WTF Fun Fact 13390 – Pet Appreciation Week

The first full week of June 2023 marks a special occasion for pet lovers around the world—it’s Pet Appreciation Week! This week-long celebration is dedicated to honoring the love, companionship, and joy that our furry friends bring into our lives. That means this week is a time to recognize the immeasurable value that pets bring to our well-being and to show our appreciation for their unwavering loyalty and affection.

Why do we celebrate Pet Appreciation Week?

During Pet Appreciation Week, people of all ages come together to express gratitude for their beloved pets. Whether you have a dog, cat, bird, fish, or any other furry, feathery, or scaly companion, this week is all about cherishing their presence and recognizing the positive impact they have on our lives.

Pets hold a special place in our hearts and homes. For example, they provide unconditional love, comfort, and support, offering a sense of companionship that can brighten even the dullest of days. And their playful antics, gentle purrs, wagging tails, and welcoming chirps can instantly lift our spirits and bring a smile to our faces.

This dedicated week encourages pet owners to reflect on the happiness and joy that their pets bring and to engage in activities that strengthen the bond between human and animal. It’s a time to shower our pets with extra love, attention, and care, as well as to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership.

How can you celebrate?

Throughout Pet Appreciation Week, there are various ways to celebrate and express gratitude towards our pets. Here are some ideas to make this week extra special:

  1. Quality Time: Set aside dedicated time to engage in activities that your pet enjoys. Take your dog for a long walk, play with your cat using their favorite toys, or spend time bonding with your bird or reptile in their habitat. The key is to focus on creating meaningful moments of connection.
  2. Healthy Treats: Surprise your pet with some delicious and nutritious treats. Consider making homemade pet-friendly snacks or explore the wide range of healthy treats available in pet stores. Remember to choose treats that are suitable for your pet’s dietary needs.
  3. Support Animal Shelters: Use this week as an opportunity to give back to animals in need. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, donate pet supplies, or consider adopting a rescue pet. By supporting shelters, you’re making a positive impact on the lives of animals and promoting responsible pet ownership.
  4. Pet Photography: Capture precious moments with your pet through photography. For example, snap some candid shots or arrange a professional photoshoot to create lasting memories. These photographs serve as beautiful reminders of the joy and love shared with your pet.
  5. Learn and Educate: Take the time to learn more about your pet’s specific needs, behavior, and health requirements. Expand your knowledge by reading books, attending workshops, or consulting with veterinarians or experienced pet owners. Share your newfound knowledge with others to promote responsible pet ownership in your community.

Love your pets!

Pet Appreciation Week is a reminder to cherish our furry friends, not only during this dedicated week but throughout the year. Pets bring immeasurable joy, comfort, and companionship, and they deserve our utmost appreciation. So, take this opportunity to celebrate the bond you share with your pet and make their week extra special with acts of love, care, and gratitude.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Pet Appreciation Week” — National Today

WTF Fun Fact 13301 – Cat Whiskers are Sense Organs

Cat whiskers are not just ordinary hairs. Also known as vibrissae, they are thicker, longer, and more deeply embedded in the skin than regular fur. They are also richly supplied with nerve endings and blood vessels, allowing cats to use them as specialized sense organs. Cat whiskers can also be present on the front legs, above the eyes, and on the back of the hind legs. These whiskers play an important role in helping cats navigate and sense their environment.

Whiskers galore

Cats can have whiskers on their legs, specifically on the front legs. These whiskers are called carpal whiskers or wrist whiskers and are located on the underside of the wrists. They also help cats navigate their environment and detect potential prey or obstacles.

Cats even have whiskers above the eyes, on the cheeks, and on the back of the hind legs. These whiskers are known as supraorbital, genal, and tarsal whiskers, respectively. These whiskers are less prominent than the ones on a cat’s face, but they still play a role in helping the cat to sense its surroundings.

More facts about cat whiskers

Cat whiskers are not all the same length. They vary in length and thickness depending on their location on the cat’s body.

Cats can also move their whiskers independently of their body movements. This allows them to sense their surroundings in a very precise way.

No doubt you’ve seen cats climb into some small and unlikely places. Well, whiskers can help cats determine if they can fit through tight spaces. If their whiskers can fit through a gap, then they know their entire body can fit through as well.

