A Pet In Your Life Keeps The Doctor Away

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Lowers blood pressure, encourages exercise, improves psychological health— these may sound like the effects of a miracle drug, but they are actually among the benefits of owning a four-legged, furry pet.

This fall, the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) will explore the many ways animals benefit people of all ages during the International Society for Anthrozoology and Human-Animal Interaction Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 20-25.

“Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives,” said Rebecca Johnson, associate professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, the College of Veterinary Medicine and director of ReCHAI. “This conference will provide a unique opportunity to connect international experts working in human-animal interaction research with those already working in the health and veterinary medicine fields. A wonderful array of presentations will show how beneficial animals can be in the lives of children, families and older adults.”
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Hyenas Cooperate, Problem-Solve Better Than Primates

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Spotted hyenas may not be smarter than chimpanzees, but a new study shows that they outperform the primates on cooperative problem-solving tests.Captive pairs of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) that needed to tug two ropes in unison to earn a food reward cooperated successfully and learned themaneuvers quickly with no training. Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced partners do the trick.When confronted with a similar task, chimpanzees and other primates often require extensive training and cooperation between individuals may not be easy, said Christine Drea, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University.

Drea’s research, published online in the October issue of Animal Behavior, shows that social carnivores like spotted hyenas that hunt in packs may be good models for investigating cooperative problem solving and the evolution of social intelligence. She performed these experiments in the mid-1990s but struggled to find a journal that was interested in non-primate social cognition.
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