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Doris Lin

Captive Animals Display Signs of Boredom

By November 14, 2012

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A new study from researchers at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada, has found that animals in captivity demonstrate signs of boredom.

While they can't poll the non-human animals directly, researchers kept one group of minks in "enriched" cages (with enrichments such as chew toys and climbing toys), and another group of minks in barren cages. Researchers placed various objects in the cages and found that individuals in the barren cages were quicker to examine the foreign objects, even if the objects were normally frightening, such as leather gloves that are used to catch the animals. The individuals in the barren cages also ate more treats, even though both groups were given the same amount of food. Not surprisingly, the minks in the barren cages also spent more of their waking hours lying down and idle, compared to their counterparts who had toys.

To animal activists, the study was cruel and unnecessary. To most people, these results are obvious. Anyone who has ever lived with a dog or cat could tell you that non-human animals like to play and need stimuli or they will get bored. Large animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit not only boredom but stress, and elephants in zoos live shorter lives. But for those who don't think animals suffer in captivity, this scientific proof may be persuasive. Unfortunately, the researchers now want to do more studies on captive animals and boredom, involving more species.

Earlier this year, an unrelated international panel of neuroscientists signed a declaration that animals have consciousness. The author of the declaration has gone vegan and called for an end to invasive animal research.

Image Doris Lin 2012, licensed to About.com, Inc.


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