Treats on the Internets

Former Stanford microbiologist and current CEO of pet food company Because Animals, Shannon Falconer wanted a way to feed her dogs and cats meat without harming animals. The company is bringing clean meat to the pet market, including mouse treats for cats:

The treats are made with mouse tissue grown from stem cells in a food-grade bioreactor on a vegan medium, Falconer explained. No mice were killed to make the treats, but scientists had to take cells from the ears of donor mice to get started. The process involved putting a mouse under a mild anesthetic while their ear was pierced.

Two years later, the donor mice are doing well, Falconer says. Employees of Because Animals adopted all three of them, and they live in a rather plush mouse house.

The Marsh Tacky, a breed of horse native to South Carolina whose ancestors were brought here by Spanish colonists, is critically endangered with an estimated population under 500. A small horse capable of maneuvering through swamps, the Marsh Tacky has its own unique gait. Breeders are working together to increase both the population and the genetic diversity, difficult in a small group of animals.

Researchers have found that not all of the base colors seen in modern dogs trace back to the grey wolf:

[T]he genetic combination for the dominant yellow coat derived from an extinct species of [white] wolf that lived over two million years ago.

The relatively young field of canine cognition has yielded numerous findings, including the ability of dogs to look where we are pointing to find food – something chimpanzees, our closest animal relatives, are incapable of doing. And there are numerous applications to understanding how individual dogs think:

At the Duke Canine Cognition Center in North Carolina, Brian Hare is trying to determine — when a dog is still a puppy — whether the way a dog thinks might make her a good candidate for different jobs as an adult.

One test Hare designed to help make this determination:

It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. 

Animal rescuers, including a Royal Marine veteran are among the many people trying to get out of Afghanistan. But of course they want to take their animals with them.

5 thoughts on “Treats on the Internets

  1. The mouse treats are SPECTACULAR! I have been following the cell-based meat companies closely and very excited about the potential, there. But this is the first I’ve heard of a cell-based meat intentionally for animals! Bravo to them!

    Kobayashi Maru – OMG. Nerds in science are a beautiful thing.

  2. I signed up for the list to buy the meatless mouse treats when they come out. Hopefully I will remember to update you on what the cats think.

    1. Oooh, I didn’t see where you can sign up – can you share the link, please? Very curious because my Phil won’t eat mice – he’s a rat guy. But maybe in treat form?

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