Why We Love Our Pets So Much – American Culture and Its Pets

Have you ever heard the term "anthrozoology"? In 1990, biologist John Bradshaw, an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol in England, coined the term to define a field of study that deals with how humans think about their animals. Since that time, researchers have spent a lot of time exploring "human-animal interactions" or "the human-animal bond." 

Bradshaw authored a book called "The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human" in which he explains this fascination with pets. A century ago, animals were useful and although humans appreciated their usefulness, they didn't normally keep them as pets, at least not in the numbers we do today. "Pet-keeping," he writes, "is an intrinsic part of human nature, one rooted deeply in our own species' evolution."

It has been widely reported that pets make us live longer, and there is some truth to the claim that they reduce stress, a component in many fatal diseases like heart disease. 'Good interactions," he says, "do have quite a profound effect, causing changes in oxytocin and in beta endorphins. Those are actual changes going on in the body of somebody who is stroking a friendly dog." 

Having a friendly dog makes you instantly more trustworthy in the eyes of a person you're meeting for the first time. Animal-assisted therapy also benefits from this explanation, because it makes the therapist more approachable.

Regardless of the research Bradshaw has done. When SurveyMonkey did a survey of pet owners, the majority believed the research that was done in Sweden was more reliable. That study suggested that owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death when demographic data on 3.4 million Swedes aged 40-80 years was compared. Time Magazine cited several studies leading to the conclusion that science says your pet is good for your mental health.

If you just aren't sure about which study to believe, I offer you my own personal experience. When my daughter outgrew the abilities of her retired Western Pleasure horse, she decided to donate her to an assisted therapy organization near us. We visited Image often, and each time we were met with astounding stories from the parents whose children had benefited from their interaction with this gentle, beautiful horse. Two teenage boys who had never spoken began to verbalize when they were with Image. To me, the science is settled. I've seen it with my own eyes. So I join the ranks of those Americans who are totally in love with their pets.

Happy Healthy Cat Month!

Hey all you cat moms and dads! Did you know that September is the official month for celebrating your feline companion? Cats are family too, and it’s important to keep them healthy. Take care of your kitty's needs so that you can spend as many years together as possible.

Practicing Prey Instincts

Although they spend much of their time indoors, cats are still naturally inclined to live and behave as they once did in the wild. Felines will always be natural born hunters, and much like their domesticated canine counterparts, that internal need must be satisfied. If not, they get bored and become destructive.

While it does depend on your cat's specific energy levels, many felines aren't opposed to going for walks. You can find cat harnesses online or at just about any pet store. Be sure to avoid retractable leashes as they can become tangled if your kitty decides to climb up a tree.

Cat owners who spend a lot of time at work may find it difficult to give their companions enough exercise. If this sounds like you, don't worry! A laser pointer or motion toy works just as well for the days when you're just a little too tired for a walk.

Meowlitosis and Other Dental Issues

Whew! Does your cat's breath smell a little worse than usual lately? If so, it could be one of the first signs that something is wrong. Periodontal disease is one of the most common problems that veterinarians see in felines. While it is a natural part of aging, more severe issues such as tooth resorption can arise. 

Small lesions form around the gumline, sort of like what you'd see with gingivitis in a human. If left unchecked, the inflammation increases over time causing a breakdown of the root tissue, and the tooth eventually retracts. 

Veterinarians are still unclear as to the exact reason behind tooth resorption. What we do know is that there's a direct link between poor oral hygiene and the gum inflammation that initiates root destruction. If it’s been awhile since your cat has seen the dentist, make an appointment this month!

Preventing Feline Leukemia

Did you know that Feline Leukemia Virus is the most common cause of cancer in cats? This disease is spread through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva, and blood. Feline Leukemia progresses similarly to the way that AIDS and HIV do in humans. It is incurable, and slowly destroys your cat's immune system.

The good news is that a vaccine does exist, and it can be administered to kittens as early as nine weeks of age. Believe it or not, FLV is most often spread through mutual grooming and milk. So, if there's any chance your female kitty might become a mama, make sure she's vaccinated against the virus first!

Even if your cat tests positive for the disease someday, it doesn't necessarily mean that the end is nigh. Many felines live for three plus years after being diagnosed, and with a great quality of life I might add.

