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Cats prefer to get free meals rather than work for them

When given the choice between a free meal and performing a task for a meal, cats would prefer the meal that doesn’t require much effort. While that might not come as a surprise to some cat lovers, it does to cat behaviorists.

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Photo by Dietmar Ludmann from Unsplash.com

When given the choice between a free meal and performing a task for a meal, cats would prefer the meal that doesn’t require much effort. While that might not come as a surprise to some cat lovers, it does to cat behaviorists. Most animals prefer to work for their food — a behavior called contrafreeloading.

new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine showed most domestic cats choose not to contrafreeload. The study found that cats would rather eat from a tray of easily available food rather than work out a simple puzzle to get their food.

“There is an entire body of research that shows that most species including birds, rodents, wolves, primates — even giraffes — prefer to work for their food,” said lead author Mikel Delgado, a cat behaviorist and research affiliate at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “What’s surprising is out of all these species cats seem to be the only ones that showed no strong tendency to contrafreeload.”

In the study, Delgado, along with co-authors Melissa Bain and Brandon Han of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, provided 17 cats a food puzzle and a tray of food. The puzzle allowed the cats to easily see the food but required some manipulation to extract it. Some of the cats even had food puzzle experience.

“It wasn’t that cats never used the food puzzle, but cats ate more food from the tray, spent more time at the tray and made more first choices to approach and eat from the tray rather than the puzzle,” said Delgado.

Cats that were part of the study wore activity monitors. The study found that even cats that were more active still chose the freely available food. Delgado said the study should not be taken as a dismissal of food puzzles. She said just because they don’t prefer it, doesn’t mean they don’t like it. Delgado’s previous research shows puzzles can be an important enrichment activity for cats.

Why cats prefer to freeload is also unclear. Delgado said the food puzzles used in the study may not have stimulated their natural hunting behavior, which usually involves ambushing their prey.

The study was published in the journal Animal Cognition. The research was supported by Maddie’s Fund and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Pet Care

Dogs with less complex facial markings found to be more expressive in their communication with humans

Over time, our four-legged friends have adapted well to understanding human modes of communication, both verbal and nonverbal. However, researchers at the George Washington University say humans could do more to better understand our furry companions, and a dogs’ facial markings may be one key to meeting them halfway.

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The domestication of canines and their co-evolution with humans has fostered an incredibly unique relationship with these animals. Over time, our four-legged friends have adapted well to understanding human modes of communication, both verbal and nonverbal. However, researchers at the George Washington University say humans could do more to better understand our furry companions, and a dogs’ facial markings may be one key to meeting them halfway.

In a new paper published in the journal Animals, researchers from the GW Primate Genomics Lab found that dogs with plainer faces—e.g. dogs whose faces are one, solid color or dogs without any facial markings—appear to make more facial movements, or expressions when interacting with their human companions than dogs with more complex facial markings—dogs with multi-colored or patterned faces. The study also found that people are fairly good at assessing their dogs’ levels of expressivity overall, but people with canine companions between the ages of about two to seven years old are more accurate at judging their level of expressivity if their dog has a plainer face.

The study involved over 100 dogs and their people. The researchers asked each study participant to record their dogs in four different conditions. The research team then utilized a standardized coding system called DogFACS to analyze each dog’s behavior and created a novel system to scale and evaluate facial markings and patterns on dogs’ faces. Study participants were also asked to complete a survey that included various demographics about the dogs and gauged how well the participant judged their dog’s expressions.

The researchers say these findings have real-world implications, not only for dog lovers, but for anyone interacting with, working alongside, or living in neighborhoods with canine companions.

“As dogs become more and more integrated into human society, it’s important that we understand how they communicate with us and how we can better communicate with them,” Courtney Sexton, the study’s lead author, says. “If we think about this in terms of welfare contexts, or dogs in shelters, or working dogs and service animals, or interactions with dogs in your neighborhood or people at a dog park, knowing what dogs are trying to tell us and what they might be thinking or feeling can really enhance both their experience and ours when we’re together.”

The study also found that senior dogs appear less expressive in their communication with their human companions, which Sexton suggests may be because older dogs have a longer, more well-established relationship with their human companion, so they don’t have to work as hard at being understood. The research team also found that working dogs or highly trained dogs were more expressive, where this sort of relationship demands fluent communication and people may be more adept at understanding their dogs’ expressions.

Recordings of participating dogs in this research can be found on Instagram, @how_dogs_talk.

