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Britain's Pets Face a Skyrocketing Diabetes Epidemic

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Own a tubby tabby, or a fat Fido? If you want your fuzzy friend to live a long life, consider putting it on a diet—or at the very least, stop sharing those table scraps.

According to The New York Post, British pet insurer Animal Friends recently conducted a five-year study of nearly 9000 animals. They found that the number of dogs and cats diagnosed with diabetes—a disease where the body can't produce enough insulin, or properly use it—has risen by 850 percent for dogs and 1161 percent for cats since 2011.

To come up with these figures, Animal Friends selected 9000 pets of the 400,000–600,000 animals insured by the company during the five-year study (2011–2016); these 9000 animals were insured throughout the entire period. "The data comes from our claims data, i.e. it is based on policyholders and the claims they have made for diabetes and diabetes-related treatments," Animal Friends content strategist Elena Barnard told mental_floss in an email.

“With weight issues and diabetes on the rise amongst humans, we assumed we would find the same in people’s pets, but the 900 percent rise we uncovered was shocking,” Westley Pearson, director of claims and marketing for Animal Friends, told Pet Gazette. “It shows a clear gap in Britain’s knowledge regarding proper care of their pets.”

Cats, in particular, face a much higher risk of contracting diabetes than their canine counterparts. According to Animal Friends’ findings, the cat breed most commonly diagnosed with diabetes is the British shorthair (not surprising, considering the round, plush feline is known for its tendency to tip the scales). Other breeds that face a high diabetes rate are the Burmese, foreign shorthairs, Maine coons, and Abyssinians.

As for dogs, West Highland terriers experience the highest incidence of diabetes, followed by Labradors, King Charles spaniels, huskies, and miniature schnauzers. Experts don’t know why these specific animals are more prone toward the condition, nor whether the phenomenon can be attributed to genetics or lifestyle factors.

While this particular study wasn't conducted in the U.S., it's likely that our pets are facing a similar health crisis. In 2012, 57.9 percent of pet cats in the U.S. were found to be overweight or obese, along with an estimated 52.7 percent of dogs. Obesity increases a pet’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and other conditions.

After hearing these stats, your first instinct might be to place your pet on a regimented diet (no free feeding!), and to try to encourage physical activity with walks and toys. But what can you do if your animal has already contracted diabetes? The below infographic by Animal Friends tells you what symptoms to look out for (ironically, weight loss is one of them), and how to care for a pet with the critical condition.

[h/t The New York Post]

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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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