And did you know that when cats are hunting, they will point their whiskers forward to help them focus on their prey. On the other hand, if a cat is feeling threatened or fearful, it will flatten its whiskers against its face, making them appear smaller and less noticeable to potential predators.

Who knew there was so much more to know about cat whiskers?

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?” — PetMD

WTF Fun Fact 13212 – The Cat Righting Reflex

Have you ever wondered why cats always land on their feet? It’s because of something called the cat righting reflex.

What’s the cat righting reflex?

Normally, if you see a cat fall, you’re probably panicking and not trying to pay attention to the physics of the whole situation mid-air. But if you slow down footage of a cat falling (which we hope you don’t set them up for at home!), you’ll see that cats have the ability to reorient themselves in midair to ensure they land feet first.

The cat righting reflex is that innate ability, and it’s made possible by a specialized collar bone (or clavicle) This clavicle is highly flexible, allowing a cat to rotate its body 180 degrees while in the air.

So, when a cat falls, it first extends its legs. Then it rotates its head to face the ground. As it falls, it will then begin to rotate its spine, using its flexible collarbone to control the rotation.

Finally, as a cat reaches the ground, its hind legs will extend to absorb the impact.

And if you’ve seen a cat take a fall, you know its front legs are ready to push off and run away pretty much immediately.

Do cats *always* land on their feet?

While cats can survive falls from great heights, nothing works 100% of the time.

Not all cats can use their righting reflex with the same success. Some may not have the same flexibility or strength as others, especially if they are old or injured. And sometimes the cat righting reflex is not always “right.” They do get hurt…or worse.

Overall, the righting reflex has been an important survival mechanism for cats. It allows them to escape predators and avoid injuries when falling from things they’ve climbed.

Cats are also able to use their righting reflex to perform acrobatic feats, such as jumping through hoops, or climbing up and down vertical surfaces. That’s because their reflexes are typically really fast and precise, allowing them to make rapid adjustments to their body position.

Are cats the only animals with a righting reflex?

The righting reflex is not unique to cats. Other animals, such as squirrels and certain species of primates, also have this ability.

But cats are particularly known for this reflex because they have a very low center of gravity and a flexible spine. This allows them to maintain control of their bodies better than most creatures.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why Do Cats Land on Their Feet?” — Live Science

WTF Fun Fact 13097 – Cats Can Become “Tuna Junkies”

According to Pam Johnson-Bennett of Cat Behavior Associates (cited below):

“Tuna as a treat now and then is harmless but as a steady diet can lead to malnutrition. Tuna doesn’t have adequate amounts of vitamin E and this may lead to a condition called steatitis (also known as yellow fat disease). Tuna has a very strong taste and smell so many cats can become addicted to it. Veterinarians refer to them as “tuna junkies.” The problem can be serious because these tuna junkies may refuse to eat anything else. The other problem with a steady diet of tuna is that there’s a risk of mercury poisoning. If you incorporate tuna into your cat’s diet, do it in a controlled way.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Ten common mistakes when feeding cats” — Cat Behavior Associates

WTF Fun Fact 13061 – The Black Panther Isn’t a Species

It’s not entirely correct to say that there’s no such thing as a black panther. It’s just that they’re not a specific species.

Instead, Panthera is a genus within the family Felidae (aka cats) that includes tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards. Panthera refers specifically to a cat’s cranial features.

So, what is a black panther?

A black panther refers to the melanistic (darkly pigmented) version of two different animals – the leopard and the jaguar. So while it doesn’t refer to a separate species, “black panther” is a colloquial term for these dark-colored cats.

While occasionally people may use the term panther to refer to mountain lions, they belong to the Puma genus. An integral part of the Panthera genus is the ability to roar – which mountain lions don’t do. Instead, they emit a higher-pitched scream.

The epihyal bone is integral to the ability to roar. The only species of Panthera that cannot roar is the snow leopard.

Why do we hear so much about black panthers?

If you feel like you’re hearing a lot about black panthers these days, it’s no doubt because of the incredibly popular Marvel movie franchise of the same name. The original Black Panther film made over $1 billion worldwide, and fans were shocked when it’s star – Chadwick Boseman – died of cancer in August of 2020. He had not revealed his diagnosis of stage III colon cancer to anyone but immediate family.

