iStock
iStock

11 Surprising Facts About Cat Adoptions

iStock
iStock

Adopting a furry friend can bring a lot of joy into your life. In addition to providing a pal for life, getting a cat can lower stress and potentially save your life, so you should get one (or two) immediately. In celebration of National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month in June, here are 11 things you might not know about cat adoptions:

1. FEWER CATS ARE ENDING UP IN SHELTERS THESE DAYS.

While plenty of cats still enter shelters each year, that number is on the downswing. The ASPCA estimates that across the U.S., about 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters each year, which is down from just a few years ago.

2. ADOPTION IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON WAYS TO GET A NEW CAT.

When it comes to getting a new cat, most people are heading to a shelter according to the ASPCA's figures, not a breeder. About 31 percent of cats entering new homes come from shelters, according to the association’s estimates, while 28 percent come from friends or relatives. Just 3 percent come from breeders. (Some 39 percent come from "other" sources.) The American Pet Product Association’s annual survey is even more hopeful: The 2016 survey found that 46 percent of people acquire their cats from a shelter, up from 43 percent in 2013.

3. KITTENS ARE EVEN MORE POPULAR THAN YOU THINK.

Gray kitten playing on a mat.
iStock

People prefer adopting kittens over cats more than they do adopting puppies over dogs, according to an analysis of Petfinder.com adoptions by Priceonomics. While 95 percent of puppies get adopted compared to 75 percent of young dogs and 68 percent of senior dogs, the rates drop much faster for cats. About 82 percent of kittens get adopted, but as they get older the likelihood drops, and once they pass around 18 months old, only 60 percent of cats get adopted.

4. BLACK CATS DON’T HAVE TROUBLE GETTING ADOPTED.

It’s a myth that black animals are adopted at lower rates than pets of other colors, according to data compiled by the ASPCA. In a review of 14 regions of the U.S. and about 300,000 dogs and cats up for adoption, the study found that black cats comprised 31 percent of cat adoptions, compared to 20 percent gray cats and 18 percent brown cats. The overabundance of black kitties in shelters may just be a matter of numbers: The genes that cause black coloration are dominant, so it stands to reason that there would be more black cats in general.

5. BUT COLOR DOES SEEM TO MATTER.

According to that same Priceonomics study, tuxedo cats—meaning black and white—get adopted at lower rates than any other color. Gray cats and orange tabbies get adopted at the highest rates, according to their numbers. (However, those numbers vary from what the ASPCA estimates—in the Priceonomics study, brown cats were more likely to get adopted than black cats, for instance.)

6. MANY CATS END UP IN SHELTERS BECAUSE OF HOUSING ISSUES.

Person's hand petting a cat who is sitting in a cage.
iStock

The kitties that end up waiting for new homes at rescues and shelters aren’t necessarily there because they were strays or because of behavioral issues. A high number of people who relinquish their cats do so because they have to move and their new housing situation doesn’t allow pets. In a study of pets given up for adoption from dozens of shelters run by the Australian Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, the most commonly cited reason for giving up a cat was housing related. Only 4 percent of relinquished cats were given up because of behavioral issues.

7. TWO MIGHT BE BETTER THAN ONE.

Adopting a pair of cats might actually be less work than getting a solo kitty. That’s because bonded pairs can keep each other company, meaning they need less attention from you, and are less likely to take out their boredom or anxiety on your house. Since they’ll be eating at the same time and likely using the same litter box, it’s not that much different from dealing with a single cat. Shelters often give discounts to adoptees who take home a pair of cats, too, so it’s much cheaper (not to mention less stressful) than going back and getting another pet a year later once you realize that you can never have enough cats.

8. OUTGOING CATS GET ADOPTED FIRST.

In a 2012 study of 1600 people who adopted dogs and cats, behavioral characteristics tended to influence cat adoptions more than any other factor. While dog owners were more likely to cite appearance as the deciding factor in choosing their new pet, cat adopters were more concerned with how their new kitty acted, and how shelter workers described its behavior. Most cat adopters reported that their new pet approached and greeted them at the shelter, indicating that people like to adopt cats that are outgoing from the start.

