Pet Science: 50 Purr-fectly Woof-Worthy Activities for You & Your Pets by Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb, Illustrated by Tom LaBaff
What do you think of when you hear the term “animal science?” Do you think of wild animals, like tigers or bears bounding through the brush? Wildlife biologists and ethologists do study wild animals in the natural habitats. Many of us, however, have animals right in our homes that can be studied as well and we tend to overlook them. Authors Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb have come up with 50 science-related activities to answer questions about our pets that don’t involve going on a safari or visiting an exotic locale.
This book covers all sorts of pets, not just dogs and cats. Birds, rabbits, rodents, and even snakes and hermit crabs are all included. The authors also bring up and answer some compelling questions, such as why do cats lie on magazines, newspapers or books and do they have a preference? Why do dogs circle around before they lie down? Why do cats like to get into paper bags (or in our case, the cloth bags we use instead of paper bags)? Each question is followed by a list of materials to gather to perform the experiment and then instructions on how to perform it. Once the experiment is finished, the authors then answer the question in depth.
Gunther and Newcomb might have separated the answers to the experimental questions into another section, for a couple of reasons. First, I have found that if the answer is readily available, the child is less likely to perform the activity. Second, if the child sees the expected answer, then they try to match it, regardless of their actual results. Finally, when people find out an answer for themselves, then they tend to remember it longer. That is not to say that the authors shouldn’t have given the answers, because the answers are highly informative.
I think the authors have done a good job in choosing activities that will engage children, but will also be safe and enjoyable for their pets. Many of the activities have potential to be developed further into science fair projects. I don’t usually pay much attention to the glossary, but theirs is extensive, obviously the product of their collaboration with a veterinarian. It covers from pages 76-80. Did you know that the chemical that is attractive to cats in catnip is nepetalactone? That is an example of the type of information that can be found in the glossary.
Overall, I would way this book would appeal to children who are interested in their pets, in science and/or who enjoy hands-on learning activities. Children who have expressed an interest in becoming a veterinarian might also find it useful. The book even suggests that if the child doesn’t have a pet, he or she can still do the activities with a friend’s pet, with the class pet or by observing animals at the zoo. With all those options, a lot of fun and learning are sure to ensue.