My husband and I come from two vastly different backgrounds when it comes to owning pets. He grew up with one small pet named Shell. Shell was, you guessed it, a hermit crab! My husband and his brother loved Shell (as much as you can love a hermit crab) but they never experienced that slobberly, snuggly true love of a furry friend. I, on the other hand, practically grew up in a zoo.
The zoo was spurred by my sister who hoped to become a veterinarian. My parents indulged her dream with quite the variety of pets over the years. We always had a dog, sometimes two. I had an opinionated fat cat (that lived for 17 years!), and my youngest sister did 4-H with goats. In addition, we had guinea pigs, hamsters, a bunny, fish—my favorite was a guppy named Ramona that I took to college with me—cockatiels, and perhaps the wildest of all: an aquarium full of walking sticks. See? A zoo!
For years, my sister checked out animal books from the library and we were constantly about pets and their wild counterparts. Not only were these animals family, they were plain ol’ interesting!
If you’re part of a pet-loving family, you understand this intrigue all too well. And if you’re not, you’re about to be wowed. These pet facts, and the science behind them, are crazy interesting!
Are you in a movie theater, or is that smell coming from your pup?
Some dog owners claim that their canine’s paws have a corn-y scent, something like popcorn or Fritos corn chips. The reason behind this smell is not that your dog has been digging around in the pantry. Rather, according to Kelly Deselms, a veterinarian technician, says, “The combination of bacteria and fungi [like yeast] on dog’s feet lead to the smell.”
It’s not a bad idea to get your pooch checked out if you catch wind of what’s commonly called “Frito Feet” too often. On occasion is fine, and an extra bath with a gentle scrub between the toes can help, but constantly might mean their is an underlying infection or diet change that needs to be addressed.
Cats have nine lives (kind of).
Once, my precious indoor-dwelling kitty snuck outside, and, although she had all of her claws, we were pretty sure she was a goner. We lived out in the country, and coyotes and other predators frequented our property. No way did she have a chance! But 50 hours later, she came sauntering home. Cold and hungry, but alive! I can only imagine all the things she saw and ran from during her escapade. Surely she lost at least one of her nine lives!
The idea that cats have nine lives is more of an old wives’ tale than anything. But those tales tend to have a bit of truth behind them, and a cat’s nine lives is no different.
“Cats are amazing at avoiding accidents; they are the dare devils of the animal world in my mind,” Deselms tells Urbo. “They do not have nine lives. They are just very durable. Cats can hide illness and injury very well, which is a natural instinct so predators don’t assume they are easy prey.”
Matthew Dincau, a veterinarian who specifically works emergency medicine, has witnessed “cats bounce-back from accidents or mishaps that likely would be extremely harmful to a dog.” For example, Dincau described one of the common accidents: falling from a great height.
“Many times [a cat] just come in with minor issues rather than severe damage such as bleeding and fractures. This is not always the case, but it is amazing how often cats do ‘land on their feet.’”
No need to start tracking your cat’s lives, but do know that if you’re looking for a resilient pet, a cat might be right up your alley.
These little guys are the possibly the best pet.
Dogs and cats are the most common pets in the U.S., but does that make them the best pet? Growing up in my family’s little zoo, I’d venture to say that guinea pigs are, in fact, one of the greatest pets you can choose from, especially if you’re not ready to be a forever family to a dog or cat. Laurie Hess, a veterinarian, wrote “10 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Are Great Pets,” citing their durability, social nature, and ease of care.
Amy Mackie, a mom of three humans and two guinea pigs, loves that these small animals have such personalities.
“We have a shy one and an outgoing one,” she says. “They love people … we keep them in our living room because they like to watch everything that is going on. They love to cuddle, and my son says they calm him down.” Mackie also said that guinea pigs love to swim in the bath tub!
If you’re looking for a starter pet or one that doesn’t require the intense care of a larger animal, a guinea pig might be a good fit for you. Read up, and then, as always, before visiting a pet store, consider adopting a guinea pig that needs a new home. Deselms and Dincau also recommended checking out ferrets and rats as other potential pets.
Parrots don’t really know how to talk.
Think you’ve heard a parrot say “hello” or chirp a funny phrase? Well, your ears are hearing right, but more than likely, the parrot you’re listening to is mimicking something they’ve heard rather than kicking off a true conversation.
“[Parrots] hear a lot of different things around them when captive,” says Dincau. “In the wild… they mainly learn the mimicry from other birds, and a lot of this is used to keep the flock together and likely for mating purposes. So, yes, they can talk, but it’s more so what they’ve heard before and are copying.”
Parrot talk is much more in-depth than a simple say/repeat/remember combination. Erich Jarvis, a neuroscientist out of Duke University, published a study in 2015 that explored how parrots, as vocal learners, use a special part of their brain called the song system to “talk.” Parrots, unlike other birds, have both a inner and an outer layer in their song system which begins to explain how they’ve come to be known as such expert talkers.
Dogs’ Unique Diets—The Should and Should Nots
You’ve probably heard that dogs should not have chocolate (the theobromine in cocoa is toxic to them). But did you know that there are many other things that are toxic to dogs?
While chocolate (especially the dark variety) is off limits, so are avocados and grapes/raisins, according to Deselms. The persin in avocado can cause heart problems and grapes/raisins lead to kidney failure, although the toxic cause has yet to be discovered.
There are a few “human” foods that can also be good for your canine companion. Modern Dog recommends whole cooked eggs, citing their protein, riboflavin, and selenium content. The American Kennel Club lists honey (which has a lot of vitamins) and coconut (which contains “lauric, which strengthens the immune system by fighting off viruses,”) as two more possible treats.
That being said, be sure to check with your veterinarian to determine an exact protocol for your specific breed.
Pets can see into the future…or at least sense what is to come.
Moments before the 6.8 Pacific Northwest earthquake in 2001, Renee Berry said her cat tried to alert her that something was up. “She wouldn’t walk,” says Berry, “She crouched in the middle of the room and meowed loudly like I had never heard. I kept picking her up saying, ‘What’s wrong?’ and told my friend that I needed to take her to the vet if she didn’t stop.” Then the earthquake hit. Berry said her cat was in tune to the aftershocks as well.
It’s believed that animals ran from the city of Pompeii before the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. too. But researchers aren’t convinced that animals have magical powers when it comes to natural disasters. Rather, it seems they’re just more aware of their environment. PBS shared insight from researcher Liz Von Muggenthaler, who spoke in NATURE’s Can Animals Predict Disaster?. Muggenthaler believes that dogs, cats, and other animals can sense infrasonic sound pulses prior to a natural disaster. They know it’s not right and thus, get ready to seek safety.
An intrinsic sense of doom isn’t reserved for catastrophic events though. Some believe that dogs can also be trained as service animals to detect seizures and diabetic episodes in their companions. Not much research has been done to confirm this phenomenon, but those who have experienced it are absolutely convinced. No doubt, animals are immensely in tune with the details around them and are not as easily distracted as their human counterparts.
The animal kingdom is full amazing creatures, each of which have a bevy of interesting facts and secrets. As much as we know and understand about our pets there is so much more to learn about our treasured, furry (or feathered or scaled) family members.