The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 2001
Research Theme: "A Study of Relational Expansion between Humans and Companion Animals Using Telecommunications Systems"

By Ryoko Ueoka

Ryoko Ueoka specializes in multimedia study. Busy with her research, she often finds herself away from home, and it was at just such a time that she happened to become concerned about the daily behavior of the three cats she keeps. This provided the occasion for her research.

Among the pet-related goods popular of late are cameras that enable the owner to monitor their movement, but these allow observation from a fixed point only. They are not very effective for pets that are not confined to the home, but go outside. This prompted Ms. Ueoka to design a system that would enable her to monitor the positions of her cats in real time even from locations outside of the home without obstructing their movement.

In the first phase of the study, she decided to conduct observations from four positions limited to the living room: over the television set, above the sofa, at the cats' feeding area, at their entrance and exit. She set up infrared detection sensors, pressure-sensitive detectors, light sensors and strain-sensitive sensors for the coordinated monitoring of all of these areas. In addition, she fitted each of the three cats with radio transmitter tag and set up a receiver capable of distinguishing between them. Next, she set up a remote-controlled dry-food feeding apparatus fitted with a motor that could be activated by remote control, for a system that could be operated from far away. The system allows the data gathered to be stored on a computer, and also enables the user to monitor the cats' behavior remotely.

"The reason I limited the observation point of the cats to the living room was that I hypothesized that the three basic behaviors of the cats were eating, sleeping and going outside. I reasoned that this would make it possible to monitor all of the daily activities of the cats by noting whether they move past a given point or remain at rest. I also believed that they spent a majority of their time in the living room, since they eat there. But what I found out was that each of the three cats has its own entirely different lifestyle pattern and rhythm, and I was surprised at those individual differences.

"In the future, I would like to continue this research, expanding its range through the use of, for instance, more compact sensors and wireless devices that reduce the stress placed on the cats. Also, I placed the radio transmitter tabs used to distinguish among the individual cats on collars, and this method has failed numerous times because of the fact that they cannot accustom themselves to the devices. In the future, I would like to study whether telecommunications media can be used to strengthen the psychological bond between human and cat through the design of an I.D. detection device that doesn't have to be worn."