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The Joy of Pets

20220902_171032Humans are naturally drawn to companionship, and the bond between people and their pets has developed and strengthened throughout time. Studies have shown that owning a pet has a range of positive effects on mental health, like decreasing anxiety and depressive symptoms, boosting self-esteem, and giving people a sense of purpose.

And so I wanted to share this well-researched guide, Joy of Pets: How they are Helpful for Mental Health

Here are a few of the many researched facts regarding pets and companionship:

  • 84% of pet owners attest that owning a pet improves their mental health, according to the PDSA Animal Well-being (PAW) Report.
  • 76% of the surveyed respondents in research, agree that interactions between pets and humans address social isolation.

Pet Body Language You Might Be Misreading

According to AARP magazine, there may be some dog and cat behaviors that we may be misreading. You may think you know what that tail wag or cuddle means, but do you? We asked a few experts for guidance.

Dog smiling

Dogs smiling
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What you think it means: All is well.

What it really means: That grinning look is not the same for dogs as for humans. “Generally speaking, tension in the mouth is a sign of stress,” Case says. “If the dog is actually feeling happy, their mouth isn’t going to have tension to it. It might be open a little bit with what we call a soft face.”

Dog wagging tail

 
Dog wagging tail
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What you think it means: I’m happy.

What else it can mean: “People think just because the tail is wagging, all is well, but that’s not always the case,” says certified applied animal behaviorist Jill Goldman. A good tail wag is side to side or in circles. This often means that the dog is excited to see someone. But a wagging tail that is a “high mast, hooked all the way over,” Goldman says, can signal a heightened emotional state that isn’t necessarily social.

Cat rolling over

Cat rolling over
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What you think it means: Rub my belly.

What it really means: Not that. “Most cats do not love belly rubs,” says feline behaviorist Marci L. Koski. “That’s where the Venus cat trap comes into play. You put your hand on the belly and then, whoo, there go the claws.”

Dog panting

Dog Panting
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What you think it means: I’m hot.

 

What else it can mean: “Panting can sometimes mean stress,” says Courtney Case, a trainer at the Granada Hills, California–based J9’s K9s Dog Training. “So if you’re sitting inside and your dog hears a noise and they start panting, it might mean that they’re a little bit stressed, and they’re just trying to get a little bit more oxygen into those lungs.”

Cat rubbing up against you

Cat rubbing up against you
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What you think it means: I like you.

What else it can mean: “It’s also as a way to leave their scent behind,” Koski says. “The most common way a cat will rub up against somebody is with their cheek. This deposits those facial pheromones that are often used in marking territory.”

Dog Barking

 
Dog Barking
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What you think it means: Someone is invading my space.

What else it can mean: “Barking can be, ‘Oh, I’m so excited to see you,’ ” Goldman says. “But it also can mean, ‘Keep your distance. I’m very territorial. Don’t come any closer.’ 

Dog rolling over

 
Dog rolling over
Getty Images

What you think it means: I’m feeling lazy.

What else it can mean: “If a dog is rolling over and exposing their belly to a person that they’re comfortable with, they’re probably asking for affection,” Case says. It could also be a sign of submission. “If a dog does that to a person they don’t know, I’m going to assume that dog is trying to show me, ‘Look how small I am. Please don’t hurt me.’  ”​


Turtles Talk to Each Other

Get this from Salon - A new study reveals that, in their own special way, turtles chat with each other!

"It was a great surprise to discover they not only vocalize but also do so very often, producing very funny sounds" Turtle

University of Zurich's Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen is part of a team of international researchers who produced a landmark new study for the journal Nature Communications. Seeking to learn about the evolutionary origins of acoustic communication in vertebrates, the scientists recorded 53 species from four major clades — turtles, tuatara, caecilians and lungfish — to analyze what they heard. In the process, they learned that there are turtles, tuataras, and caecilians that engage in vocal communication, even though those clades had previously been perceived as non-vocal.

"When put in perspective, these findings show that vocal behavior is an evolutionary innovation that first appeared in the common ancestor of tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) and lungfish," Jorgewich-Cohen explained.

To be clear, this vocal behavior does not resemble anything as magnificent as a wolf howling or a bird tweeting. The Cayenne caecilian, in this journalist's opinion, produced sounds a bit like exaggerated yet strangely half-hearted armpit farts, while the mata mata turtle almost came across like a purring cat. Yet despite these seemingly alien vocalizations, the new study reveals that these creatures have much more in common with human beings than we had previously assumed. Rather than making these animals more exotic when compared to us, the new study discloses the extent to which we are part of the same family tree.


