You know how animal activists get all freaked out about the sub-standard ways in which food goes from factory to table? Watching veal cows live soulless existences does manage to taint any part of the day it enters into. But if you ignore the crippling, scream-inducing pain for a second, it leaves you open to consider one of life’s greater mysteries: does captivity bore that animal?
For a study appearing in PLOS ONE, University of Guelph postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Meagher and others demonstrated that boredom exists in minks, in a study that is as simply presented as it is curious. The subject of animal boredom has been talked about, but no solid evidence has been gathered until now. Your dog falling asleep during Parks and Rec is a sign of its stupidity, not its boredom.
An animal has a very limited scope when it comes to expressing the state of its mental stimulation, so the actual motivation to find this stimulus was the optimal measurement device. The researchers used two sets of minks, ones that were kept in small cages with nothing to occupy their time, and others that were kept in mini-mansion cages, complete with water, passageways, chew toys, and climbing towers. If you’re like me, you just wrinkled your brow and called that second group of minks assholes.
A variety of stimuli were then presented to the two groups. The objects ranged in implied impact, from treats to neutral objects to undesirable items. The minks from the empty cages were desperate for any stimuli, frightening or not. They were three times more likely to approach the objects, and studied them longer, also eating more treats in the process. Without the stimuli, these minks would spend their empty cage time lying down. The ones that spent the most time awake were showed the most interest. I guess the ones that slept were just considered lazy instead of bored.
Boredom is one of those aspects of human behavior that doesn’t have libraries of research devoted to it, since it’s such a subjective feeling. But chances are, this study will lead to others, and MRIs and gene identification are on the horizon. I don’t think it’s completely out of the question for Colorado and Washington zoos to get those tigers stoned so they’ll come out from behind those goddamned rocks and watch Office Space with me. Because they’re bored. Not because I want to get a tiger high. I mean, can you believe that minks are bored, and they have to also be coats?
In the meantime, check out the best way possible to ensure that your pet never has to suffer.