9. IF YOU WANT TO ADOPT, YOU'LL NEED REFERENCES.

Gray Maine Coon kitten looking at camera.
iStock

Getting a cat from a rescue group often requires more than just showing up with the adoption fee. You’ll probably need to fill out an application that asks about your experience with pets, your plans for caring for your new cat, and a list of references that can vouch for the fact that you're a compassionate human capable of taking on a new pet. Sometimes these applications can be extensive, but they exist for good reason: In a survey of more than 570 pet adopters in several U.S. cities, 11 percent relinquished their pet back to the shelter within the first six months [PDF].

10. YES, YOUR CATS CAN LEARN TO GET ALONG.

While experts recommend introducing a new cat into the household gradually to ensure a good relationship between it and the cat you already have, getting the process just right might not be totally necessary. A 2005 study of 375 cat adopters found that 44 percent of owners introduced their new cat to their established pet immediately, while 22 percent introduced the cats to each other after a few days and 33 percent introduced them more gradually. However, the method of introduction didn't make or break the situation, at least when it came to overt fighting—22 percent of owners, regardless of introduction method, said their cats accepted each other immediately, while 40 percent said it happened within a month. While gradual introductions might help reduce the stress of meeting a new cat and ensure they become friends later, many cats will learn to at least tolerate each other regardless. (But again, almost all experts do recommend the gradual introduction approach to keep everyone happy.)

11. IT'S A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT.

Even if you adopt an adult cat (and you should!), your new friend will likely be with you for years to come. While the 38-year lifespan of Creme Puff, the world’s longest-living cat on record, might be unusual, indoor cats live for an average of 12 to 15 years. And it’s not rare for well-cared-for cats to live longer, depending on the breed—the average lifespan of a Persian is 17, and it’s perfectly normal for some cats to live to be 20 years old.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
iStock
iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Honey Bees Can Understand the Concept of Zero
iStock
iStock

The concept of zero—less than one, nothing, nada—is deceptively complex. The first placeholder zero dates back to around 300 BCE, and the notion didn’t make its way to Western Europe until the 12th century. It takes children until preschool to wrap their brains around the concept. But scientists in Australia recently discovered a new animal capable of understanding zero: the honey bee. According to Vox, a new study finds that the insects can be taught the concept of nothing.

A few other animals can understand zero, according to current research. Dolphins, parrots, and monkeys can all understand the difference between something and nothing, but honey bees are the first insects proven to be able to do it.

The new study, published in the journal Science, finds that honey bees can rank quantities based on “greater than” and “less than,” and can understand that nothing is less than one.

Left: A photo of a bee choosing between images with black dots on them. Right: an illustration of a bee choosing the image with fewer dots
© Scarlett Howard & Aurore Avarguès-Weber

The researchers trained bees to identify images in the lab that showed the fewest number of elements (in this case, dots). If they chose the image with the fewest circles from a set, they received sweetened water, whereas if they chose another image, they received bitter quinine.

Once the insects got that concept down, the researchers introduced another challenge: The bees had to choose between a blank image and one with dots on it. More than 60 percent of the time, the insects were successfully able to extrapolate that if they needed to choose the fewest dots between an image with a few dots and an image with no dots at all, no dots was the correct answer. They could grasp the concept that nothing can still be a numerical quantity.

It’s not entirely surprising that bees are capable of such feats of intelligence. We already know that they can count, teach each other skills, communicate via the “waggle dance,” and think abstractly. This is just more evidence that bees are strikingly intelligent creatures, despite the fact that their insect brains look nothing like our own.

Considering how far apart bees and primates are on the evolutionary tree, and how different their brains are from ours—they have fewer than 1 million neurons, while we have about 86 billion—this finding raises a lot of new questions about the neural basis of understanding numbers, and will no doubt lead to further research on how the brain processes concepts like zero.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios