Ron Weasley may have had the right idea when he opted for a pet rat (who could forget Scabbers, a.k.a. Peter Pettigrew?) instead of an owl, cat, or toad. A new study spotted by People Magazine reveals that children are reportedly more satisfied with pet rats than any other animal.
The pet ownership study, conducted online by pet product review site RightPet, is quite comprehensive. It was conducted over a period of eight years, from 2010 to 2018, and asked nearly 16,800 pet owners from 113 countries to rate their level of satisfaction with a particular animal on a scale of zero (extremely dissatisfied) to five (fully satisfied).
As it turns out, pet rats do not disappoint. Kids between the ages of 10 and 17 reported being happier with rats than cats, dogs, or other popular pets. However, their satisfaction diminishes as they get older, while satisfaction with cats and dogs increases with age. “In other words, young people tended to enjoy rats more than do older people—whereas the reverse was true for most other common pets,” the study notes.
According to RightPet founder and editor Brett Hodges, young children most likely enjoy rats because they’re smart, cheap, and easy to care for, and perhaps most importantly, they’re “great for freaking out your parents,” as People puts it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the survey found that the least satisfying pets are scorpions and geese.
The study also analyzed respondents’ personality traits, which yielded some interesting results. For one, RightPet claims that dog lovers are more curious and open to new experiences than cat lovers. And lending credence to the cat lady stereotype is this finding: “Moody and anxious men don't care for cats. In contrast, moody and anxious women enjoy cats.” To see more insights from the study, visit RightPet’s website.
Happy Penguin Awareness Day! To celebrated, here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.
1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.
2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.
3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.
4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.
5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.
7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.
8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.
9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.
10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.
11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.
12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.
13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.
14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.
15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.
16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")
17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.
18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.
19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.
20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.
Far across the world, an elusive—and adorable—wildcat called the Pallas’s cat (also known as the manul) roams the grasslands and steppes of Central Asia and Eurasia. Get to know the flat-faced, furry kitty, which has been featured in memes and viral videos and recently received its own wildlife preserve in Asia’s Altai Mountains.
1. It's named after naturalist Peter Pallas.
German naturalist Peter Pallas first described the furry wildcat in 1776. He named the kitty Felis manul, and theorized that it was an ancestor of the Persian cat, due to its round face, luxurious coat, and stocky body. (He was wrong.)
2. Its scientific name means "ugly-eared."
Later on, the cat's scientific name was changed from Felis manul to Otocolobus manul—not exactly the most flattering moniker, since Otocolobusis Greek for “ugly-eared.”
3. Its unusual ears come in handy.
Some may consider the Pallas’s cat’s ears to be ugly, while others might think they’re adorable. Arguments aside, the cat’s round ears—which sit flat on the sides of its head—are one of the feline's most distinguishing features. As Crystal DiMiceli, a former wild animal keeper at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Zoo, explains in the above video, having low-positioned ears helps the cat conceal itself—they don’t poke up to reveal the animal's position while it's hiding or hunting.
4. It has a dense, plush coat.
The coat of the Pallas's cat is its true crowning glory. It’s longer and denser than any other coat belonging to a member of the Felid species (growing in even heavier in the winter), and the undercoat on its belly is twice as long as the fur covering the rest of its body. The shade ranges from silvery grey during the winter to a darker, red-toned hue during warmer months. (Some cats are also red, particularly in Central Asia.) Its broad head is streaked and speckled with dark markings, and its bushy tail is banded with stripes and a dark tip. These markings tend to appear darker during the summer.
5. Its fur blends with its habitat, which conceals it from predators.
Pallas's cats live in areas ranging from Pakistan and northern India to central China, Mongolia, and southern Russia. According to Wild Cats of the World, by Luke Hunter, its body isn’t adapted for snow, so it sticks to cold, arid habitats—particularly grassy or rocky areas, which help conceal it from predators—at elevations of around 1500 to nearly 17,000 feet. The stocky cat isn’t a fast runner, so when it senses danger, it freezes and crouches flat and motionless on the ground, and its fur helps it blend in with its surroundings.
