Chronicles of Athena – 18 Weeks

In the name of small anniversaries, Athena has now lived with me more than half of her life.

Which might explain why she’s such a cheeky little madam. I can’t crouch down in the kitchen without having her leap up onto my back and onto the counter (which is verboten). She also watches carefully for any evidence of the Forbidden Linen Cupboard of Mysteries being opened, and cries in anguish when it gets closed in front of her little nose.

Athena’s greatest discovery this week has been the bath. The bath is a great big slidey toy filled with interesting smells, sensations, and occasionally spiders. It is truly an exciting place to be. The bath does have some downsides in that when you are done with the bath, your paws are still wet, but so far Athena is testing out a theory that if she cries at her human long enough, her paws will magically become dry and happy again. Seeing as she cries long enough for them to dry on her own, it sort of works.

Seeing as we’re moving house in three weeks, updates will be sporadic in the coming month. Athena promises she’ll cause plenty of havoc for you to hear about.

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Welfare Audit of Isla Nublar Facility

FAO INGEN GMT
Re: Welfare Audit Isla Nublar Resort

Welfare Audit of Isla Nublar Resort, Executive Summary

The findings within are the final and mandated recommendations from this audit board and are summarised here.

Dear Mr Hammond,

Thank you for allowing our assessor access to the Isla Nublar resort for the requested welfare audit of your animals.

As discussed, we used a modified version of the Welfare Quality protocol for your animals, although we recognise that the background to the behavioural measures we have adopted is necessarily missing given the unique nature of your livestock. In spite of this, our assessor is confident that the report is full and comprehensive.

1.1 Introduction
The protocol we have chosen investigates different measures of animal welfare, namely:

  • Resource based measures (e.g. provision of food, water, shelter)
  • Animal based measures (e.g. body condition, illness)
  • Management based measures (e.g. use of analgesia where appropriate)

We investigated different measures over the five welfare domains, namely:

  • Animal nutrition
  • Animal health
  • Animal environment
  • Animal behaviour
  • Animal affective state

The full findings, along with scores, are provided in the attached report. In this executive summary we would like to draw your attention to a few key areas.

2.1 Animal Nutrition
Overall we your facility received a ‘Good’ score for its work on animal nutrition. For herbivorous animals you show particular attention to providing natural forage and different foraging opportunities. This is particularly notable in your mixed herbivore environments where different aspects of the ecosystem are utilised.

Animal based measures (Body Condition Score) were considered to be good for the herbivores with no obese or very thin animals found within the herds. Hands-on scoring was conducted for several animals, although the assessor concedes she was perhaps ambitious in trying to BCS the brachiosaur.

However your carnivorous animals have less options and there was a disturbing management strategy of providing extra feeding opportunities to provoke behaviours that might excite your guests. This is not an adequate nutritional strategy.

It is also necessary to mention, although not part of the welfare audit, that live feeding of vertebrates is illegal in many countries including the one INGEN is registered in. The goat does not have the option of avoid the T-Rex, and this is not considered a humane death. The environmental enrichment provided to the T-Rex through hunting may be provided through other means.

Note: Hands-on Body Condition Scores were not performed on the Velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dilophosaurus, Pteradons or Compsognathus.

2.2 Animal Health
Overall your facility rated a ‘Poor’ on Animal Health.

This score was primarily due to the management-based measure of ‘Number of Veterinary Staff’. You appeared to have minimal veterinary staff at any one time, in fact the assessor encountered only one. The assessor would like it noted that this professional seemed overworked and that this may well be a potential source of welfare challenges – this veterinary staff member seemed unable to recognise pupil dilation, and it is entirely possible some species have been misidentified, namely velociraptors.

In addition, there were high incidences of disease such as bumblefoot and colic, some of which seemed to go unidentified by said veterinary member of staff. There was also little provision for recuperation away from the visitors eyes. In fact one diseased animal was recuperating still on the main trail (the assessor notes that having such a delineated route through the park may be unwise regardless due to the possibility of small breakdowns stopping the entire tour).

As a corollary there was an unacceptable level of mortality in the velociraptor pen due to aggression (see 2.4)

2.3 Animal Environment
Overall your facility received an ‘Excellent’ score for environment which was considered to be varied, extensive and with plenty of opportunities for behavioural enrichment.

2.4 Animal Behaviour
Overall your facility received a ‘Poor’ score for Animal Behaviour, based principally on the animal based measures (namely >50% mortality rate due to aggression in the velociraptor pen) and management measured (namely enforced human interaction after hatching, enforced all-female groups).

