Uncovering the science of the bond between you and your pet
We’ve all looked into our dogs’ eyes and wondered what they’re thinking. Are they happy? Sad? Hungry? Are they even really thinking anything at all? Regardless of what we may feel our dogs may be thinking, it seems like they love us no matter what. They lick our faces, bark and wag their tails when we come home, and take any chance they can to be by our sides. That has to be love, right?
Well as it turns out, it is! A report published last week in the journal Science suggests that there definitely is a strong love fueled bond between us and our dogs. The study asked dog owners to stare into their dog’s eyes for an extended period of time with scientists measuring levels of oxytocin in both owner and dog’s eyes before and after the experiment. Oxytocin is the hormone typically associated with trust, social bonds, and emotional connection. Therefor, when the scientists found higher oxytocin levels in both owners’ and dogs’ after the eye-contact experiment, it suggests that our dogs really do love us back!
It looks like a dog really is man’s best friend and now we have the science to prove it.
Want to show your dog that you love them back? Sign up for PetPlus!
Ever get a weird tingle at the back of your neck when you catch a cat staring at you from across the room? You’re not alone. Millions of people, even cat lovers, find the unflinching gaze of a cat a little unsettling. As it would happen, this reaction can be explained through science.
A recent study at the Sloof Lirpa Institute in Brussels shows that all members of the family Felidae, from tigers to tabbies, are capable of low levels of telepathy – or mind reading.
How The Study Worked
Tests were administered on a number of cat species at the Planckendael Animal Park outside Brussels, from lynxes to lions. Researchers would have the cats stare at them while thinking of a specific thing – like a color, shape, direction, or action.
Meanwhile, sensors were placed on the cats to collect a reading on their vitals, like heart rate, blood pressure, and body temp. While things like colors or shapes did not register a definitive response, when the researcher thought of a direction or action, 87% of the time the cats would display an appropriate response.
For example, if the researcher thought of running off to the left, the cat would tense up and become focused as if ready to chase. On the other hand, if the researcher thought about laying down or sleeping, the cat’s body would relax as well.
Acting as a control for the study were dogs, wolves, bears, and other non-feline predatory mammals. Their responses, however, were much less exciting, showing unique responses to thoughts only 1 out of every 30 times.
What This Means for Cat Owners
“Are you really thinking THAT?!”
While your cat isn’t exactly capable of superhero levels of mind reading, they are able to accurately predict your movements before they occur. So if you ever wondered why your cat jumps down off your lap right before you were about to get up, it is because they sensed your intentions.
It is also thought to be a big component in what makes cats the expert predators they are. The ability to tell what their prey is going to do before they make a move gives them a distinct leg up on other predators. Imagine playing basketball with someone who could tell if you were going to pass, dribble, or shoot before you even had the ball. That would make for some stiff competition.
Worried? Don’t Be!
Sure, your cat can accurately predict when you are going to stand up, sit down, run, walk, or jump. But what can they really do with that information? Not much.
While you really have nothing to worry about in terms of your cat reading your mind, if you are concerned, there are a few tricks the researchers picked up that can help mask your thoughts from your cat.
While not a perfect cloak, wearing sunglasses did reduce the efficacy of the cats’ ESP by around 70%. Same with any other garment that blocks your eyes.
Hold a Magnet
The study also showed that if the researcher held a strong enough magnet, the cats were unable to predict their thoughts. They believe the magnetic field interferes with their telepathy somehow, although the mechanics behind their abilities are still largely unknown.
Empty Your Mind
Pretty simple in theory, but difficult in practice. If you can clear your mind of all thought, then your cat has nothing to read. Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness is a great read for those looking to clear their mind and protect their thoughts from cats.
Think of Something Scary
If you are unable to clear your mind, the next best thing is to think of something that would scare the cat. This seems to distract them long enough for you to think about something else without fear of being cat-scanned.
Feral cats can be found roaming big cities, small towns, and suburban neighborhoods around the world, having either ran away or been abandoned by their owners. After spending most of their lives outdoors and alone, these felines might be tough to tame without the proper help.
One car service in New York City has turned into a haven by helping spay and neuter feral cats found in the metropolitan area.
Controlling the pet population
While everyone may love animals, sometimes too many can become a serious issue if they’re running around unsupervised. That’s why many organizations, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, advocate spaying and neutering animals to curb overpopulation. Recently, a Brooklyn business owner decided to lend a hand in the mission.
The New York Post reported that Big Apple Car in Bath Beach, which employs more than 200 luxury car drivers around the city, has installed a surgery room on its ground floor for veterinarians to sterilize kittens for free on Sundays and Mondays. This offers considerable opportunities to cat owners, as the operation can cost several hundred dollars depending on the facility.
Vets at Big Apple Car are paid by nonprofit organization The Toby Project, which fights to prevent the killing of adoptable cats and dogs at animal shelters located around New York City. The building also has a dedicated area in its basement for housing abandoned cats until they can find homes for them. Diana Clemente, president of Big Apple Car, offered the space in 2011 and, to date, has helped spay and neuter more than 9,000 cats.
Some people might be a bit intimidated by the appearance of feral cats, as they can act like wild animals at times. However, they still depend on our help to survive outside.
