I think I may have made a mistake when I picked my career. Don’t get me wrong, being a veterinarian is meaningful and satisfying work, but it can certainly be stressful.

Dealing with sick animals and worried owners on a daily basis is nerve wracking, which is why when I saw this recent article on the BBC News website, I thought, now that has to be one of the best jobs in history … animal tickler.

There is a point behind all the tickling of apes, rats, etc., that is reported on in the article — research into the evolution of laughter and communication in general. Important work, to be sure, but it seems almost beside the point when you take a look at the videos of the giggling beasties. I dare you, in particular, to watch and listen to this giggling gorilla and not smile yourself.

Just goes to show how similar we all are. I like the part where the keeper talks about how he doesn’t even have to tickle the gorillas to get them laughing. If they are in the right mood, he just has to pretend to tickle them and they’ll go off the deep end. Who hasn’t had that experience themselves? Watch the rat being tickled, too. He or she seems to be begging, "do it again, do it again," as it follows the hand around the tank.

Have you heard the term "citizen scientist?" It describes laypeople who get involved in collecting or analyzing data for research. If you are interested in specific projects that you can join, check out scistarter.com. But it turns out that doing something as simple as uploading a video to YouTube might qualify you as a citizen scientist. The laughter researchers have made scientific use of videos of "owls, dogs, meerkats, penguins, and even a camel and a dolphin —that appear to noisily react when being tickled."

Do you have a ticklish pet? If so, do tell, and consider posting a video online … you never know who might be watching.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: laughing dog by Eileen McFall / via Flickr