Great DIY Pet Projects to Create at Home!

Cat lovers love their homes, too, and sometimes their BFFFFs (best four-footed forever friends) shred their furniture, making them have to choose between their homes and their cats. In days-gone-by, declawing was the way many people solved the dilemma, but today we know that declawing actually amputates the first part of every one of the cat's toes, a cruel and unnecessary process.  The cruelty is obvious, but why unnecessary? Because you can easily make a great-looking cat scratcher that kitty will much prefer to your sofa and will not look like "cat furniture." We found this project on we-are-scout.com.

Creating this wonderful cat scratcher starts with the IKEA Rast bedside table ($14.95) and a few other supplies. All the instructions are available on we-are-scout.com. An easy evening or weekend project and your decor is safe from kitty's claws!

Cats aren't the only pets that can be destructive. When dogs are left at home for an extended period of time (like when you're at work), they can get bored and look for ways to entertain themselves. Sometimes, they get destructive. Even if Spot isn't destructive, if he likes to chew, here is a way to make a no-sew chew toy that will allow him to entertain himself for hours on end.  It  may look complicated, but these easy-to-follow tutorials will have you churning out these delightful chew toys in no time. You can find the tutorial here

Cats love to get inside things, as all cat lovers know. An empty box or paper shopping bag is alluring to cats, but they are kind of, well, trashy-looking lying around your home. Instead, find a brightly colored t-shirt at your local resale shop (or recycle one only our own), add a piece of cardboard and a couple of wire coat hangers and voila! A great-looking cat hide-out that is as much fun to look at as it is for kitty to hide in. To find the simple tutorial, just follow this link. Make several to go in every room your cat lives in to match or complement the colors and patterns in the room.

With a few tools and some imagination,the folks at The Owner Builder Network have put together this fun self-groomer for cats, but small dogs would love it, too. It comprises a board, a couple of toilet-bowl brushes, and a little time that produces this innovative groomer that takes some of the grooming chore off your hands and puts it in the cat's paws. Fun and useful, and it only uses basic tools and techniques. 

To find even more pet projects to make great things for your cat and dog, why not check out Pinterest? There's a wealth of fun things to make and do for you and your BFFFF's!

National Deaf Dog Week

Every year in America, the last week of September is set side to celebrate our four-footed friends that are deaf. This year National Deaf Dog Week falls from September 24 to October 1. And around our nation, people are finding good reasons to celebrate!

One of the most endearing qualities of dogs who are deaf is that they "hear with their hearts." Not only do they love their human BFFs, they also love their deaf buddies as well. Yes, all dogs love their humans, but deaf dogs seem to have a greater capacity for emotional bonding than do their hearing counterparts. 

Many people believe that when a dog loses one physical sense---such as the ability to hear---their other senses become sharper to "take over.' But according to science, that's not actually what is happening.

In his ground-breaking work on deafness in dogs, Stanley Coren (How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind) describes eight different modalities that allow deaf dogs to substitute touch for hearing. Their adaptation to sensing the world differently is truly amazing, and you see it demonstrated in pet dogs that cannot hear. 

These special canines are called "Velcro" dogs, because they stick to their human handlers like the hook-and-link fastener. Laughably, other reasons deaf dogs rock are because they don't freak out during thunderstorms. You can sneak into the kitchen for a late night snack, open a bag of potato chips and your deaf dog doesn't wake up and they don't lose their cool when surrounded by other barking dogs. 

Deaf dogs make excellent therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and even service dogs because they don't react with fear and anxiety exhibited by some hearing dogs. Not only do they tolerate lots of strange hands petting them, they revel in the attention.

Some people have the mistaken notion that all white dogs are deaf. Of course, some dogs (of any color) become deaf through accident or illness, but the inheritance of deafness does seem to go along with white coloration.  The reason for that lies in the fact that the cells that enable the ability to hear and the cells that determine coat color come from the same stem cells. Congenital hearing loss occurs frequently in breeds with white,  piebald, or merle coats. Some of the breeds with these color patterns include Bull Terriers, Boxers, English Setters, Dalmatians, Old English Sheepdogs, Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, and Border Collies.

Remember this about deaf dogs: the loss of hearing seems to sharpen one sense above all others… the sense of love!