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Humane Education

Curious Questions

Have you ever marveled at the curiosity of your pet as they investigate or try to understand the world around them? Curiosity helps ignite learning, build understanding and foster empathy. That is why we have chosen Stay Curious as our educational theme for 2019/20. When we are curious about animals we learn more about them and are better able to meet their needs.

Each week throughout the school year we will take your Curious Questions about animals, have them answered by an expert, and will post them here and on social media.

Teachers can submit students’ questions, or parents their children’s questions on video or in written form to education@albertaspca.org.

Our education website also has discussion questions and activities to foster curiosity in the classroom

Sept 27, 2019

Why do dogs kick up grass after they poop?

Ground scratching is a normal behaviour that allows dogs to communicate with others. Dogs have scent glands in the pads of their paws and scratching is one way of leaving their scent behind that sends a message to dogs and other animals that they have been in the area.

“…but they are scratching up my lawn!” 

Preventing a dog from communicating can be frustrating for the dog. If you don’t want your dog scratching up your lawn, take them to a nearby park or ally to do their business (just remember to pick up their poop!)


Stay Curious!

Oct 4, 2019

The curious question is why do cats butt their heads in your face?

Also known as head bunting, this behaviour in cats is typically affectionate and there are several different reasons why they may be doing this. Cats have scent glands all over body so they could be depositing their scent on you as a form of communication. Cats also engage in this behaviour to bond and socialize with other familiar cats, dogs and people. Finally, this could also be an attention seeking behaviour – your cat may be asking for a pet or scratch.

Helping cats feel safe:

Cats are more likely to be trusting and affectionate when they have positive interactions with people. Cats typically prefer frequent but brief periods of socializing. Keeping interactions positive, regular and allowing cats to initiate and end interactions on their terms helps them to feel a sense of control. This also means respecting cats’ safe spaces (beds, cat perches, etc.) and teaching young people to be respectful as well.

Oct 11, 2019

Why are some eggs white and some eggs brown?

The short answer is, white hens lay white eggs and brown hens lay brown eggs.

So how does that happen?

When an egg is forming inside a brown hen, the same genetics that give the hen its brown feathers also creates a pigment that is deposited on the outside of the egg right before it is laid, giving it its brown colour.

Oct 18, 2019

Why are donkeys stubborn?

Donkeys are often considered stubborn because people compare them with horses. However, donkeys have evolved as a mountain species and their reaction to fear or distress is to stand and be willing to fight. Horses, on the other hand, developed as a plains prey species which means their reaction to fear is to run away.

So a donkey isn’t being stubborn by just standing there?

When a donkey does not move, people tend to think they’re being stubborn. In reality they are just doing what donkeys do, preparing to defend themselves.

Oct 25, 2019

Why does my dog sniff EVERYTHING?!

Dogs have well over 100 million olfactory receptor cells in their noses (humans have about 6 million), that help them collect information about their surroundings. While humans rely on sight, dogs use both sight and smell to interpret their surroundings. 

My dog seems to spend as much time sniffing as exercising while on our walks.

While out on a walk, be sure to include time to give dogs a chance to sniff where their noses take them. It’s an important part of letting them express their normal canine behaviour.

Nov 1, 2019

Do horses need to wear shoes?

Horses need to wear shoes in certain conditions to protect their hooves and reduce injury. Conditions including standing or walking on
hard or abrasive surfaces, participating in a high impact sports, or if there is a medical or physical reason, horses may need shoes!

Shoes or no shoes?

A veterinarian or farrier can help decide if shoes are recommended for individual horses. Trimming or shoeing horses
should be done every 5-8 weeks (or as needed based on age, activity level, nutrition and breed). 

Nov 8, 2019

A Free Run egg production facility is one where the hens are not confined to cages. They are free to move around the barn as they see fit and to exhibit natural chicken behaviours. This includes having access to food and water when they want it, perches to sit on, and opportunities for dust bathing, grooming and other normal behaviours. It also means the hens have nest boxes in which to lay their eggs. 

What is the difference between Free Run and Free Range

Free Range hens have access to all the opportunities Free Run hens do, plus they have the ability to go outside, as well, for at least part of the day. Many hens will choose to stay inside where it is warm, but the choice is theirs.

Nov 22, 2019

In the summer, cows seem to be grazing all day. There are many factors that impact how much a cow eats, but typical cattle eat about 24 pounds or 11 kilograms of feed a day.

What are the circumstances where a cow would eat more?

All livestock will need extra feed when they are pregnant or nursing, growing or working. As well, the process of digesting food helps cows stay warm in the winter. For every 10 degree C drop in temperature below -20, cows need an extra two pounds of grain to stay warm.

The type of food also impacts how much cows need to eat. Cattle will need less food if it is highly nutritious, and more feed if it is low in quality. In fact, if the feed is of very poor quality, the cows may not be able to take in enough in quantity to satisfy their nutritional requirements.

Nov 29, 2019

Your family dog may tolerate hugs from his family members, but the reality is he’s probably wishing you would stop. If your four-legged friend is licking his lips while you’re hugging him, that’s a sign that he’s uncomfortable with the situation as lip licking is a calming pacifying behaviour when dogs are anxious, stressed or fearful.

