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12 Facts About Pets and Pet Ownership for National Pet Day

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It goes without saying that for pet owners, every day is National Pet Day—but the official holiday is held on April 11 every year. The first National Pet Day was first held 10 years ago and was created by Colleen Paige, according to its website, not just to celebrate all of the joy pets bring their human companions, but “to create public awareness about the plight of many different kinds of animals awaiting a forever home in shelters and rescues around the globe.” The awareness is sorely needed: According to the ASPCA, 7.6 million animals enter shelters in the U.S. every year, and 2.7 million animals are euthanized. To get you prepped for the holiday, we’ve thrown together a few facts about pets and pet ownership—as well as a few facts about the mental_floss staff’s beloved animal companions.

You may have seen Olly (bottom), 7, and Pearl Wolfie, 2.5, around MentalFloss.com before. These feline frenemies live with executive editor Erin McCarthy. Olly—who is named after the titular character in the Disney movie Oliver and Company—was rescued from a Pennsylvania junkyard. He loves snuggling, jumping for treats, and anything fleece. Pearl Wolfie was a Brooklyn street cat adopted from the New York City shelter Social Tees. She loves sitting in boxes and meowing at her mom and dad. She has toe fluff for days.


1. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet owners in the United States spent $60.28 billion on their furry friends in 2015. That number is expected to rise by more than $2 billion in 2016.

Mr. Dog—who also goes by the name Brian Jeffrey—belongs to art director Lucy Quintanilla’s mom, who adopted him from Austin Pets Alive. He hates to have his picture taken—in fact, if he sees your phone in photo-taking position, he’ll get up and walk away.


2. Cats don’t typically meow at each other—that’s a communication tool reserved for their humans. According to Science of Us, in a 2003 study, researchers at Cornell University recorded meows from 12 cats in five typical scenarios; when they played the meows for humans, the people who either had cats, interacted with cats, or liked cats were far more successful in deciphering the scenario. According to the lead author, Nicholas Nicastro, cats are very good at changing their vocalizations depending on the situation: The 7 a.m. "feed me" call, for example, is longer and has more energy in the lower frequencies, while the "adopt me" meow at the local shelter is shorter and equal in low and high frequencies. After millennia of working together, each species has managed to figure out what the other one wants.

Jean-Claude van Damme came into staff writer Kate Horowitz’s life while she was working at National Geographic. When a writer for the magazine advertised that she had too many geckos and needed to offload some, Kate chose one that was little, tailless, accident-prone, and clearly being bullied by his more robust brethren. She named him after the action star, but he doesn’t have much in common with his human counterpart: He doesn't like action or fight scenes or winning. He likes fruit smoothies and snoozing and people who wear glasses and being left alone. He also falls down a lot. Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus) can live at least 20 years; Jean-Claude is 5.


3. Nearly 80 million U.S. households have a pet, and 42 percent of those households have more than one, according to a 2015-2016 survey by the APPA. There are 77.8 million pet dogs in the U.S. and 85.8 million pet cats.

Staff editor Erika Berlin’s dog, Amadeus, has visited 12 states and two countries in his 5 years, and is now residing in Germany, where the schnauzer breed originated in the 15th century. Amadeus was named after his mom's favorite movie/composer, and he loves chasing soccer balls, eating all the food his human brother throws on the floor, and cuddling during Netflix binging sessions.


4. Goldfish have a reputation as short-lived creatures, but given proper care, they can live as long as 30 years in captivity. The oldest captive goldfish ever recorded was won at a fair in 1956 and died in 1999 at age 43.

Herbert, who belongs to assistant editor Caitlin Schneider, is a 2-year-old tabby who was roaming the streets of New York City until a few months ago, when Brooklyn became his permanent residence. His parents think he used to be in a kitty gang because he's a bit wild, standoffish, and plays it cool most of the time, but he likes to cuddle at night—a habit from his former life, where even the bad boys had to huddle to stay warm.


5. Parrots, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), are the nation’s fourth most popular pet; according to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 3.1 percent of U.S. households owned birds. Some parrots can scream as loud as an ambulance siren. These birds are beautiful, but they’re difficult to care for and require lots of space, so the HSUS doesn’t recommend keeping them as pets at all.