Dog Age Calculator

Happy birthday dogI tend to compute dog age into human age by multiplying the dog's age by seven. But according to Dr Leslie Brooks, an advisor at Betterpet, different breeds require different calculations.

Betterpet has developed a free online tool that is a dog age calculator that allows users to enter a dog's age and see it converted to human years. Even more, the tool provides insights like average life expectancy, weight, and height for over 100 dog breeds. 

Unfortunately, many pet owners don't always know how old their dog actually is and how they should be caring for their furry friend. If pet parents know their dog's exact stage of life, they can make better decisions about their diet, nutrition, exercise, and health. That’s why my team decided to make a resource like this free and accessible to the public. 

Key takeaways about a dog's age

  • The 7:1 ratio is flawed —As it turns out, figuring your dog’s age is more complex than multiplying by seven. That old rule of thumb that one dog year equals seven human years is based on the notion that dogs live about 10 years and humans live to about 70.
  • There isn’t a perfect formula — A dog age calculator is a great way to get a better idea of your dog’s age in human years, but parents of rescue dogs may not know their pet’s birth date. There are other ways to estimate if you don’t know your dog’s age.
  • Small dogs typically live longer than big dogs — Dogs under 40 pounds aren’t as prone to conditions such as hip dysplasia that can limit their mobility and increase their risk for obesity and other health conditions.

So enjoy every moment with your fur baby and celebrate!


Secret Pet Memorial Christmas Tree in Central Park

As reported in Untapped Cities, there is a secret Christmas tree for departed pets in New York's Central Park.

Central-park-2022-secret-pet-memorial-christmas-tree-robyn-untapped-new-york4-768x1024Deep within the woods of Central Park’s Ramble, those in the know gather every December at a secret spot to pay their respects to long-lost pets. Untapped New York first heard rumors of a pet memorial in Central Park in 2013. Since we first set out to find the secret Christmas tree years ago, the tradition has become more and more popular and media coverage has increased. Still, the exact location of the quiet spot remains a lovingly guarded secret, shared only with those who wish to honor their dearly departed furry friends.

The branches of the secret Christmas tree in Central Park are filled with handmade memorials dedicated to lost pets, be they a dog or cat, or other beloved creature. The occasional bauble or pet toy can be found among many laminated photos tied to the tree with festive ribbons and bows. The photos on the ornaments often feature the pet’s name and a message of appreciation for their companionship.

It’s unclear how long this tradition has been going on and who first started it. The earliest coverage we found was dated 2010. Each year, the mysterious caretakers carefully remove all of the ornaments and then bring them back next year. An Untapped New York Insider, who makes a pilgrimage to the tree every year to honor her family’s cats, found a thank you note from a pair of dog owners who left a photo of their pooch on the tree one year and were surprised to return the next year to see that their memorial had been saved and put up once again.

A visit to this Christmas tree pet memorial in Central Park is bittersweet. While it’s sad to think about losing a pet, it is touching to see the outpouring of love and appreciation pet owners share. We hope this special tradition continues for many years to come!


Dog Portraits from a Long Time Ago

I never realized how often pets, especially dogs, are included in old family photographs from the early days of photography. Examples seen here in the Washington Post, add new meaning to how families lived in the early 19th century.

Anthony Cavo, a collector of of photographs just published a book called Immortal Love which  reminds us of the amazing traits that dogs possess that have made them such an important part of our history. These photographs give us a glimpse not only into the special relationships these people might have had with their dogs but also into what life might have been like with them at the time. Dogs worked hard for them, sometimes saved them but, more important, provided them with companionship and unconditional love.

Dog 1910

 

 


53 Rescue Dogs Survived a Plane Crach and Now Can Be Adopted

According to NPR:

A plane flying from New Orleans to Wisconsin crashed Tuesday morning just outside Milwaukee. In it were 53 rescue dogs.

The twin engine turboprop airplane crashed onto the green of the Western Lakes Golf Club in Pewaukee, Wis., just west of the city. It was a "catastrophic" landing that severed the plane's wings, Matthew Haerter, assistant chief at Lake Country Fire and Rescue, said at a press conference Tuesday.

"They came to rest several hundred feet after where they originally tried to place the aircraft," he said.

All three people and 53 dogs on the plane survived, though the three people and some pups suffered minor injuries. Staff veterinarians sent 21 of the dogs to Humane Animal Welfare Society for further treatment, and the rest to other shelters in the area, according to The Washington Post.

