11 Surprising Facts About Cat Adoptions

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Chimpanzees Bond by Watching Movies Together, Too

Windzepher/iStock via Getty Images
Windzepher/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists at the Wolfgang Kohler Primate Research Center in Germany recently discovered that, like humans, chimpanzees bond when they watch movies together, the BBC reports.

In the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers stationed pairs of chimpanzees in front of screens that showed a video of a family of chimps playing with a young chimp. They found that afterward, the chimps would spend more time grooming and interacting with each other—or simply being in the same part of the room—than they would without having watched the video.

They gave the chimps fruit juice to keep them calm and occupied while they viewed the video, and they chose a subject that chimps have previously proven to be most interested in: other chimps. They also used eye trackers to ensure the chimps were actually watching the video. If you’ve ever watched a movie with friends, you might notice similarities between the chimps’ experience and your own. Drinks (and snacks) also keep us calm and occupied while we watch, and we like to watch movies about other humans. Since this study only showed that chimps bond over programs about their own species, we don’t know if it would work the same way if they watched something completely unrelated to them, like humans do—say, The Lion King.

Bonding through shared experiences was thought to be one of the traits that make us uniquely human, and some researchers have argued that other species don’t have the psychological mechanisms to realize that they’re even sharing an experience with another. This study suggests that social activities for apes don’t just serve utilitarian purposes like traveling together for safety, and that they’re capable of a more human-like social closeness.

The part that is uniquely human about this study is the fact that they were studying the effect of a screen, as opposed to something less man-made. The chimps in question have participated in other studies, so they may be more accustomed to that technology than wild apes. But the study demonstrates that we’re not the only species capable of social interaction for the sake of social interaction.

[h/t BBC]

10 Facts You Should Know About Mosquitoes

tskstock/iStock via Getty Images
tskstock/iStock via Getty Images

Between the itching and the welts and the fears of mosquito-borne viruses, it's easy to forget that mosquitoes are a wonder of evolution, and that maybe they don't get a fair shake from us. Of more than 3000 known species, only 80 actually bite people, and at least one eats other mosquitoes for us. They grow from egg to adult in just five days, begin mating within minutes of hatching, and possess, by way of their stinging mouthparts, some of the coolest appendages in the animal kingdom.

1. Mosquitoes are excellent flyers in bad weather.

The average raindrop is 50 times heavier than the average mosquito, yet they buzz around in the rain with no problems. If a Boeing 747 got whacked with a similarly scaled-up raindrop, there would be 2375 tons of water coming down on it, and things probably wouldn’t turn out as well as they do for the mosquito. How do the insects do it?

A common urban legend said that the bugs were nimble enough to dodge the drops. A few years ago, a team of engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology watched real mosquitoes and Styrofoam dummy mosquitoes with a high-speed camera during a rainy flight to see if that’s what was really happening. They found that the bugs don’t fly fast enough to dodge the drops, but their slowness is what keeps them from getting knocked out of the sky. A mosquito’s low mass even at slow speed doesn’t provide enough of a target for a raindrop to splash on collision. Instead, the drop just deforms, and doesn’t transfer enough momentum to the mosquito to disrupt its flight.

2. Texas is the mosquito capital of America.

Of the 3000 species of mosquitoes around the world, at least 150 are found in the United States, and 85 of those call Texas home. When people say everything's bigger in Texas, you can also include the biodiversity of the state's biting, disease-carrying insects.

3. Some mosquitoes are truly dangerous to humans ...

The female mosquito, which is the one that stings and sucks blood, is an incredible transmitter of disease and, because of that, the deadliest animal in the world. Each year, the malaria parasites they transmit kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more. They also spread pathogens that cause yellow fever, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya and West Nile disease.

4. ... and some mosquitoes are harmless.

Not every species of mosquito sucks blood from people, and among those that do, not every one transmits disease. The blood suckers don’t even need to bite you for every meal. Males live entirely on nectar and other plant fluids, and the females’ diet is primarily plant-based, too. Most of the time, they only go after people when they’re ready to reproduce, because blood contains lipids, proteins, and other nutrients needed for the production of eggs.

5. MosquitoEs actually help the environment.

When you’re rubbing calamine lotion all over yourself, mosquitoes might not seem to serve any purpose but to annoy you, but many species play important ecological roles. The mosquitoes Aedes impiger and Aedes nigripes, which gather in thick clouds in Arctic Russia and Canada, are an important food source for migrating birds. Farther south, birds, insects, spiders, salamanders, lizards, frogs, and fish also eat different mosquito species regularly. Plants need them, too, and some, like the blunt-leaved orchid and endangered monkeyface orchid, rely on mosquitoes as their primary pollinator.

Some mosquito species are also excellent at mosquito control. Species of the genus Toxorhynchites feed on the larvae and immature stages of other mosquitoes and will sometimes even cannibalize members of their own species.

6. Mosquitoes are amazing hunters (as if we needed to tell you that).

Mosquitoes are adept at picking up on the chemicals given off by their human hosts. They can detect the carbon dioxide in our breath, the 1-octen-3-ol in our breath and sweat, and other organic substances we produce with the 70-plus types of odor and chemical receptors in their antennae. These receptors can pick up traces of chemicals from hundreds of feet away, and once the mosquito closes in, it tracks its meal chemically and also visually—and they’re fond of people wearing dark colors.

7. Mosquitoes can be picky.

If it seems like you’re always covered head to toe by bites while people who were sitting right next to you only have one or two, it’s not just paranoia; the skeeters actually are out to get you. Some people happen to give off more of the odors and compounds that mosquitoes find simply irresistible, while others emit less of those and more of the compounds that make them unattractive to mosquitoes—either by acting as repellents or by masking the compounds that mosquitoes would find attractive.

8. A female mosquito's mouth is primed for sucking blood.

A mosquito doesn’t simply sink its proboscis into your skin and start sucking. What you see sticking out of a mosquito’s face is the labium, which sheaths the mouthparts that really do all the work. The labium bends back when a mosquito bites, allowing these other parts to pass through its tip and do their thing. The sharp, pointed mandibles and maxillae, which both come in pairs, are used to pierce the skin, and the hollow hypopharynx and the labrum are used to deliver saliva and draw blood, respectively.

9. Mosquito saliva prevents blood clotting.

The saliva that gets pumped out from the hypopharynx during a bite is necessary to get around our blood’s tendency to clot. It contains a grab bag of chemicals that suppress vascular constriction, blood clotting and platelet aggregation, keeping our blood from clogging up the mosquitoes' labrum and ruining their meal.

10. Mosquitoes can explode.

Blood pressure makes a mosquito's meal easier by helping to fill its stomach faster, but urban legend says it can also lead to their doom. Story goes, you can flex a muscle close to the bite site or stretch your skin taut so the mosquito can’t pull out its proboscis and your blood pressure will fill the bug until it bursts. The consensus among entomologists seems to be that this is bunk, but there is a more complicated way of blowing the bugs up. To make a blood bomb, you’ve got to sever the mosquito’s ventral nerve cord, which transmits information about satiety. When it's cut, the cord can’t tell the mosquito’s brain that its stomach is full, so it’ll keep feeding until it reaches critical mass. At least one researcher found that mosquitoes clueless about how full they were would keep sucking even after their guts had exploded, sending showers of blood spilling out of their blown-out back end.

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