Tag Archives: Human-Animal Bond

Time, Inc. Starts PetHero Subscription Program & Goes To The Dogs (And Cats)

Time, Inc. starts subscription program & goes to the dogs (and cats)

Time, Inc. has a treat for your cat, and it’s not a magazine to curl up on while you’re trying to read.

In a departure from its usual business, the company recently launched PetHero, a paid subscription program that offers discounts and other benefits to people on the prowl for lower cat care costs.

While at first glance PetHero and Time may look like a mismatch, the media company is thinking its new venture could be a “purrfect” fit. When it dug through its consumer data, what jumped out was the number of people (about 100 million!) the company reaches who live with cats and dogs.

“PetHero was created to make it easier, more fun and more affordable for families to keep their pets happy and healthy,” executive vice president of consumer marketing and revenue Leslie Dukker Doty told Business Wire.

PetHero offers a 25 percent discount on vet bills; a lost pet concierge service to help recover lost companion animals; discounts on prescriptions, food and supplies and seasonal pet boxes filled with toys, treats and accessories. Of course, most cats would be happy to have just the empty box.

Membership in PetHero is $20 a month for one cat or dog. Add $5 a month for each additional animal.

Do Cat Colors Dictate Personality? Maybe…

Tortie cat © Eric Isselée - Fotolia.com

Are you thinking your tortie gives new meaning to the word “catitude?”
Is your calico a bit feisty when things aren’t going exactly her way? A
study by UC Davis veterinarian Elizabeth Stelow proves what a lot of us
have suspected all along. Torties and calicoes tend to be diva cats and
can be more than a little challenging to their human companions.

Stelow
and her research team surveyed 1200 cat parents online. They found that
calico and tortoiseshell cats are more likely to “hiss, chase, bite,
swat or scratch during interactions with humans.” Gray and white and
black and white cats seem to have an abundance of catitude, too, and are
likely to be a bit more aggressive than cats with other coat patterns.

The sweetest cats? An earlier study suggests those would be the orange males.

That
study, done by researchers at California State University and the New
College of Florida, set out to discover humans’ biases based on cat
colors. The online survey of nearly 200 people asked participants to
associate 10 personality traits (active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly,
intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable) with five cat colors
(orange, tricolored, white, black and bicolored).

Most of the
people surveyed thought torties and calicoes were aloof and intolerant.
White cats, too, were seen as aloof and shy but calm. Like orange cats,
bicolored cats ranked high for being friendly. And black cats?
Unfortunately, no trends emerged, although most people who know them
would say they’re affectionate and friendly.

Of course, the
caveat to all this research is that every cat is different. One of the
torties I live with can be a hissing, growling spitfire. The other is a
gentle soul who licks my hand at night until I fall asleep.

Stelow agrees you can’t judge a cat by its color.

“We
thought the findings were very interesting, and we would love other
researchers to take the baton and run with it, to look at the genetics
of why this may be happening,” she told the Seattle Times. “We’re not
suggesting that anyone avoid having these cats in their homes. Most of
them make lovely pets. It’s just information to help you understand what
you might be up against.” Maybe. But nothing could have prepared me for
what I was up against when I met my cute little spitfire, Ginger!

Pet Insurance Goes To Work

Does this kitten have pet insurance? She just might since a growing number of companies are offering pet insurance as a voluntary benefit.

Is the cost of kitty’s health care making you feel a bit sick? If you’re lucky, your employer is one of a growing number of companies that offers pet insurance as a voluntary benefit.


According to Nationwide Insurance, the owner of VPI Pet Insurance, health care coverage for companion animals is one of the fastest-growing voluntary benefits in the U.S. More than 5,000 companies and organizations now offer Nationwide, and other pet insurance companies have corporate clients, too.

Pet Insurance Posts Record Growth

If you’re looking for a growth industry, check out pet insurance. 


In 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available, the number of gross written premiums increased 12.8 percent on 10.6 percent additional animals. That makes it one of the fastest growing categories in the insurance industry.


In all, 1.4 million companion animals had insurance, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association says. Their humans paid $660.5 million in premiums. 


Pet Insurance At The Office

Many companies now offer pet insurance as a benefit to cover kittens like this one.
While some companies pay 100 percent of their employees’ pet insurance premiums, most offer it as a voluntary benefit. That means employees’ animal companions are covered at discounted group rates, with the company taking care of administrative costs.