Note absence of lesion scores which would be indicative of aggression, suggesting this group has settled.
Note absence of lesion scores which would be indicative of aggression, suggesting this group has settled.

2.4.1 Mortality Rate
We feel it is important to highlight within this executive summary the mortality rate in the velociraptor pen which is a deeply worrying indicator of poor welfare and must be addressed immediately.

Of 8 initial animals, a further dominant female was introduced who induced aggression related fatalities on 6 of the others, resulting in a 67% mortality rate in the velociraptor pen purely down to aggression. Not only is this a terrible welfare issue, but the assessor was confused as to how this was allowed to continue from a return of investment perspective, as the group appeared to be stable before the introduction of the dominant female. In the instances of extreme aggression, the dominant individual could have been separated from the group or indeed culled, presenting the majority with better welfare. This mortality rate can therefore be attributed to poor management decision, lack of facility to separate the animals, and lack of animal supervision.

It should be noted that much of the animal monitoring was done remotely, and this may be a contributing factor to many of the welfare challenges.

2.5 Animal Affective State
Qualitative Behavioural Assessment was used to assess affective states of your animals. However, due to the relative lack of experience the assessor had with your type of livestock, and the relatively few members of your staff which appear to have experience with the livestock, this score was not recorded.

In general, the assessor found the animals to be agitated and excitable.

2.6 Management of Facility
The level of automation, while impressive, had few redundancy measures and left the animals vulnerable to being unsupervised. The near-complete evacuation of the facility when a storm arrived raises serious questions as to the contingency planning should a fence go down.

Staff were generally lacking in training and safety procedures for animal handling. Again the velociraptor protocols must be highlighted.

3.1 Conclusions
Overall there were several elements of the welfare audit which caused great concern, of which we highlight the lack of staff, staff training, and contingency planning for behavioural issues. These three issues need urgent addressing.
In the end, Mr Hammond, after careful consideration I have decided not to endorse your park.

J. MacKay M.Sci Ph.D.

I am very excited about Jurassic World coming out soon. I wanted to set a task like this for one of my classes but I didn’t think the external examiners would ever let me get away with it – so here it is!  

Chronicles of Athena – 17 Weeks

My little baby is almost a grown up cat these days, everyone who sees her comments on how big she’s getting, which is very gratifying considering how skinny malinky she was for so long.

It has been a crazily busy week, so apologies for the lack of a lengthy post. Suffice to say FluffySciences will be moving headquarters next month and so books are being packed into bags, boxes are appearing, and Athena is exploring hitherto unknown parts of the world, such as the top of the wardrobe and the empty bookcase.

She has been terribly mischievous this week too, and is only quiet right now because she has her Cat Alone app playing on the phone. While I’m terribly critical of people who treat their pets like actual babies, I have no qualms at all about giving the kitten my phone for a moment of peace. She is undoubtedly spoiled.

As I don’t have much time or energy, I’ll just leave you with an outtake from a failed Christmas themed photoshoot (I found the tinsel box as I packed – don’t worry, she wasn’t left alone with the tinsel at all)

It was both the fault of the model and the photographer.
It was both the fault of the model and the photographer.

Chronicles of Athena – 16 Weeks

Our little Athena is reaching the cusp of four months old, and is testing all of her boundaries as only preteens can do. This week she has been showing a distinct predilection for fussiness, eschewing all tuna and cod meals and only deigning to sample her turkey and chicken. Unfortunately, other cats haven’t told her that she’s supposed to disdain the dry food as well, but that she’s still quite happy to eat up.

She’d been very clingy and generally needy towards the start of this week (so much so an internal voice started to wonder if I shouldn’t get her a companion . . . but then I’m really not convinced the space I have is big enough for two, the trials and tribulations of having a pet!), but I wonder how much of this reflects my general excitement as Athena and I will be moving house next month. Time to crack the Feliway out again!

Athena also mightily impressed me in the last few weeks with a few odd little traits. This week I was revisiting one of my favourite topics: the human-animal bond, particularly the mutualism vs social parasite theories. This is one of my favourite lectures and I love giving it, so I cheekily sneaked a modified version into one of our MSc courses.

If, in the terms of mutualism, the human-animal relationship is a beneficial one, we have to wonder how we benefit from feeding, sheltering and loving little the bags of disease and farts that are our pets. Well recently Athena’s been trying to prove why she’s good to keep around.

