Smile Politely

Bits and Bobs: Pets

Hello loyal readers! Every few weeks I will be doing a “bits and bobs” post with four bite-sized facts following a common theme, so as not to take too much time out of your busy schedules. This week, the focus is “pets” (everyone loves pets!). So without further ado I present four science-y tidbits about our domestic animal friends to share during a lull at your next party. You will be the most interesting person there, guaranteed.

1. Dogs don’t see in shades of gray

It is a common misconception that because dogs are colorblind, they can’t see anything other than black, white, and shades of gray. However, this is not true! Dogs have fewer cones (the cells in your eye that allow you to interpret colors) than humans, but they still have cones.

Amusing, but tragically incorrect.

Dog vision works on a spectrum from yellow to blue, and they cannot see orange, red, or green. That’s why, when you buy a red ball for your dog and throw it into your green lawn, your dog has a difficult time finding it. Get your dog some blue toys so she can get that color stimulation!

2. Cats manipulate you by mimicking a human baby’s cry.

Everyone who has a cat knows they can be manipulative jerks. It turns out that they might be more manipulative than previously thought: Research has shown that many cats will purr at the same frequency at which human babies cry. This stimulates parts of the human brain into feeling a sense of urgency without overwhelming irritation, spurring them to respond. Interestingly, not all cats emit this particular purring: Cats living in households with only one person are the only ones who perform the “urgency purr.” Perhaps this explains some of the stereotype of the cat-obsessed single lady (or dude); they are constantly being brainwashed by their cat.

3. Parents share more bacteria with their dogs than their children.

We know that people can pass on bacteria and other microbes back and forth, and that our own personal “microbiome” can say a lot about us. A recent study has now found that not only do dog owners share a significant portion of their microbiome with their pet, but in fact they share more microscopic organisms with their dog than with their own children. However, in families with dogs, spouses shared more of their microbiome with each other than in couples without dogs. I’ll leave the interpretations up to you.

4. Cats do not have taste receptors for sweet flavors.

I was told there would be cake.

Everyone loves sweet things, right?  Well, not cats. Unlike dogs, which are omnivorous and will eat pretty much anything, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they subsist entirely on meat (unless they are my cat, who really likes tortilla chips). Cats, similar to many other obligate carnivores, have lost the gene for the sweet taste receptor. So there is no need to share your dessert with your cat, no matter how much it’s urgently purring at you. Keep it all for yourself.

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