The paper, “What Is Written on a Dog’s Face? Evaluating the Impact of Facial Phenotypes on Communication between Humans and Canines,” was published in the journal Animals. Researchers from GW’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology and the Hecht Lab/Canine Brains Project at Harvard University as well as collaborators at Working Dogs for Conservation contributed to this study. Funding for research travel and research-related outreach came from Lewis N. Cotlow Field Research Fund and the Awesome Foundation, D.C. Chapter.

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Pet Care

Tips for new and seasoned pet owners on how to keep happy, healthy pets

Pet Insure is a customized non-life product specifically designed to protect the health of dogs no matter their breed, allowing dog parents to fully address the needs of their fur babies, including emergencies and accidents.

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Filipinos adore having pets. With 79% of Filipinos being pet owners, it’s no surprise that they find joy in taking care of animals, whether they’re of the feathered, furred, or even scaled kind. But beyond the joy of companionship and protection, pets offer a multitude of health benefits, including increasing opportunities to exercise and socialize and even alleviating feelings of loneliness, allowing pet owners to live healthier, happier lives.

Pets offer unconditional love to their families, and as such, it is every pet parent’s responsibility to ensure that their pets are also living their best and healthiest lives. So if you’re planning to be a first-time pet parent or a pet parent looking for tips on how to care for your pets better, here are some tips to take into consideration.

Ensure that your pet can thrive in the environment you’re in

Yes, pets are cute and are a joy to have around but the first step for any prospective pet owner is to gauge if the pet you want to take care of can thrive in the environment you’re living in. In the Philippines, that means looking for pets that can live in tropical climates.

For furry animals like cats and dogs, this means looking for breeds that have the right kind of coats and body structures. Otherwise, pet parents should invest in creating the right environment for their pets, including proper temperature regulation and ventilation.

Feed your pets food that’s proper and healthy for them

A responsible pet parent should always do research on what to feed their pets. Like humans, pets can have intolerances, allergies, and even food that are poisonous for them. It’s important to learn about what a proper, balanced diet is like for your pet and this can be done through research and through consultations with your veterinarian.

Exercise your pets

Pets need exercise, as this not only helps them burn their energy but also keeps them limber and mentally and physically healthy, as in the case of dogs. Just make sure that the type of exercise you give your pets is appropriate for them, as different pets and breeds require different kinds of exercise.

Keep up with their checkups and vaccinations

Taking care of pets is very much like taking care of ourselves–they need proper nutrition, exercise, and regular medical checkups. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all pets should receive a physical medical examination at least once a year. These visits include regular vaccinations and treatments to ensure that they are healthy, as unlike humans, pets may not be able to communicate or show outward signs of disease or injury–things a trained veterinarian can spot and provide treatment and guidance on.

Invest in pet insurance

Routine vet visits and even unexpected medical emergencies can put strain on a pet owner’s finances, which is why it’s important to consider getting a pet insurance product like Pet Insure.

Pet Insure is a customized non-life product specifically designed to protect the health of dogs no matter their breed, allowing dog parents to fully address the needs of their fur babies, including emergencies and accidents.

Regional insurtech Igloo, together with Malayan Insurance and GCash, created Pet Insure to afford owners convenience and security as it offers three-in-one coverage that includes medical reimbursement for veterinary care up to a maximum of P100,000; owner’s liability coverage of up to a maximum of P250,000; and a personal accident cover for dog owners worth P50,000 for as low as P650 for a one-month coverage on the GCash GInsure marketplace.

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Pet Care

Boehringer Ingelheim launches its first-in-class broad-spectrum topical parasite treatment for cats

The new treatment is designed to safeguard cats from a wider range of parasites than any other product on the market, covering both external parasites and internal parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, face mange, hookworm, roundworm, vesical worm, lungworm, heartworm prevention, as well as tapeworm infections that affect their health and quality of life.

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Boehringer Ingelheim, a global leader in animal health, has launched the parasite treatment, NexGard COMBO for cats. With nearly 20 years of expertise in preventing parasites such as fleas, ticks, Lyme disease and more in dogs, NexGard now adds a feline-specific product to the NexGard family. The new treatment is designed to safeguard cats from a wider range of parasites than any other product on the market, covering both external parasites and internal parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, face mange, hookworm, roundworm, vesical worm, lungworm, heartworm prevention, as well as tapeworm infections that affect their health and quality of life.