6. Pallas's cats aren't fat—they're just furry.
Pallas's cats typically weigh less than 12 pounds, and they’re usually only 2 feet or less in body length—meaning they’re not that much larger than an ordinary house cat. Yet their dense coat of fur makes them appear much larger.
7. Their pupils are round instead of vertical.
Pallas's cats do share one feature in common with larger wildcats, like lions and tigers: their eyes. Their pupils are round, whereas a house cat's pupils are vertical and slit-shaped. Wondering why some cats have round pupils while others have vertical ones? A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that animals’ pupil shapes might indicate their role in the predator/prey food chain. They analyzed 214 species of land animals (including cats), and noted that species with vertical pupils tended to be ambush predators that were active during both day and night. In contrast, species with vertical pupils were often “active foragers,” meaning they chase their prey. Also, predators that are closer to the ground, like house cats, were prone to vertical pupils, whereas larger wildcats had round ones. Pallas’s cats are small, and they are primarily ambush hunters, so the jury’s still out on whether the study's findings hold true for all creatures.
8. They subsist mostly on pika.
Pallas's cats are ambush hunters and spend much of their time hunting pika, a small mammal, and other critters like gerbils, voles, hares, ground squirrels, birds, and young marmots. Pika typically make up more than 50 percent of the cat's diet.
9. They may be distantly related to the leopard cat.
Peter Pallas thought the animal was related to the Persian cat. (We think it looks like a Maine Coon and a Scottish Fold had a baby and weaned it on steroid milk.) However, experts have uncovered evidence that the wildcat’s nearest—yet still pretty distant—relative might be the leopard cat.
10. They's not social animals.
The Pallas's cat is notoriously elusive and spends much of its time hiding in caves, crevices, or abandoned burrows.
11. They don't seem to like each other much.
Pallas's cats may be adorably fluffy, but they aren’t the world’s sweetest, most cuddly creatures. In fact, they’re very aggressive. Case in point: In The Wild Cat Book, authors Fiona and Mel Sunquist recount an anecdote provided by Bill Swanson, the Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal research. Zookeepers thought that a litter of newborn Pallas's cats were having difficulty breathing, but “when they listened closely, they realized that the noise they were hearing was the kittens growling and hissing at each other—before they had even opened their eyes!"
12. Their mating period is brief.
Pallas’s cats mate between December and March; the females typically give birth between the end of March and May, after a gestation period of 66 to 75 days. Pallas’s cats usually give birth to three or four kittens, but litters can sometimes have as many as eight kittens. Kittens become independent by four to five months, and when they reach nine to 10 months, they’re mature enough to reproduce.
13. They're classified as "near-threatened."
It's estimated that Pallas's cats can live up to six years in the wild, but because of predators and other dangers, their lifespan is likely to be half this length. In captivity, they’ve been known to survive for nearly 12 years.
In 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the Pallas’s cat as “near-threatened,” and that status remains today. Many factors contribute to their low numbers, including farming, agricultural activities, mining, and poisoning campaigns aimed at reducing pika and marmot populations. They're also often killed in traps meant for wolves and foxes, or by domestic dogs. And despite international trading bans and legal protections in some countries, they're often hunted for their fur. (The cat's fat and organs are also used to make traditional medicines.)
Scientists don't have enough data to estimate the Pallas’s cat's population size, but due to their scarcity and the many threats they face, experts believe that their numbers have dropped by 10 to 15 percent over the past decade or so. To better understand—and protect—the animal, an international team of conservationists recently secured a 12-mile swath of land in Sailyugemsky Nature Park, which lies in the Altai Mountains between Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as a sanctuary for the rare cat. There, they hope to monitor its population, study its habitat, and build a database of information detailing encounters with it.