In 2022, the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever will be released. Even in the days before it’s release, fans are interested to see how the exceptionally successful movie franchise will survive without its star who played T’Challa, the kind of a fictional African country named Wakanda.

Marvel’s film studio chose not to recast or digitally recreate the character in order to honor Boseman.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Are There Really Black Panthers?” — National Wildlife Federation blog

WTF Fun Fact 13016 – Petting an Animal Reduces Stress

You’ve probably heard that petting an animal reduces stress. If you’re lucky, you’ve even experienced it firsthand. And if you have the pleasure of consistently getting some hands-on time with a furry companion (or even a pal’s pet), you may not always notice it, but you probably do have less cortisol in your system.

How does petting an animal reduce stress?

One of the most oft-cited studies about the animals reducing our stress comes from a study in the journal of the American Educational Research Assocation (AERA). It was a rigorous study that controlled for multiple other factors, such as overall health of the subjects. And it found that just 10 minutes of petting a cat or dog (many of which happened to come from a shelter and probably benefitted from some socialization) results in measurably smaller levels of cortisol, the hormone that regulates our flight-or-fight response.

The research was done on college students (who often get stressed out around midterms and finals). And one of the best parts was that even brief animal encounters could help reduce stress levels.

The researchers didn’t find the same effect when students viewed photos of pets or saw them in person – the real benefits came from physical contact.

Details of the study

The researchers collected saliva samples from 249 college students who participated in one of four types of animal encounters. (Cortisol levels can be measured using saliva.)

  • 73 students got to pet the cats and dogs
  • 62 watched other people pet the animals
  • 57 watched a slideshow of images of the same animals
  • 57 remained on the waitlist

Saliva samples were collected first thing in the morning and then two more samples were collected 15 and 25 minutes after the animal encounter.

Students with hands-on animal interactions had the lowest cortisol levels, though it didn’t necessarily last throughout the day. Still, even momentary stress relief can help regulate stress.

The researchers hope the knowledge that petting animals reduces stress will help colleges (and others) help people regulate stress before it causes more serious physical and psychological disorders.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial” — AERA Open

WTF Fun Fact 13009 – Cats Domesticated Themselves

If you’ve ever been owned by a cat (or have been given the honor of being allowed to live alongside one), you know they will do whatever they want to do. So it may come as no surprise that cats domesticated themselves. They just decided to move in with humans – and not much about them has changed since that day.

How do we know cats domesticated themselves?

If you’re skeptical about this and how we know it (or even what it all means), that’s fair.

Here’s the thing – when humans domesticate animals, we choose certain characteristics that we like about them, and the animals that end up allowing this kind of domestication often have certain kind of characteristics (whether it’s size, a tendency to be docile, etc.). Those characteristics are, to some extent, encoded in their genomes. So if we look at the genomes of those animals over thousands of years, we should see changes that indicate the selection of certain traits.

It’s not much different than modern dog breeding – purebred dogs are specifically bred to have specific genes that make them look or act a certain way. Their environment plays a role too, but we can see a lot of characteristics in their genomes.

Cat genomes? Let’s just say they haven’t changed much at all. And we know that because cats have been cherished and worshipped for thousands of years and therefore buried in ways that allow us to collect even their ancient DNA.

What do cat genomes tell us about domestication?

Of course, we can’t go back in time to check our work, but we can do pretty comprehensive studies on cats from all over the world and from different time periods. And that’s what a group of scientists did. They published their study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution under the not-very-catchy title “The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world.” It doesn’t sound riveting, but it’s pretty cool (especially if someone summarizes it for you).

Our favorite line comes from National Geographic’s write-up on the work (cited below), noting that “[cats’] genes have changed little from those of wildcats, apart from picking up one recent tweak: the distinctive stripes and dots of the tabby cat.”

But here’s the gist of it: The researchers looked at the DNA of over 200 cats. These cats spanned a timeline of 9,000 years, the ancient cats coming from Rome and Egypt. They found that there were two major cat lineages that came together to make modern housecats. Normally, you’d expect to see A LOT more diversity than that.

