Multi-disciplinary Study into E-Cigarette Vapour and Indoor Cats

An interesting new study looking at making vapour from electronic cigarettes safer for indoor pets has been launched by a team of researchers at the University of Lincoln.

The multi-disciplinary research being conducted by scientists from the Schools of Life Sciences, Chemistry and Pharmacy will primarily focus on the passive vaping of indoor cats and participants will be required to collect a small sample of their pets hair (0.1 gram) for submission and follow up with a short questionnaire. Currently, the long term effects of vaping and passive vaping have not been exclusively explored and both pets and humans can be passive vapers.

Results from the study will calculate the association between household vaping and possible effects on indoor cats to ensure that a safer vaping environment can be put in place.

If you vape indoors and own an indoor cat, you are invited to take part in the study and can register your interest by emailing Ellis at:

Participants will be sent a small sealable bag and rubber gloves in order to procure the hair sample.

Cat owners invited to take part in our School’s research

Researchers at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, are inviting cat owners to take part in groundbreaking research. 

Due to the enigmatic nature of this species, detecting pain in cats reliably is inherently challenging, limiting our capacity to be able to quickly and efficiently treat cats in need.

The Understanding Cat Pain Project is working to better understand and improve on our ability to detect some of the subtle signs of pain expression in cats.

The project, involving the School of Life Sciences’ Dr Lauren Finka and Prof Daniel Mills, aims to collect data on people’s ability to identify whether a cat is in pain or not, based on their facial expression.

If you would like to participate, please complete the following training task and quiz online.


Five paid-for Studentships in Life Sciences on offer! Apply now


We’re offering a variety of PhD projects across biological sciences including: Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare, Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Evolution and Ecology, Microbiology, Forensic Anthropology, Biology and Zoology.

Of the ten advertised projects, five applicants, on five projects will be selected for funding, contingent upon the strength of the applicants.

Our Studentships are open to UK, EU and Overseas Students, Tuition Fees are included. Students will get a Stipend/Living allowance of £14,296 per annum. You will start 1st October 2016 and the Studentship will last 36 months.

Applications close 1st April – Apply now to not miss out!


Take a look at the projects on offer below.

Click staff names to email

1. Linking phenotypes with genotypes for canine chemosensory perception


Dr Malgorzata Pilot


2. Next generation analyses using next-generation DNA sequencing: testing theory for the population genomics of microbes

Contact Dr Matthew Goddard



3.  Protein conformational switches

Contact Dr Enrico Ferrari


4. Evaluating resistance mechanisms of the newly discovered antibacterial Texiobactin

Contact Dr Edward Taylor


5. Cell-to-cell communication in the diabetic kidney – keeping the art of conversation alive

Contact Dr Claire Hills


6. Characterisation of T-cells infiltrating the Type 1 diabetic islet

Contact Dr Michael Christie


7. Using virtual reality to investigate ‘protean’ anti-predator behaviour

Contact Dr Tom Pike


8. Identifying genome-wide transcriptional determinants of Alzheimer’s disease progression

Contact Dr Humberto Gutierrez


9.  State-dependent ageing and senescence across multiple traits

Contact Dr Carl Soulsbury


10.  Genetic basis of Morbillivirus resistance in Mediterranean striped dolphins: a 20 year time series immunogenomic and toxicology analysis, with emphasis on the effect of anthropogenic pollutants

Contact Dr Andre Moura



Candidates must have a good honours degree, or a relevant Masters degree or equivalent. A minimum IELTS score of 6.0 (or equivalent) will be required, where appropriate.

To apply:

We strongly encourage potential applicants to contact the named main supervisor for each of these to discuss the details of the project and suitability for application before submitting formal expression of interest.

Formal expressions of interest can be made by emailing your CV and a covering letter to the listed supervisor for that project. Please quote Reference: CS2016LS on all correspondence.


The eyes have it! Cats put sight over smell in finding food

Cats may prefer to use their eyes rather than follow their nose when it comes to finding the location of food, according to new research by leading animal behaviourists.

Felines have a tremendous sense of smell and vision, but the new study by researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK, has for the first time investigated which sense they prefer to use under test conditions – and suggested sight may be more important than smell.

A group of six cats were placed in a maze which had ‘decision’ points – and the cats had to choose which avenue they took based on their preference for using images or smell. They were simultaneously presented with two squares of paper, each containing a different visual and odour cue. One combination of stimuli indicated they would receive a food reward, whereas the other led to no reward.

Once the cats had learned the rules of the game and received food rewards for correctly choosing either the visual stimulus or the olfactory stimulus, the researchers separated the cues (visual versus olfactory) to investigate whether the cats were using their eyes or nose to solve the task.

Four out of the six cats picked the visual cue, over the odour cue, to receive their food reward with only one cat preferring to use its nose and the sixth showing no preference. So it seems that when they had the choice, cats simply preferred the visual signals over the olfactory ones.

The findings have now been published by the international journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Evy Mayes carried out the research at the University of Lincoln while she was studying for her Masters degree in feline behaviour and welfare.

Evy, who is now working at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, explained: “Up until now we really thought that the sense of smell would dominate how cats view their world, but we are now reconsidering this and also the implications of how we manage them. At Battersea Dogs & Cats Home we make sure that our cats are housed in the best possible environment – one that respects the cat and provides each individual with whatever it needs in order to help it adapt to a rehoming environment. I was also particularly surprised by the speed at which the cats learned how to solve the task, which is very encouraging for future cat behaviour studies.”

Professor Daniel Mills, who supervised the study and is based in the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, added: “We live in a complex world and use all of our senses to make sense of it. This is the first time we have asked cats how they operate rather than assumed this from what we know about their senses. Another important finding from this work is the individual variability – different cats had quite fixed preferences, and this may have important implications for their welfare. If there is a cat which has a strong preference for using its nose then simple changes in the smell of the environment might have a big impact on it, whereas, for others it may be insignificant. This work provides a unique insight into the important principles of attending to the needs of the individual rather than the population in general for good welfare.”

Due to the small sample size, further investigation is required to infer a general preference for cats to use visual over olfactory stimuli when learning the location of food.

New study reveals how your emotions may affect your cat

A new study has, for the first time, investigated whether cats look to their owners for guidance on how to behave in certain situations.

The research explored cats’ communicative behaviour towards humans using a social referencing paradigm in the presence of a potentially frightening object – an electric fan with some plastic ribbons attached to it.

Social referencing is a process characterised by the use of another person’s perceptions and interpretation of a situation to form one’s own understanding and guide action. This process is widely observed in infants toward their mother, and in dogs toward their owners, but has never been investigated between cats and humans.

Lead researcher Isabella Merola, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, explained: “One group of cats observed their owner delivering a positive emotional message towards the fan, whereas another group received a negative emotional message. The aim was to observe whether cats use the emotional information provided about a novel/unfamiliar object to guide their own behaviour towards it.”

Most cats (79 per cent), similarly to infants and dogs, exhibited referential looking – defined as looking to the owner immediately before or after looking at the object. They also, to some extent, changed their behaviour in line with the emotional message given by the owner.

This study is the first that has looked at the social referencing process between cats and their owners, and evidenced cats can use the owner reaction to guide their action.

However, the capacity of cats to synchronise their behaviour to their human partner in this study has appeared to beless evident than in infants and dogs previously studied, so further investigations are needed to better explore this process.

The research ‘Social referencing and cat–human communication’ is published in journal Animal Cognition.