But I like giving my dog physical attention

You dog would likely prefer a good scratch. Our dog behaviour specialist, Kris Rooney from Dogspaw Edmonton, recommends scritching your dog for five seconds on the chest or under the ear. When you stop, your dog may motion for you to continue, which means you are giving your friend the kind of physical attention he likes.


Dec 6, 2019

Skunks are not very good at running away and they are not good climbers, so their defense against predators is to spray their foul smelling odour.

How do I avoid getting sprayed if I see a skunk?

Skunks will normally warn you before they spray. They will stomp their feet or turn around and wave their tail at you. This is a good opportunity to back away and give them their space, just like you would with any wildlife. If you do this, you will likely avoid getting sprayed.

Jan 13, 2020

Owls have an amazing ability to turn their heads around. In fact, some species can rotate their neck 270 degrees, allowing them to turn their heads left in order to look right.

Why do owls need to do this?

Owls have eyes that are like tubes, and while that allows them to see really well, it prevents them from moving their eyes side to side or up and down. This means they must turn their heads to see in other directions in order to find prey and to protect them from other predators.

Jan 20, 2020

Like most reptiles, most snakes are born when their mother lays eggs. However, there are exceptions. Garter snakes and boa constrictors are two species of snake that see their young born live.

Does the mother snake spend any time nurturing its young?

The simple answer is no. Baby snakes, whether born via an egg or live, are on their own from the moment they are born. Their first task after coming into the world is to shed a layer of skin. Then they’re off to find food; no tutorial from mom is needed.

Jan 27, 2020

When a dog barks at an appliance or any household item, it’s an indication they are afraid of it. Barking is a natural response to fear for our canine friends. If a dog barks at your vacuum, it’s an indication he or she may not have been exposed to such a device when they were a puppy.

How to I deal with this problem?

In an ideal situation, you should expose your dog to household items such as vacuums and brooms when they are young so they can grow accustomed to it. However, if your dog is grown up and already barking, you have a couple of options. You may just want to remove the dog from the room that you are vacuuming, or, if you truly want to cure them of this phobia, you may want to consult with a dog behaviour specialist about developing a desensitization plan for your dog.

Chickadees are one of several bird species that stay in Alberta all winter long. These birds have a layer of down feathers underneath their outer feathers. The down feathers act as insulation, trapping the bird’s body heat and acting as a winter coat for the bird.

So I don’t have to worry about the birds?

Chickadees and other winter birds are built for an Alberta winter and can handle temperatures that reach the -40 range. There is no need to try to protect them, they are perfectly fine in our bitter Alberta cold.

Feb 10, 2020

Turtles are amazing reptiles and can live a very long time. How long depends on the species. Water turtles, for example, normally live 25 to 30 years, while land tortoises can lives up to 75 years.

That’s a long time!

Getting a turtle as a pet is a major commitment. On top of the daily needs of food and living space, you need to consider whether your family will be able to care for the animals for the next two to three decades, or even longer. When doing your research on reptiles as pets, ensure you are taking the long view of how you will care for the animal.

Feb 24, 2020

Horses have a unique ability to take naps in the standing position. This is a skill that has evolved over time to allow horses to instantly take flight should danger arise. Horses have what’s known as the ‘stay apparatus’ which allows their ligaments, joints and tendons to lock in position while they are upright.

Do horses sleep lying down as well?

Yes, horses still need to get property REM sleep while lying down and they enjoy doing this. However, horses will only lie down to sleep if they feel safe and secure and they have an appropriate surface to lie down on. It is important to ensure you provide your horse with a comfortable place to relax and sleep, otherwise they will not get the proper rest which can affect their mood and their ability to do the tasks you are asking of them.

Mar 2, 2020

Cows, like many farm animals, spend the majority of their time outdoors, even on the coldest days of winter. As long as they are introduced to the cold weather gradually (as in, they are outside as the weather slowly turns colder), they will be just fine. Cattle will slowly grow a heavy hair coat and develop a fat store under their skin as the fall weather turns to winter.

What does the cows’ owner need to do to help them through the bitter weather?

The Animal Protection Act in Alberta states that animals must be provided with some shelter; in the case of cattle, that is a place where the cows can get out of the wind. Cattle also need a dry place to lie down, such as on a bed of straw. Also, as it gets colder, cattle require extra feed to help them stay warm and to ensure they don’t lose their fat stores. The food requirements increase at -20 Celsius and again for each -10 degrees below that. As long cows have those items, they should have no problem surviving and thriving during Alberta’s bitter winters.

March 9, 2020

It is recommended that tarantulas be kept as an observational pet. While the spider does not pose a severe heath risk to humans, there can still be repercussions for both your and the tarantula when you handle it.

What are the risks?

The first risk is to the tarantula itself. If it falls, the impact with the ground can be fatal for the spider.

The second risk is to you. While a tarantula’s venom is not deadly to people, it does have little tiny hairs that act as a defense mechanism. If those hairs get into your facial area, it will feel like you have been pepper sprayed.

Tarantulas do not require handling as part of their physical needs so letting it live in a stress-free environment in its enclosure is best for everyone.

Information & Resources for Teachers


Visit the Alberta SPCA's website for teachers.

CTS Courses

Resources for several animal-related Career and Technology Studies (CTS) high school courses.

Humane Education Features

Stories about our Education department, programs and the work we do.

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