One of my neighbours has a learning disability and was being taken to the respite care home. I noticed first Athena’s very frazzled attitude, running about from window to window, before I heard the poor man screaming. He was deeply distressed by the move and screaming down in the street below. Athena was fascinated, her fur all on end, her whiskers pricked forward, and generally quite alert, but not distressed. She seemed more intrigued than frightened of what was a very upsetting noise.

This might be explained away by her general good confidence and experience with people, but just a few days prior, my friend Claire was robbed. She came to stay with us for a night and Athena stuck to her like glue, cuddling up to her and purring, not asking to be played with. While she’s very fond of her Aunty Claire, she rarely naps on anyone else’s lap and I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew Claire was upset. Of course, she was mightily perplexed to find Aunty Claire still in the living room the next morning and didn’t quite dare go in by herself. When she did find Aunty Claire on the couch with a duvet it was as if a whole new realm of delight was opened up for her and I think she’d petition for the duvet’s return to the sofa if she thought it would make a difference.

While Poor Aunty Claire probably does not take much solace in my pride for Athena, I’m convinced this is evidence of her ability to adapt her behaviour based on the cues of the people around her. She’s turning into a proper little lady.

Though she still likes to fart in peoples’ faces.

Value

I like when current events in the media combine to illustrate animal welfare in our society. This week’s blog post was impossible to resist.

Recently there was a bit of hubbub over a group of scientists discovering what they described as … a freaking puppy sized spider (emphasis mine, extra Raid cans also mine).

The scientists released a blog and the media picked it up and ran with it (because it was a freaking puppy sized spider. It wasn’t even chihuahua sized, this is a decent sized puppy we’re talking about. No I’m not linking to a picture. Google that yourself. Go on. Type ‘puppy sized spider’ in there. I dare you).

But here comes the twist in the tale (the puppy sized spider tail . . . wait, that doesn’t really work, does it?). Our intrepid scientist started to receive death threats and abused because he collected a specimen. And ‘collected’ in this sense means in the more Victorian sense. There is one less puppy sized spider in the world.

Piotr, for that is our scientist’s name, has written an excellent blog post describing the necessity of biological sampling, and the danger of assuming that any of us lead a guilt free life. I strongly encourage you to read it, but I’ll include this quote:

We kill thousands of organisms without realizing that we do it. Look into the light fixtures of your house or the grill of your car, they are full of dead insects and spiders. 

It is all but impossible to live a life that does not harm animals in some description, and for the most part (legally, and culturally) we often excuse ourselves by protect vertebrates. I’m really fascinated by the outrage that has come up around a spider.

This week, TV presenter Chris Packham penned an open letter to the presenters Ant and Dec asking them to put a stop to the ‘animal abuse’ in their show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. The show typically features ‘celebrities’ eating live bugs on screen as a challenge, or in one memorable case, a contestant caught, killed and ate a rat. Packham says:

“I can guarantee that some animals are harmed during production, because they are fragile or easily stressed. Or simply killed, as they are in your bushtucker trials.”

Are we heading toward a new age of invertebrate animal protection?

 

I have a visceral reaction to that spider. It makes me feel unwell. Yes, I am an arachnophobe (I’m not fond of any insect really), even the cute ones like the Peacock Spider are only tolerable when they are an image on a screen. When I see a spider the space between my shoulderblades begins to twitch and my heart begins to pump. Fear this, my body tells me, and even when I’m trying to be cool in front of other scientists, I cannot bring myself to approach. I have never held a tarantula, even though I’ve had copious opportunities to do so, because I simply would not be able to control my muscles long enough to do so.

It’s Okay To Be Smart did an interesting vid on this recently, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to discuss whether we, as a society, think it’s acceptable to harm invertebrates.

I have beliefs about the way you should treat animals. This set of beliefs arises from my experiences, my knowledge, my culture and my society. This is my ethical viewpoint. You can explore the most common ethical viewpoints and how you stack up on the excellent Animal Ethics Dilemma website.

My ethical viewpoint has changed over the years, as has yours no doubt. Our ethics can even be formed by different thought processes. Some people will describe their ethics based on how things make them feel. As a utilitarian, I try to remove my feelings from the process of making an ethical judgement (interestingly, a small study of 38 students showed that the way they reacted to images of humans experiencing injustice and unfairness influenced the way their higher-order ‘computational nodes’ of the brain – in essence it was the logical parts of the brain that react in cases of injustice, Yoder & Decety (2014). It would be fascinating to repeat this with other age groups, and with animal scenarios too. The point being that your desire for social justice does not necessarily have to be based on the emotional centres of your brain). Regardless of how your ethical viewpoint was formed, you believe it to be right. When people act against their ethical values, they can be deeply distressed.

