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10 Movies That Inspired Pet Trends

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Movies can have a lasting impact on pop culture, influencing everything from the music people listen to to the clothes they wear. But films can also influence consumers to make rash decisions when it comes to pet purchases. One study published last year in the journal PLOS ONE [PDF] showed that films featuring dogs could increase a breed’s popularity for up to ten years to follow, and that the demand for a certain breed directly correlated with the success of the film. 

Dogs aren’t the only pets subject to this phenomenon. Whether it’s an owl or a guinea pig, no creature is safe from the consequences of its adorable depiction on screen. 

1. LASSIE COME HOME (1943) 

It’s hard to imagine a time when collies weren’t associated with this lovable canine heroine, but it wasn’t until the first Lassie film was released in 1943 that the breed was catapulted to fame. In the two years following the movie’s premiere, collie registrations with the American Kennel Club increased by 40 percent. The impact on the perception of the breed was so great that collies are still nicknamed “The Lassie Dog” today.

2. RATATOUILLE (2007)

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Convincing the public that rats make trendy pets is no easy task, but Pixar was able to do so with their 2007 movie Ratatouille. According to the British pet chain Pets at Home, their rat sales shot up by 50 percent following the animated film’s release. Hopefully the pet owners knew better than to let their rats near the cooking supplies.

3. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)

New Line Cinema

During the late '80s and early '90s, ninja turtle mania swept the nation. The live-action films as well as the animated series inspired a surge in the popularity of these reptilian pets, many of which were later abandoned or even flushed down toilets. The turtle craze was so disastrous that last year humane groups urged families not to repeat the past ahead of the franchise’s newest installment. “Unfortunately, children do not realize that real turtles do not fly, perform stunts or do any of the exciting moves fictional movie turtles do,” the co-founders of the American Tortoise Rescue said in an open letter to parents. “[W]hen the kids realized after a few weeks that these were not ninja turtles, the turtles were dumped illegally into rivers and lakes as well as dumpsters, flushed down toilets, or relinquished to shelters and overcrowded rescues. It’s estimated that 90 percent died.” Unfortunately for turtles everywhere, yet another sequel is on the way. 

4. THE SHAGGY DOG (1959) 

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No other film’s impact on breed popularity has been as great as The Shaggy Dog’s. Following the Disney film’s release in 1959, Old English Sheepdog registrations in America increased 100-fold. The reason this type of film-inspired popularity spike hasn’t been witnessed since is likely due to the current oversaturation of dog movies. In the early and mid-20th century, films starring canines were a rare commodity: In 1940, less than one film per year featured a dog; by 2005, that rate had reached seven per year.

5. THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS AND MOVIES

Warner Bros.

For non-magic folk, keeping an owl as a pet is a lot more work than it’s cracked up to be. This reality wasn’t enough to stop muggles from purchasing Hedwigs of their very own during the Harry Potter craze of the 2000s. After the film franchise released its final installment in 2011, many owl owners apparently grew disenchanted with their trendy pets and decided to abandon them. One worker at an owl sanctuary in North Wales said that prior to the films they were caring for only six owls, and afterwards that number was up to 100. It turns out keeping an owl in your dormitory isn’t as easy as the movies let on.

6. BABE (1995)

Universal

In the '90s, this story of an adorable young pig who dreamed of being a sheep dog touched enough viewers to lead to an increased demand for pet pigs. The film also may have been responsible for decreasing the number of pork products consumed that year.

7. TURNER AND HOOCH (1989)

Tom Hanks’s rambunctious canine counterpart in Turner and Hooch is memorable for destroying everything in his slobbery wake. Despite this, the American Kennel Club saw a spike in French mastiff registrations the year of the film’s release. Perhaps audiences overlooked Hooch’s excessive drooling in favor of his crime-fighting skills. 

8. FINDING NEMO (2003)

Disney

Pixar’s Finding Nemo centers around a father clownfish on a journey to rescue his son after he’s abducted from their reef by a human diver. You’d think that such a story would have inspired a conservationist attitude toward the species, but it ended up having quite the opposite effect: The demand for the pet fish soared in light of the film’s success, leading to the clownfish populations of some reefs to plummet 75 percent

9. G-FORCE (2009)

Disney

Unlike the computer-generated characters in Disney’s 2009 film G-Force, real-life guinea pigs aren’t exactly action stars. Many parents apparently failed to mention this to their kids after watching the movie, resulting in a surge in guinea pig impulse-buys. It didn’t take long for families to realize that the pets were much less exciting than they appeared on film: In the following year, one animal shelter reported a 25 to 30 percent increase in the number of guinea pigs they were offered. 

10. 101 DALMATIANS (1961, 1996)

Disney

The impact of 101 Dalmatians on the polka-dotted breed’s popularity spanned decades. When the 1961 cartoon was re-released in 1985 and 1991, amateur breeders and puppy mills saturated the market with dalmatians. As you can probably guess by now, many of those dogs were later abandoned after they became too much for their owners to handle. In the year following the 1996 live-action remake, one dalmatian rescue group in Miami claimed to have received 130 dalmatians by September, a number that would normally have taken them two and half years to reach. Cruella de Vil herself would be shocked by such a figure.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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