The Mysteries of Animal Hoarding

Maybe you've heard stories about a "crazy cat lady" that lives down the street: the stereotypical older, single woman with fifty cats; so many that they're mangy starving, and yet she considers herself the Mother Theresa of the animal kingdom. While there are plenty of examples that follow that model, hoarding is by no means limited to cats, nor old ladies, for that matter. (Here's a story about a Texas man who hoarded cats he got via "free kitten" ads in the newspaper -- and when that didn't net enough animals, he resorted to outright theft.) There have also been reports, according to the BBC, of dog hoarding, a woman who kept pigs in her Los Angeles home, and "a Connecticut woman who hoarded beavers she had shipped from Montana." I blogged last year about a Russian woman with more than 120 cats in her home -- check out the amazing video.

We know these cases exist -- what psychologists don't understand, however, is where the compulsion to hoard animals comes from. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Although cases pop up regularly throughout the country, hoarding remains little understood. Researchers have identified some psychiatric disorders that may play a part, but they do not apply to every case. Nor is it easy to tell someone who merely loves animals -- a lot of animals -- from a hoarder.

Small, quiet and independent, cats may fit the needs of hoarders better than other animals. Most people identified as hoarders go to great lengths to keep their menageries hidden from the outside world. Some are merely embarrassed. Others are convinced that police or animal control officers are out to kill their animals. That fear often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many animals found in hoarders' homes are so sick or wild that they must be destroyed.

Some hoarders show signs of dementia. In others, hoarding seems linked to obsessive compulsive disorder, in which people find themselves endlessly repeating patterns such as collecting the same inanimate objects, over and over. Most of those who are considered hoarders, however, share two key traits: extreme difficulty letting go of their animals and an inability to recognize the creatures' declining health. Those traits even apply to hoarders who are extremely bright, articulate people, researchers say.

Have any of you known a hoarder?

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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