Beacon Press: Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes
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Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes

The Science of Animal Personalities

Author: John Shivik

A wildlife expert explores what science tells us about animals as unique individuals and why animal personality matters for the human-animal bond and for adaptation in nature.

Why are some cats cuddly and others standoffish? Why are some dogs adventuresome, others homebodies? As any pet owner can attest, we feel that the animals we’ve formed bonds with are unique, as particular (and peculiar) as any friend or loved one. But is there a scientific basis for this notion, or are we just projecting our feelings onto the animal world? Objective evidence exists, as it turns out, but science has been reluctant to acknowledge it until recently. For more than a hundred years, scientists have neglected the study of animal personality due to an unwillingness to anthropomorphize. Now, however, mainstream scientists are beginning to accept the idea that animals of all kinds—from apes and birds to crabs and spiders—do indeed have individual personalities.

In Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes, veteran wildlife expert Dr. John Shivik brings us stories from the front lines of this exciting new discipline. Drawing on his scientific training, as well as his storytelling gifts, Shivik serves as an accessible, humorous guide to the emerging body of research on animal personalities. Researchers are finding that each wolf, bear, and coyote has an inherent tendency to favor either its aggressive nature or to shyly avoid conflicts. Some bluebirds are lovers, others are fighters. Some water striders are passive, others bellicose. Unique personalities can be discovered in every corner of the animal kingdom. Even microscopic organisms can exhibit varying tendencies. The array of personality types among all species is only beginning to be described and understood. As Shivik argues, individuality in animals is important not only for the human-animal bond but also for evolution, adaption, and species diversity in the wild.
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“Anyone who’s had the pleasure (or not) of spending time with other animals, ranging from insects to reptiles to fish to birds to big-brained mammals, knows they’re unique individuals with a wide variety of personalities. In this important book, Dr. John Shivik combines cutting-edge science with wonderful stories and shows that a wide variety of nonhumans are neither mindless nor all the same. Rather, they’re fascinating beings who can be timid, bold, shy, outgoing, and, on occasion, downright obnoxious. And it’s their unique personalities that bond us to them, because in so many ways they display the same range of personalities as do we.”
—Marc Bekoff, author of The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age

“Dr. John Shivik relates his personal conversion to the viewpoint that each animal has his or her own personality, an idea that scientists have resisted until recently. This enjoyable book is loaded with fun personal anecdotes, as well as solid scientific information. I highly recommend it.”
—Con Slobodchikoff, author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals

“I’ll tell you what’s rarer than a mousy cat or a sheepish coyote: a behavioral scientist who’s gutsy enough to admit he had animals pegged all wrong! Brave, funny, honest, and insightful, John Shivik’s new book chronicles his transformation and the revelations that come with understanding that, like people, all animals are individuals. From cats to coyotes to guppies to bees, the individual animals you’ll meet in these pages will blow your mind, warm your heart, and make your hair stand on end. This important book heralds a scientific revolution. Don’t miss it.”
—Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus

“How wonderful to see science confirming what we know in our hearts to be true: emotional bonds are created between individuals, and every living being has its own uniqueness. In his own playful voice, Dr. Shivik confirms that evolution is driven by difference, not sameness, and that personality is more important than looks for creatures great and small. An important and delightful read!”
—Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution

Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes

ISBN: 978-080707151-9
Publication Date: 11/7/2017
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $26.95
Format: Cloth
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: November 2017
(Backorder policy)