Maggie Tate-Techtmann, a director for the Humane Animal Welfare Society, said at the press conference that all the dogs will be available for adoption in the coming days as soon as they are ready.

"It's just a lot of comforting them and caring for them," Tate-Techtmann said. "Every animal is different just like we are so we are all going to react a little bit differently, but between our behavioral care as well as our medical care, I'm very confident we can make all of them comfortable."

Read the full account and see how you can help here.

 


Dogs Can Smell Your Stress, Study Finds

As any dog owner will attest, dogs can seem eerily attuned to human behavior. When humans yell or pick a fight, dogs often respond with anger and fear. Similarly, people with sedentary lifestyle may have seemingly sedentary pets: a 2021 study found a correlation between dog obesity and human obesity.

Now, a new study sheds light on the peculiar ways that dogs seem to be able to pick up on human vibes. Specifically, researchers found that when you are stressed, your body produces a distinct odor — and our canine friends can smell it. Read the rest from Matthew Rozsa.


The Secret to Cat Longevity Revealed

A fascinating article from Atlas Obscura reveals some secrets of cat longevity.

Jake Perry is a cat man. Standing about 5-foot-7 and often clad in workman’s clothes, the 85-year-old Austin, Texas, plumber is also a father and husband. But anyone who’s met Perry will tell you—first and foremost, he’s a cat man.

Perry’s cats broke the Guinness World Record for oldest cat. Twice, actually: The first record, from 1998, was for a part Sphynx, part Devon Rex named Granpa Rexs Allen who made it to age 34; the second, from 2005, is for a mixed tabby named Creme Puff who lived to age 38. Since the 1980s, Perry has adopted and re-homed hundreds of cats, at his peak raising four dozen at once, showcasing the best and brightest in cat shows. According to Perry, it’s not just Granpa and Creme Puff who had unusually long lives: About a third of his cats, he says, lived to be at least 30 years old—about twice the average feline life span.

Jerry told me about his own cats, and what he believed were the keys to their unbelievably long lives.

First, there was their daily diet: on top of dry commercial cat food, a home-cooked breakfast of eggs, turkey bacon, broccoli, coffee with cream, and—every two days—about an eyedropper full of red wine to “circulate the arteries.” Then there was his effort to ensure the cats were sufficiently stimulated: a garage he’d converted into a home movie theater, with a working reel-to-reel projector and actual movie theater seats, where Perry screens nature documentaries exclusively for the cats (with previews, he added). Last, and perhaps most important, he swore that love and close, personal relationships helped his cats live longer. Perry adored his cats so much, he remembered each of their birthdays. (Bill Clinton was invited to Granpa’s 34th; the president sent a card with his regrets.)

The average life expectancy of pet cats in general increased from 11 years in 2002 to 12 years in 2012, according to records from Banfield Pet Hospital, a chain of more than 900 veterinary hospitals. Some of that change is associated with more people getting their pets spayed and neutered, says Lefebvre.

Neutering and the lowered testosterone levels that result from it have also been linked to increased life span in some species of birds, and even humans. (Some scientists believe that lower testosterone levels are the key reason women live longer than men.)

Of course, neutering can only increase cat longevity by so much. More than nine out of every 10 house cats in the United States are neutered, reports the ASPCA, and only a small portion of cats make it anywhere close to age 30. Using a human life span equivalency formula on the Cornell Feline Health Center’s website, 30 cat years translates to about 133 human years. By those measures, if 34-year-old Granpa were an actual human grandpa, he would have passed away at 149. Creme Puff, for the record, kept chugging until human-age 165. Surely, there must be something else at work here. 

 

 


Dogs cry tears of joy when reunited with their owners, study says

The human-dog relationship is unique among animals: having co-evolved for so long, most dog owners will attest to the uncanny ability that their canines have when it comes to reading and responding to emotions. But a new study suggests that the dog-human connection is so profound that our dogs actually cry for us, or with us. 

Takefumi Kikusui, PhD, DVM, a professor at Azabu University and corresponding author on the study, told Salon by email, a "dog's teary eyes can facilitate human caregiving behavior to dog —. and this enhances the bond." The study indicates that "dogs' emotions are expressed in a similar way to human emotions" and that this "helps humans understand canine emotions."

Renee Alsarraf, a veterinarian and author of "Sit, Stay, Heal: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Living Well," told Salon by email that the study is a "good start" in terms of illuminating the phenomenon that many veterinarians and pet parents suspected — that dogs can "cry."

Read the rest from Matthew Rozsa.