Now some people believe you should harm no animal at all. They believe that animals have an absolute value and that we have no right to use them. To live in such a way that upholds the absolute value of all animals is very difficult. The kingdom ‘Animalia’ (the simplest way to define animals, really) encompasses a huge range of beasts: do the sponge and the jellyfish have the same absolute value as the elephant and the tiger? Every time you swat a fly, uproot a worm, or even tell a dog not to eat the cat’s food you could be violating that absolute value.

This is a difficult (though not impossible, see Jainism) way to live. But most people begin to take a more centrist position by believing that animals have an intrinsic value. We must justify their use in some way. Some justifications are easier than others. I always find the fish eating vegetarian to be a fascinating example of this. Many species of fish (which is an arbitrary group of animals anyway) have very sophisticated nervous systems and are capable of pain and suffering. Killing them humanely is difficult and catching them humanely even more so. But for many people, their ethical viewpoint can accept the death of a fish, but abhors the death of a chicken. This often comes from a relational viewpoint, where animals are prized for the way we interact with them. Most people have fewer interactions with a fish than they do a chicken or a cow, and the life of a fish is more unimaginable.

And then on the other side, some people believe that animals have an extrinsic value, that we may use them as we wish.This is more common than you might think. The cat owner who takes his cat to the vets to be euthanased because he no longer wants it is assigning its life extrinsic value. When the owner no longer takes value from the animal, the life becomes disposable.

This scale of values exists in conjunction with the various ethical viewpoints we have. I myself am a utilitarian who believes animals have an intrinsic vale. I use animals. I am also rather broad in my description of animals. For example, I’ll eat any animal so long as I can be satisfied of two questions: “Did the animal have a good quality of life/human death?” and “Will eating this animal negatively impact my health or welfare?” Now that doesn’t mean I question every animal product that passes my lips, I am more than sure I have eaten poor welfare meat (as we discussed in our kosher post), but this ethical standpoint and my view of animals’ values guides my actions.

 

However there is an element of the ‘relational’ ethical viewpoint for me. I don’t have good relationships with invertebrates, and I don’t have the same emotional reaction to their injury that I do to a vertebrate’s injury. With that being said, we describe invertebrate harm as ‘cruel’ and ‘worrying’ in several cultural contexts. Imagine the cat playing with the spider, batting it from paw to paw, tearing it limb from limb. We frequently stop our cats from doing this, in part because we are disgusted, but in part because we recognise that must be an unpleasant experience for the spider. Cats are cruel and toy with their prey (probably because they don’t recognise their prey as sentient, but with cats you never know . . .)

And then there is the case of the little boy burning ants. It’s a short hand we use for unthinking cruelty in our media, or to indicate that a character will go on to become cruel. And yet invertebrate experimentation like this is a common experience for many of growing up.

 

What is the difference, ethically speaking, in killing a spider for entertainment (I’m a Celebrity) and killing a spider for science (the puppy sized specimen). In  both cases, a spider dies, surely the ethical line is one drawn in the sand?

Well, no, I don’t think so. It’s often tempting to write off ethics as nebulous and personal, but there are many, many reasons to support both the collection of the puppy sized spider and the banning of invertebrate eating on I’m a Celebrity…

  • The ‘greater good’ of media vs science. How much does the entertainment of seeing people eat spiders benefit society?  Not a huge amount, the trials could be replaced by something equally disgusting and memorable (smelly tofu springs to mind, indeed what one of the previous winners of I’m a Celebrity ate as a vegetarian). Indeed you could argue that the destruction of animals for entertainment is an overall negative for our society, as Packham outlines.
  • By contrast, the ‘greater good’ we get from understanding the physiology of the Goliath spider is a scientific contribution to  our understanding of the world. I prize knowledge over entertainment.
  • Which brings me on to volume – the number of spiders which die for this scientific need is less than the number which die or are fatally injured for this case of entertainment.
  • And this brings me to the method – the method of killing on I’m a Celebrity is one which we might reasonably consider to be a high-stress environment, even for what we know of spider perception. Whereas we  might expect the passionate scientist to have a calmer, more human approach.

At the end of the day, if you feel animals have an extrinsic value, neither of these spider deaths will upset you. If you feel they have absolute value, both these deaths will upset you.

