Animals get bored too

Someone play with me… Photo: Modern Relics/Flickr

If you find yourself on Pinterest or playing with this website today because you simply cannot handle the mind-numbing tedium of your job, think about how the sea lion at the zoo must feel. That guy doesn’t even get weekends.

Boredom is a pretty universal thing for human beings, but it’s hard to tell if and when animals feel the same way. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario sought to find out in a study using minks.

In the study, the minks were divided into two cages; one had plenty for the minks to do, the other was bare. Both groups were given the same amount of food and offered treats the same number of times. They were also offered random objects as stimuli, some negative or frightening, some positive or rewarding, and some neutral.

When these things were offered, the minks in the bare cages were quicker to investigate, despite the frightening nature of the negative stimuli, and ate more treats. The minks in the “fun” cage were less likely to approach the stimuli and less interested in treats. When the stimuli were removed, minks in the fun cage went back to chasing each other, playing with objects in their environment and just generally being adorable, scrappy minks. The minks in the bare cages found somewhere to lie down and stare at the ceiling.

While mink boredom is slightly different than human boredom – we occasionally become apathetic or depressed from continuous boredom and avoid stimuli – there are some striking similarities. The bored minks snacked more (hmmm, I don’t have any salsa left. I guess I can just eat those tortillas with mayonnaise…) and when they had nothing to do simply laid down and took a nap or stared into space.

So if you’re pitying your bored self today, take comfort in the fact that you get to get up and leave at EOB.


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