Parasite infections are common in cats and prevalent across Asia. According to an epidemiological study of over 1,000 cats in eastern and Southeast Asia, 43% of pet cats suffer from external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites and 14% harbour deadly internal parasites such as hookworm, heartworm and roundworm.[i]

“Boehringer Ingelheim has always been on the cutting edge of research and development in the parasiticide space. Trusted by pet owners and veterinarians alike, our NexGard® family of products is currently ranked top in pet parasiticide sales worldwide. In Asia where over 26% of pet owners have cats[ii], we are thrilled to expand our feline parasite prevention line-up, which includes Broadline and FRONTLINE PLUS Cat, with NexGard COMBO for cats. It is an innovative one-and-done formula with esafoxolaner, the first isoxazoline parasiticide formulated for cats plus eprinomectin and praziquantel for the broadest external and internal parasite coverage to date,” said Sukje Sung, Head of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Philippines, Inc.

Common misconceptions about parasites in cats

Parasite infections are often disregarded as trivial issues but can cause serious health complications in cats such as bloody diarrhoea, dehydration, skin inflammation and anaemia. Ear mites are common causes of feline ear infections which are often picked up when roaming outdoors and can cause itchiness, inflammation and swelling of the ear canal.3 Additionally, some internal parasites such as hookworms can attach themselves to the intestines and to feed on the blood of cats. Left untreated, hookworm infections can result in potentially life-threatening blood loss, weakness, and malnutrition.4

Despite the high prevalence of parasite infections, many pet owners remain unaware of how common they are. In fact, according to veterinary specialist Dr. Ross Antonio Banayo, Technical Manager for the Companion Animal Business Segment of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Philippines, Inc. pet owners remain misinformed about how these parasites are transmitted and impact their cats. These common misconceptions include:

  • Cats that are kept indoors are not susceptible to parasite infections and do not require regular veterinary visits.
  • Cats only require treatment when they are infected with parasites. Preventive treatment is not necessary.
  • Parasite infections are self-limiting and do not cause serious health issues.
  • Removal of ticks and fleas can be effectively managed with parasite prevention shampoos alone.

According to Dr. Ross Antonio Banayo, Technical Manager for the Companion Animal Business Segment of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Philippines, Inc. “Parasite infections can be particularly dangerous for cats. Common feline behaviours like grooming and roaming outdoors put them at a higher risk of contracting a variety of parasites. Often, cats only present with symptoms much later into the infection, resulting in worse complications. This highlights the need for us to change perceptions and move towards a preventive approach to parasite infections to safeguard their health.”

Parasites can be transmitted and affect human health too

Parasite infections not only impact the health of cats but can be transmitted to humans to cause complications such as skin infections, anaemia, gastrointestinal disturbances and more. Fortunately, transmission can be effectively prevented by administering regular parasiticide treatment for cats and adhering to regular follow-ups with a veterinarian.

“The lives of pets and humans are so deeply interconnected that their health issues can impact our own. Just as we are shifting towards a preventive approach to human health, NexGard COMBO is our preventive solution to preserve the health of cats. It represents the next step that we are taking to improve the health of animals across the region and drive a positive impact on our own health into the future,” said Sung.

The monthly treatment protects pet cats and their households from the deadly, debilitating, and transmittable internal and external parasites.

Important Safety Information

NexGard COMBO is for topical use only in cats. The most frequently reported adverse reactions include vomiting, application site reactions, and anorexia. If ingested, hypersalivation may occur.

Avoid direct contact with application site for 4 hours or until visibly dry.

Esafoxolaner is a member of the isoxazoline class. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures in cats with or without a history of seizures.

Use with caution in cats with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders.

The safety of NexGard COMBO has been tested and is approved in breeding, pregnant, or lactating queen (cats) in the Philippines. The safety of the product has not been established in breeding male cats.

NexGard COMBO is for use in cats 8 weeks of age and older, weighing 0.8 kg or more.


[i] Colella V, Nguyen VL, Tan DY, Lu N, Fang F, Zhijuan Y, et al. Zoonotic Vectorborne Pathogens and Ectoparasites of Dogs and Cats in Eastern and Southeast Asia. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(6):1221-1233. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2606.191832. Accessed April 2023.

[i] Rakuten Insight. Pet Ownership in Asia. Available from https://insight.rakuten.com/pet-ownership-in-asia/. Accessed April 2023.

3 Little, S., and K. Duncan. “Ear mites: Uncovering, treating, and preventing infestations.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, 16 June 2021, todaysveterinarypractice.com/parasitology/ear-mites-uncovering-treating-and-preventing-infestations/. Accessed 9 May 2023

4 American Veterinary Medical Association. Parasites in cats and dogs. Available from https://ebusiness.avma.org/files/productdownloads/LR_COM_ClientBroch_InternalParasites.pdf Accessed May 2023.

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