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Bored Animals

August 2, 2017

An animal welfare researcher calls the study of the biological basis of boredom in animals.


Postdlf Ursus_maritimus_at_the_Bronx_Zoo_020 CC BY-SA 3.0, via wikipedia

A polar bear keeps boredom in check by playing with balls at the Bronx Zoo. (Postdlf/BY-SA 3.0, via wikipedia/cropped)


Animal boredom. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Humans aren’t the only species that suffers from the negative effects of boredom. That’s one reason zoos provide enriching toys to keep captive animals stimulated. Now, animal welfare scientist Charlotte Burn of the Royal Veterinary College is making the case for the study of boredom in animals.

CHARLOTTE BURN (Royal Veterinary College):

Boredom has not really been studied from a biological point of view before, but it’s really important to do so because it causes lots of problems in humans and it could be potentially a really huge welfare issue for animals as well.


Burn writes in the journal Animal Behaviour that like us, animals may avoid monotony by engaging in dangerous behaviors. For example, they might eat harmful foods or act impulsively. But she says boredom may also have a function, boosting resilience by motivating animals to explore new niches. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.