Early cats likely spread into Europe from southwest Asia around 4400 BCE and hung out with people in early farming communities. Apparently, cats just decided people were largely ok to be around, and people decided cats were ok because they killed rodents that interfered with crops. If anyone tried to do anything more to domesticate cats, they clearly failed.

It was a mutually beneficial relationship. And maybe cats didn’t even like people but just liked the rodent populations we attracted. We’ll never know. But in any case, we all just grew up alongside each other. Humans “let” cats domesticate themselves. (Frankly, our guess is that cats were in charge the whole time.)  WTF fun facts

Source: “Cats Domesticated Themselves, Ancient DNA Shows” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 13000 – Valentine’s Day Gifts for Pets

Fun Fact: U.S. consumers spend over $1 billion annually on Valentine’s Day gifts for pets. In 2020, 27% of people said they were planning on buying Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets.


It makes sense that you’d want to give a gift to the creature that loves you unconditionally on a holiday meant to celebrate love. But since animals don’t know it’s a holiday, it’s still pretty interesting that 27% of Valentine’s shoppers choose to pick up a gift for their furry (or feathered or scaly) friends. This represented a 10% increase over the last decade.

Why do we buy Valentine’s Day gifts for pets?

“Much of the growth in Valentine’s Day spending over the last decade has been fueled by consumers’ interest in celebrating the other important relationships in their lives — friends, co-workers and, increasingly, pets” This is according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that conducts these surveys with and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

According to FOX13 news in early 2022:

In 2020, $103.6 billion was spent on our pets in the U.S., according to National Pet Owners Survey Statistics — and 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet.”

That’s due in part to the COVID pandemic.

“One in five households acquired a cat or dog at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said in a survey published last year, on May 21, 2021.”

The Valentine’s Day gift survey

The NRF conducted the survey of 7,728 U.S. adult consumers from January 3-11, 2022, and also found that spending for the holiday increased overall, with people in the U.S. expected to spend $23.9 billion in 2022 (up from $21.8 billion in 2021). 

“Shoppers expect to spend an average of $175.41 per person (per human, that is) on Valentine’s Day gifts, which is up from $164.76 in 2021,” the NRF said.

When it comes to human gifts, people are sticking to tradition. “Candy (56 percent), greeting cards (40 percent), and flowers (37 percent) remain the most popular gift items…

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Valentine’s Day 2022 pet spending: You won’t believe what we’ll shell out for our dogs and cats” — FOX13 News

WTF Fun Fact 12897 – The World’s Oldest Cat

The world’s oldest cat was named Creme Puff – and the furry girl held on until age 38! It’s all been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The story of Creme Puff

Creme Puff was owned by Jake Perry, who can safely be called a legendary cat owner (as well as a husband, father to humans, and plumber). He also adopted and found homes for hundreds of cats over his lifetime. But even more stunning is that Perry had been the owner of the previous record-holder for longest-lived cat before Creme Puff came along!

That cat, Granpa Rexs Allen was part sphynx and part Devon Rex mix, and he lived to age 34.

Creme Puff was a mixed tabby cat.

What’s Perry’s secret to cat longevity?

As you might imagine, Perry treated all of his cats as they so richly deserved. He built a theater in his garage that played nature documentaries for his cats to watch. He remembered and celebrated their birthdays every year (which, if you think about it, is A LOT of birthdays). Perry even had steps built all over the walls of his house so his cats would have things to climb on to stay engaged and stimulated.

Most importantly, he insisted that a loving relationship is the secret to cat longevity.

The diet Perry fed his cats is more questionable (or is it, since 1/3rd of the cats he’s owned have lived to be 30?). According to Atlas Obscura (cited below, with an excellent story on Perry) the cats’ daily diet had a few extra fixins’ on top of dry commercial cat food, including “a home-cooked breakfast of eggs, turkey bacon, broccoli, coffee with cream, and—every two days—about an eyedropper full of red wine to ‘circulate the arteries.'” (Note, caffeine and alcohol are not recommended for cats, nor is that much human food, so there much be some other secret – or it all goes together in some perfect feline-friendly way.)

Perry’s vet of choice is Bruce Hardesty, the owner of South Congress Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. He’s seen 40 or 50 cats Perry has owned over the years. He believes at least 6 of Perry’s cats have reached age 30.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How to Raise a 165-Year-Old Cat” — Atlas Obscura