Among the companies that offer pet insurance as a benefit are Deloitte LLP, Edelman, Caterpillar Inc., Walgreen Co, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Hewlett-Packard, Levi Strauss, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Xerox, Adidas and Yahoo!.

Can Cats Cause Road Rage?

Could this long-haired cat cause road rage?
© CALLALLOO CANDCY – Fotolia.com

And now, from the What Will They Blame On Cats Next department, comes this news: Cats can cause road rage.

I can think of a couple of reasons why cats would infuriate their people. Not using the litter box comes to mind. But the scientists who came up with the road rage theory would say it’s using the litter box, not failing to use it, that could cause sudden angry outbursts.


Blame It On Toxoplasmosis

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Chicago looked at 358 people and found that those who had been exposed to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii showed impulsive anger twice as much as those who hadn’t been exposed.

The researchers, led by University of Chicago professor Emil F. Coccaro, MD, were hoping to pioneer in the diagnosis and management of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which can show itself as road rage and is believed to affect about 16 million people in the United States.

“Our work suggests that latent infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior,” Coccaro said in a statement about the study. “However, we do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone that tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues.”



But Don’t Blame The Cat

The most common causes of toxoplasmosis in people are handling raw meat or eating undercooked meat, especially venison, lamb and pork. Drinking contaminated water can also cause toxoplasmosis, and so can just digging in the soil of a flowerbed. 
Cats can ingest the toxoplasma gondii parasite by eating infected rodents. They then shed the oocysts (eggs) in their feces. An infected cat will shed the eggs for just two weeks or less. And according to the International Cat Care website, it’s rare for cats to shed more oocysts after their first infection.

But it’s also “rare to find cats shedding oocysts in their feces” at all, the website continues. “For example one study of more than 206 cats showed nearly 25 percent had been infected with T gondii, but none of them were shedding oocysts in their feces.”


Prevention Is Just A Scoop Away

You scoop your cat’s box every day, don’t you? If you do, that makes your chances of getting toxoplasmosis from your cat slim to none. That’s because it takes 24 hours for the oocysts to become infectious.  If you’re really concerned, wear gloves when you scoop. 
And if you’re prone to road rage, don’t blame your cat. More likely, it’s that long commute and rude drivers that are infuriating you, with good reason. 

Speak Out For Cats

Coccaro’s study got lots on attention online. And all the headlines just had to say something about cats causing road rage. Since I live with cats, drive a lot and have had a few moments of road rage myself, they certainly got my attention.
But reporting like this is damaging to cats. It just fuels the myths that make people dislike and mistrust them. So I commented on every article, and I hope you’ll do the same if you come across one. We need to speak out on behalf of our feline friends and family members if we’re going to keep cat ladies from going to the dogs.

Vapor Vault Cat Litter Disposal
Today’s Recommendation
The Vapor Vault is a good way to store
used litter until you’re ready to put
it in the trash.

Can Cats Meow With A New York Accent Or Southern Drawl?

Cat Meowing
Andrey Kuzmin – Fotolia.com

Does your cat from North Carolina meow with a southern drawl? Or, if you’re in northern New Jersey, does she sound like an in-your-face Jersey girl when she talks to you? That regional accent might be more than a figment of your imagination. A team of Swedish scientists is trying to find out whether cats have different “dialects” based on their location.

Susanne Schötz, an associate professor of phonetics at Lund University, thinks cats who live in different areas have slightly different accents. To confirm that she’s not just hearing things, she and two other researchers will be listening to cats in Stockholm and Lund, two areas with different dialects, and using phonetic analysis to determine whether their meows really do sound different.

The researchers plan to study 30-50 cats and their people over the next five years. They’ll listen to intonation, voice and speaking style in human speech addressed to cats and cat vocalizations addressed to humans.

Hey, Human! Are You Listening?

When adult cats talk with each other, their preferred method of communication is body language. The position of their ears and tails and the look in their eyes are worth a thousand meows. They meow when they talk to us because they realize we’re not fluent in catspeak.

But when they meow to us, do we really know what they’re saying?

Schötz also plans to record the vocalizations of cats in different situations to find out.

