12 Facts About Pets
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Many dogs have a condition nicknamed “Frito Feet,” in which their feet smell a 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.”
7. One survey found that 81 percent of cat owners let their felines sleep on the bed, compared to 73 percent of dog owners.
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.
9. Forty-five percent of pet owners say they occasionally (or frequently) buy presents for their animals.
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.
11. There are 49 domesticated rabbit breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
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!