But most of us lie in the middle zone, where intrinsic value must meet the benefit our society gets from either entertainment or knowledge. And it is here that the great ethical debates come in.

Regardless, threatening the scientist is not going to help anyone.

Chronicles of Athena – 15 Weeks

I was very insistent this week that I write my own blog post. After all, who knows what I do better than me? My human put up a bit of a resistance, but I won. Of course.

This week I want to talk to you about my favourite games. I have lots of them. I think its good to split them into categories (I was reading an article about how to blog and it said that humans have short attention spans, they need things broken into lists. And titles that will make them think). So, without further ado . . .

You Won’t Believe These Five Games I Play With My Human

Games To Play Without Your Human

Sometimes your human abandons you. To be honest, I usually spend this time sleeping, but sometimes there will be a seagull outside or a strange human will push something through the door – this is a good opportunity to mention one of the best games you can play without your human: Attack the Carpet.

Beside the door in my home there are lots of stray threads and even a little hole in the carpet. When your human is not around you can attack these threads and pull them up. I like to take them into the kitchen where they slide around the slidey floor and I can roll about on them.

It’s very important you don’t play Attack the Carpet in front of your human as she’ll get very worked up about the whole thing (their egos are fragile and they must not think you have fun without them). My human starts getting very focussed on the litterbox when I play this game, so you do need to be aware of these strange little side effects.

 

Another great game to play by yourself is Climb the Bathtub. This is an excellent test of your climbing skills, and you lose a bunch of points if you fall off into the bath (you’ll also probably get a bit wet and need to clean yourself for a while, but the challenge is part of the fun). I try to make it from the top of the litter box, around the bottles, over the narrow bit, and onto the windowsill without falling. Sometimes I can even knock every bottle off. It’s good fun, and your human will set it up for you to play the next day too.

 

Games To Play With Your Human

Of course most things are better when your human is home. I’ve been training mine very intensely and she’s got lots of tricks. For example, there’s a game I call ‘Chasey Twix Wrapper‘ where she will throw one of my toys across the room as many times as you like. The danger with Chasey Twix Wrapper is that the human will not give up, even when the game is clearly over. Some people say you should accept your humans limitations, but I think that’s quite narrow minded. With appropriate training, all humans can be taught to play properly. When they continue to play when the game is stopped, simply sit down and watch them. Sometimes they might try playing the game by themselves, but they usually give up.

Now one of the best games ever is ‘Duvet Monster‘. This is a game that humans play in the bedroom. You have to protect them from the thing that lives under the duvet. Sometimes humans can get quite agitated so you have to remind them its just a game, they get scared very easily when you do your biggest, best pounces on the monsters.

 

And finally the best game to play with your human, well I think we can all guess, it’s a classic after all – ‘Climby Legs‘. This is still the classic game that will have you bouncing about and your human jumping around with excitement. I like to pounce from a high up place and try and catch my human’s shoulders or her chest, but we’re particularly skilled. I’d always advise you to start small, use your claws on their legs at first, but really, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

It’s really time to play I think . . .

The STEM Pipe

Our wonderful and talented communications officer, Sarah, has been working hard to promote the image of women in the STEM fields. We’ve been going round schools and encouraging people to ask us about our Women In Science posters at all of our events, and at our Barony College open day she really outdid herself with our ‘Women in STEM’ fields stall. We had a ‘dress the scientist’ event, which was a huge amount of fun, two jars of couscous (well, one jar, one bucket) representing the difference in the numbers of female and male professors in the UK, and a ‘vote’ on what words accurately described scientists.

What does a scientist wear anyway?
What does a scientist wear anyway?

 

The irony is, I’d recently applied for a communication job myself (working with the STEM fields but out of research), and I’d been tempted by another industry R & D job. While this economic climate makes applying for jobs an exercise in cover letter writing days, it’s not entirely outside the realms of possibility that I might leak from the STEM pipeline.

So while I had lots of little girls announcing they wanted to put a labcoat in the dressing up box alongside their princess outfits (I particularly loved the girls who picked up my high heels and paired that with the labcoat to be a ‘fashion scientist‘) I was also answering the questions from the mums and dads: why do women leave STEM?