Many of these felines are often hungry, so most people can start by making friends with feral cats through meals. Consider signing up for a PetPlus membership and purchasing some prescription cat food to ensure that the felines’ health is cared for. Make sure you stay out of sight at first to establish trust, then see if the animal will approach the bowl when you’re nearby.
Next, place a crate outside near the food and move the dish closer over time so the cat has to walk inside to eat. Once you’ve gotten the feline in the crate, take a trip to the veterinarian office or local rescue shelter to check for a microchip. The ASPCA recommended a thorough checkup if you’re considering keeping the pet to ensure that there are no parasites or diseases present, and have the feline spayed or neutered to prevent any reproduction.
When it comes to bringing a new dog into your home, many pet owners have preferences on where they adopt their pooches from. From private breeders to local shelters, people pay special attention to the conditions at these facilities as they pick where to go.
Recently, the New York Police Department raided a SoHo apartment that was operating as a puppy mill and rescued 10 dogs.
Officers from the 1st Precinct were aided by a special crew from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals during an inspection of the apartment on Feb. 18. They were so surprised by the filthy conditions that they returned just three days later with an official search warrant. Neighbors believe the apartment was only used for dog breeding, as the pooches barked and yelped all day long without any signs of quieting down.
“It was extremely unsanitary, things falling apart, garbage thrown about the place,” a police source told the Post. “Definitely not fit for a dog or human.”
The NYPD arrested 46-year-old Luis Sanchez and 33-year-old Xenia Torres. Both suspects are facing charges of animal cruelty. All 10 of the Yorkies, with matted fur, were taken to a nearby ASPCA facility for medical evaluations.
This story highlights the dangers of puppy mills and the priorities that operators of these facilities place over the well-being of the dogs.
Fighting the cruelty of puppy mills
These large-scale commercial operations have little regard for the genetic qualities of the dogs they breed. Most of the time, their main motivator is making as much money as possible. As a result, canines from puppy mills can have unchecked hereditary effects that can cost thousands of dollars in veterinarian fees to treat.
According to the ASPCA, illnesses and diseases are very common in puppy mills, with most pooches prone to congenital conditions. Some of these problems can include epilepsy, heart disease, endocrine disorders, and upper respiratory infections. Puppy mill operators usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary areas without adequate pet care, food, or water. Some pooches may never even step outside until much later in life, leaving them unsociable and shy.
The ASPCA estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills operating in the U.S. at a given time. In addition, the highest concentration of these facilities is in the Midwest. If owners want to get more involved in stopping the spread of puppy mills, they can help the ASPCA by signing up for Take The Pledge and petition to end the sale of puppies at stores.
If you’ve just adopted a puppy mill survivor, make sure to join PetPlus to purchase medications like Heartgard Plus to ensure that your pooch maintains their health.
Everyone can picture a pooch with their muzzle inches off the ground, sniffing for the remnants of a long lost scent trail. And while no human could even fathom a whiff, within minutes the pooch is off and running after some invisible prey with their human companion hot on their heels.
Dog owners might have some complaints about their furry friends’ weird habits, like lollygagging around an aromatic tree stump during what is supposed to be a brisk morning walk. That said, the canine sense of smell can be put to good use. Just ask members of the Transportation Security Administration at Detroit Metropolitan Airport how they feel about their bomb sniffing dogs.
Bomb Sniffing Dogs Are Keeping Travelers Safe
Skift reported the new TSA employees’ responsibilities at the airport in Romulus, Michigan, where an extra layer of security is added through specially trained bomb sniffing dogs, including black Labrador retriever Nestle. She’s one of the latest hires as a passenger screening canine who sniffs around suitcases, jackets and shoes to determine if there are any explosive odors to be detected.
The TSA has employed Nestle and other canines to locate potential threats at security checkpoints all over Detroit Metropolitan Airport. With four specially trained dogs, the safety administration hopes to add improved layers of protection to incoming and outgoing passengers at the facility. What separates these pooches from others is the extensive, specialized training they undergo prior to deployment.
According to the TSA, canines and their handlers participate in a two-month training course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Each week, the teams engage in several hours of proficiency exercises in environments that simulate airport operations. This includes the smells and distractions commonly associated with mass transit hubs, including bus terminals and train stations. While active, these teams can screen more than 400 passengers in an hour, which can significantly improve the process as a whole with no reductions in security levels.
Dogs’ sense of smell is one of their most powerful assets, which makes them ideal for bomb sniffing, hunting, search and rescue, and many other useful roles.
German Shorthaired Pointer: These pooches have exceptional scenting and trailing abilities that make them perfectly suited for hunting trips in open fields. With their noses pressed low to the ground, Pointers can follow scents intensely without looking up.
English Springer Spaniel: These popular sporting canines are bred to either be show or field dogs, depending on owners’ preferences. The field Springers are prized hunters for their sense of smell, which allows them to detect a range of scents such as explosives, narcotics, counterfeit money and human remains.
Beagle: Fresh off a Westminster victory, this hound breed has as many scent receptors as the larger German Shepherd. These pooches are even used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to detect contraband in airports. Beagles on the job have recognized almost 50 different odors for the USDA.
Even with strong noses, canines need to be well cared for to maintain their sniffing abilities. Owners should sign up for PetPlus to purchase dog medication and other products that promote fit pooches.