Assessing the impact of fear, anxiety and boredom in animals

RSPCA meeting on animal health and welfare

source: Veterinary Record vol 152 no 21, May 24 2003
starts p639, 2 pages long

The RSPCA has held a meeting in London, England, to examine animal welfare and the emotional wellbeing of pets and domestic animals. Corticosteroids and other substances can be measured to assess how animals respond to stimuli, but this only tells part of the story. It also helps to look at animals' behaviour and expression, to give a fuller picture.

University of Birmingham's David Morton argues that anthropomorphism can help in predicting how animals might feel. A situation that might leave humans scared, bored or stressed could have the same effect on other animals. Stifling the normal behaviour of an animal is not good for animal welfare, whilst providing a novel environment does enhance welfare. Welfare is a concept which involves more than ensuring that animals are healthy. Meanwhile, Bristol University's Chris Sherwin noted that laboratory animals have colour preferences for cages, which should be taken into account to help them achieve happiness.

Pet dogs may suffer separation anxiety when left alone, noted University of Southampton's John Bradshaw. Dogs and cats need to be exposed to different sorts of stimuli while they are puppies and kittens, since this improves their emotional wellbeing.