“We know cats vary the melody of their sounds extensively, but we don’t know how to interpret this variation,” she says. She hopes to discover how cats sound when they want to go out, are feeling friendly and greeting people, and when they’re hungry, annoyed or
angry.

She also wants to learn how they react to different human voices, speaking styles and intonation patterns. For instance, she wants to know if cats like hearing high-pitched “pet-directed” speech or if they would rather be spoken to as human adults.

“We still have much to learn
about how cats perceive human speech,” Schötz says.

Meowsic To Our Ears
Schötz is calling her study Meowsic (Melody in Human-Cat Communication), and she believes it could have a “profound impact” on how humans communicate with cats at home and at vet clinics and shelters.

Five years is a long time to wait, but it will be fun to see how the study turns out. In the meantime, I’ll continue talking to my cats the way I talk to people, since they’re used to that. And I guess they’ll continue taking to me the way they talk to other cats, with body language and looks in their eyes. If they flatten their ears, I’ll know I’m in deep trouble!

Body Language and Emotions of Cats book
Today’s Recommendation
This is my all-time favorite
cat behavior book.

Amtrak Gives Cats A Ticket To Ride

Cat in Suitcase
© Okssi – Fotolia.com

Maybe you’re not wild about our elected officials in Washington, but here’s a reason to send a little love their way. A provision buried deep into the 1300-page five-year highway appropriations bill approved last year instructs Amtrak to allow cats and dogs on many of its trains.

Amtrak started giving animal companions a ticket to ride on some routes in the northeast and Midwest last October. The pilot program ended earlier this month, and Amtrak is now on the fast track to expand its Pets on Trains policy. Cats and dogs under 20 pounds are now allowed on the Springfield Shuttles, Northeast, Downeaster,  Virginia, and Illinois regional routes and all cross country routes except the Auto Train. Animals can also travel on the Acela Express, but only on Saturdays and Sundays.

To travel with your cat, all you have to do is get on board with Amtrak’s rules. Among them: The cat must be in an approved carrier that will fit under your seat, and your trip must be no more than seven hours long. Oh, and just one cat is allowed per passenger.

It was Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who asked Amtrak to get the Pets on Trains policy rolling after he discovered his French Bulldog couldn’t travel with him when he took the train. His Pets on Trains Act is part of the larger Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act. The act allows Amtrak to have at least one pet friendly car on each train.

To travel with your cat, you need to make your reservations with at an Amtrak ticket agent or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.  But your cat won’t be getting a free ride. Tickets for animals cost $25.

Top Loading Cat Carrier
Today’s Recommendation
A light, sturdy top-loading
carrier for traveling with your cat.

Cats And Dogs Can Save Billions In Healthcare Costs

Long-haired calico cat
wildshots4u – Fotolia.com

 Are you seeing your doctor less often than your friends are? Thank your cat! New research by a team from George Mason University in Northern Virginia shows that people who live with companion animals go to the doctor less frequently than people who have no animal family members, saving more than $11 billion in healthcare costs.

The study was done for the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative.

Researchers compiled data from other studies to come up with their results.

Dog walkers represented the largest cost savings because people who walk their dogs at least five times a week are less likely to be obese than people who get less exercise. The researchers say they save about $419 million in related healthcare costs.

But cats figure into the cost savings, too. Several studies have shown that living with cats and dogs can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. They can also relieve depression.

Interestingly, any kind of “pet,” including fish, can also reduce stress and relieve depression.

The researchers also site studies that show young children who live with cats or dogs are less likely to develop allergies as adults and one that suggests perinatal exposure to animal companions likely reduces the risk of children developing allergies in the very early years.

In looking at the economic benefits of living with an animal companion, the researchers considered just the number of physician office visits and the cost of treatment for obesity. Those two areas alone, added up to almost $11.8 billion a year in healthcare savings.

“As this research area attracts more attention and studies are initiated with specific economic variables included to capture potential health care costs savings,” the researchers say, “we will gain a much deeper understanding of the greater total economic value of the human-animal bond.”

Maybe. And it’s an interesting concept. But it’s hard to put a price on friendship, and most of us will most likely continue sharing our lives with cats because we love their companionship, not because we want to save our insurance companies money on doctor visits.