Like her namesake RBG, Ruthie, pupper of special projects editor Beth Anne Macaluso, is little but fierce. She's cuddly and sassy and loves chasing squirrels, eating dirty q-tips from the bathroom trashcan, and trying to nip at the cursor on her mom’s laptop screen. When her ears flop up as they do in the photo above, her mom calls it her Princess Leia look. Mom and pup celebrate their birthdays a mere two days apart.


6. Many dogs have a condition nicknamed “Frito Feet,” in which their feet smell little bit like corn chips. As Matt Soniak wrote in a Big Question on this site, this has to do with the kind of bacteria found on a pup’s feet, and “could be due to yeast or Proteus bacteria. Both are known for their sweet, corn tortilla–like smell. Or it could be Pseudomonas bacteria, which smell a little fruitier—but pretty close to popcorn to most noses.”

Pickles, who lives with staff editor Bess Lovejoy, came from a rescue shelter in British Columbia. She has flown across the continent twice—and was not happy about it. She squawks like a duck when hungry, waddles, and may have been a table ornament in a past life.


7. One survey found that 81 percent of cat owners let their felines sleep on the bed, compared to 73 percent of dog owners.

Staff writer Michele Debczak’s pup Sampson is an 8-year-old mutt who was rescued from a Bucks County, Pennsylvania shelter when he was less than a year old. Vets say they see German Shepherd, Husky, and Shiba Inu in him. He loves making new friends but gets very upset when people dance around him.


8. The red-eared slider is one of the most popular pet turtles in the United States. They grow to be a foot long and can live for up to 20 years.

Fergie is named after Ferguson, the feline star of "New Girl," but her original name was Sunny Rae. She's around 5 years old and was found abandoned in a carrier outside a Brooklyn bodega before being taken in by one of those adoption vans. She enjoys laying on laptops, watching her favorite human—who is not her owner, senior staff writer Shaunacy Ferro—play video games, chasing her tail in the bathtub, and turning down subpar flavors of canned food.


9. Forty-five percent of pet owners say they occasionally (or frequently) buy presents for their animals.

Assistant Editor Rebecca O’Connell’s dog, Cocoa, is missing a toe. She was very sick as a puppy and almost died, but she pulled through. She’s now 13 and has terrible breath.


10. Of the many species of hamsters, the five most commonly kept as pets are Syrian, Dwarf Campbells Russian, Dwarf Winter White Russian, Chinese, and Roborovski. As anyone who’s had one of these rodents knows, they can fit an insane amount of stuff in their cheeks. How do they do it? When the BBC x-rayed a hamster eating for the series Pets - Wild at Heart, they discovered that the animals’ cheek pouches extend down to their hips.

Morgan, a.k.a. Mo, is a 6-year-old Pekingese-Chihuahua-Mogwai mix who has never met a piece of cheese she didn't like (or at least didn't beg for). Mo's best friend is Zuzu, a 1-year-old Maine Coon mix. Formerly known as "Elsa," Zuzu was found in the midst of a blizzard, frozen in a block of snow and ice. Zuzu made it; her tail did not. They live with senior editor Jenn Wood, though they might say she lives with them. They don't like it when she leaves.


11. There are 49 domesticated rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.

Clara, a 7-month-old mutt rescued from Alabama, lives with senior editor Abbey Stone. According to Wisdom Panel, a doggy DNA test that purportedly recognizes over 250 breeds, she is half Staffordshire terrier, one-eighth chow chow, and three-eighths “mixed breed.” (Her parents believe that three-eighths is a southern breed—one Wisdom Panel does not recognize—called a Black Mouth Cur.) Clara is a cuddly diva who loves peanut butter, chewing, and making new friends of both the two-legged and four-legged variety. She has never met a cat.


12. According to the ASPCA, around 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year. Interesting in adopting a pet? Make sure to do your research ahead of time to find the animal that's right for you!

Lille is a 3-year-old “Tabyssinian” (half tabby, half Abyssinian) that staff writer Kirstin Fawcett found huddled outside in a snowstorm two weeks before Christmas in 2013. Despite the fact that her rescue was akin to a heartwarming plot twist in a TV holiday special, Lille clearly isn’t a big fan of the Yuletide season.


All animal bios written by their respective humans.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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