could then measure the difference
between the actual and ideal values, the idea being that large differences
and/or a large number of differences would give us an indication of
less harmonious relationships.
"Out of the 31 traits, 18 were selected
for more detailed analysis and included both positive and negative
traits. The percentage of persons who rated their actual cat/relationship
at exactly the same place along the continuum that their ideal cat/relationship
would be found, was, averaged over all traits, 76%.
"We found a highly significant positive
correlation between self-reported level of affection towards the cat
and self-estimated level of affection by the cat towards the owner.
That is, the deeper an owner's affection for a cat, the more affection
that owner felt to be returned by the cat. Level of affection towards
the cat also correlated positively with general cleanliness of the
cat, regular use of the cat toilet, curiosity, playfulness and predictability.
"The estimated affection of the cat
toward the owner correlated positively with the cat's suspected enjoyment
of physical contact with the owner, its general proximity to the owner,
its predictability, its general cleanliness and its 'likeness to humans'.
That's what goes into our assessment of how much our cats love us."
Human-Cat Relations Are About Give-and-Take
"One goal of my research has been to
determine an ethological measure for relationship quality. In one
research project, I calculated the proportion of intentions to interact
(defined as a physical approach to, or a vocalization directed at
the counterpart) that were successful for the cat and for the person
in each relationship. I then attempted to correlate these values with
total interaction time over all human-cat pairs. I found a significant
negative correlation for the data for the people. Thus, the more successful
the person is in initiating interactions, the shorter the total interaction
time with the cat.
"Then I found that the higher the proportion
of successful intents to interact that were due to the cat, the more
time was spent interacting. From all the households visited for observation,
my assistants had recorded over 6,000 intents to interact by either
the owner or the cat, and for each human-cat pair, whenever the cat
showed an intent to interact, I could calculate the proportion of
'starts' due to the owner, or, the owner's willingness to comply with
the cat's wish to interact.
"It became clear that when a person
complied with the cat's wishes to interact, then the cat complied
with the person's wishes at other times. More importantly, the more
the person complies with the cat's wishes to interact, the more the
cat complies with the person's wishes. In other words, the more an
owner complies with the cat's wishes, the more interaction the cat
will allow the owner to initiate.
We may think we are controlling the interaction
by initiating it, but in fact it is the cat that controls the duration
of interaction. This is truly a relationship based on the give-and-take
of partnership, rather than the coercion of one-sided mastery.
Cats Are There When the Depressed Owners
Want to Interact
Dr. Turner also touched on aspects of the
relationship between animal companionship and mental health.
"Gerulf Rieger and I conducted a recent
study of about 100 single persons living together with a cat and 31
single women who were former cat owners, but no longer had an animal.
Just before we observed the interactional behavior of the single cat
owners on one evening each, they had to complete a standard psychological
tool used to assess their mood by describing their momentary feelings
with reference to 13 "mood" subscales.
"Both men and women showed more social
behavior toward their cats when they were feeling 'less active', 'more
sensitive', 'more fearful' and 'more depressed'. We also found that
when the person was in a depressed mood, the cat 'rubbed her head
and flank' with increasing frequency if the person became increasingly
depressed in the course of the two-hour observations.
"The comparison of moods of current
single cat-owning women, with those of former cat-owning woman indicated
that those who no longer kept a cat felt 'less active', 'more sensitive',
'more introverted', 'more fearful' and 'more depressed'.
"Are cats then to be considered a 'substitute'
for human companions? As indicated by a further study of 64 women,
in which we found no differences in the human-cat interactions between
the women with large social support networks, and the women with small
social support networks. And from analysis of psychological data on
a larger sample of 330 women, we found no relationship between the
amount of emotional support the woman felt she received from other
persons and the amount of emotional support she felt she received
from her cat.
"From these results, we concluded that
cats are not a substitute for another person in the social network,
but rather an ADDITIONAL source of emotional support for people, especially
for those who have a strong attachment to their animals. Therefore,
cats are good for you if you like them.
Cats have an existence that transcends human perceptions of "cuteness",
and if owners consider the diversity of personalities among cat varieties, and
respect their various needs, cats can be pets that make a household a warmer,
more affectionate environment. That requires factual information on two levels:
that of the lay person who loves and wants to understand more about cats, and
that of the professional veterinarian and animal behaviorist/animal psychologist,
who advices cat-owning clients.