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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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Scatterbrained
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dogs
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YouTube

Dogs: They’re cute, they’re cuddly … and they can smell fear!

Today on Scatterbrained, John Green and friends go beyond the floof to reveal some fascinating facts about our canine pals—including the story of one Bloodhound who helped track down 600 criminals during his lifetime. (Move over, McGruff.) They’re also looking at the name origins of some of your favorite dog breeds, going behind the scenes of the Puppy Bowl, and dishing the details on how a breed gets to compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

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Animals
Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know
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For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.

1. SPLOOT

You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.

2. DERP

Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.

3. BLEP

Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.

4. MLEM

Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.

5. FLOOF

Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.

6. BORK

Dog outside barking.
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According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.

7. DOGGO

Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.
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Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”

8. SMOL

Tiny kitten in grass.
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Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.

9. PUPPER

Hands holding a puppy.
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Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.

11. SNOOT

Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.
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Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.

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