I can’t speak for all women, but I can tell you what tempts me to apply for these other jobs:

  1. Money. I have a good wage right now, and postdocs are paid well in general, but industry pays us really well. Now I did apply for a communications job a few years ago where they said I was asking for too much money, but that was more of an indication to me about the way they treated their employees. STEM graduates are worth paying for, even in this economic climate, and what’s more, that money often comes with a permanent contract . . .
  2. Permanency. I’ve no real right to complain about this as I have been very lucky. My bosses have kept me around and that wasn’t easy. But I think this one is particularly hard for the women who have never left academia. We’ve thought our entire lives in 2, 3, 4 year blocks of time, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.
  3. Skills. I think I’m really good at science communication. I love doing it. A science communication job would be really enjoyable. I’ve developed a lot of skills in STEM, and some of them I want to make more use of.
  4. Opportunity. This might be more specific to the animal welfare field, but there is so little funding and so many research ideas that it feels like I’d have more luck trying to get funding from a raffle prize sometimes. It would be nice not to have to fight every single day.
  5. Values. In the last few years I have realised my core values can be satisfied without world domination – I mean I would still like to dominate the world, but in the every day, there are other things I enjoy doing. Perhaps, whisper it, my career isn’t the most important thing in my life any more.
  6. Satisfaction. What, recently, has given me the most satisfaction in my work? Is it the constant criticism and destruction of the scientific process?

Of course there is also a multitude of reasons for loving my work in the STEM fields, and I don’t expect I’ll be leaving any time soon, but it’s important to recognise that women don’t leave STEM to have babies. Academia is, in many ways, a friendly environment for that. We leave for a whole host of reasons.

What did the kids and parents think about scientists? Well, we were most often described with the words smart and silly, with interesting following along behind. Great news I think – science is fun, and I really hope girls and boys can recognise that.

Smart and silly? Better than boring!
Smart and silly? Better than boring!

Chronicles of Athena – 14 Weeks

Not to brag, but I’m writing this post sprawled out of the sofa, with a nice coffee, some freshly baked pumpkin spice cookies, a cosy blanket and a purring kitten, with the tv on and the last of the day’s sun shining in the window. It feels all very domesticated and wonderful.

But you didn’t come here to hear about my amazing ability to take recipes from the internet and cook them, even with a kitten hanging onto my apron strings (literally). You come to hear about Athena’s development.

Well this week we had our second round of vaccinations and our microchipping, neither of which we were too pleased about, but both of which mean I can take her out with her harness like we’ve been practicing to do. I’m not sure what she’ll make of it. Most challenges in Athena’s life can be overcome with a cuddle and a game with Mr Ducky, which is how I’ve been conditioning her to tolerate the harness. But she’s also a stubborn lady and if she takes it in her head to freak out about the outside world, she won’t calm down until she’s been able to get a nice quiet cuddle somewhere safe. We shall see. I was thinking at one point that if she responds well to the harness training I might volunteer us for working in a Pets As Therapy capacity, but I’m not sure if she’d like it to be honest. She does find meeting new people to be intimidating, although she’ll happily cuddle them after getting to know them. Again, we shall see.

Athena is also, as Freud might say, orally fixated. She loves to chew, taste and just occasionally nibble bits and pieces here and there. I’ve heard professional trainers say you should never allow a young animal to use its teeth with humans at all, because they should never view it as acceptable. I personally believe that cats and dogs are clever enough to learn what gentle play is. Mouth-orientated play is an important behaviour for both species, and I’ve regularly been amazed at how great some animals are at regulating their play with different kinds of people. My childhood dog, for example, was nothing but gentle with me, but much more rough and tumble with my dad. As I got older, he changed his playstyle with me, while still remaining gentle with my younger sister. Our dogs and cats, I’m sure, know what ‘appropriate’ play is.

Athena is testing me though. She loves to bite things. Be it Mr Ducky, Mr Imp, Mr Cat or Ms Cow (Ms Cow is a particular favourite of hers as she can fasten her teeth around Ms Cow’s neck and gut the holstein with her back paws. It is truly disturbing and makes me think that in a few years time when we live somewhere she might be allowed to go outside she’ll be fitted with a truly massive bell). She likes to bite people too, and so I’ve become very strict with her lately and refused to engage whenever she uses her teeth on me.

Thankfully this is working. Much to my amusement, when Aunty Claire and Aunty Suzanne visited on Tuesday night for an impromptu gin session, Athena was quite cautious about how she played with their fingers, even sometimes checking with me in a way that looked like she was expecting a telling off for being too rough.

Asides from charming delivery men who come to the door, Athena has spent most of this week causing trouble and climbing onto things she shouldn’t. Essentially, all is as it should be.