America's No. 1 pet & other cool facts
HERE'S OUR contribution to your next watercooler gathering, barbecue or cocktail party:
* By the numbers, freshwater fish are the most popular American pet, with 145 million found in U.S. homes. If we're talking mammals, cats are most numerous: They number 95 million. Dogs are nipping at their heels with 83 million.
* Cats rub on people, other cats and even other animals as a sign of affection. They may do it most insistently when we are about to feed them, but they also do it just to say, "Hey, I like you."
* In mythology and folklore around the world, dogs are associated with the afterlife. They were believed to act as guides to the underworld and howl as a warning of impending death. The jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis was a protector of the dead.
* If you want a long-lived pet, consider a bird or reptile. With good care, leopard geckos can live 20 to 30 years, and cockatoos and Amazon parrots can live an average of 50 years, with some living much longer.
* Lionfish are popular to keep in aquariums, but if released into the ocean, they can wreak havoc on reefs, eating up other fish that are important to reef health.
* According to a 2013 survey by the American Pet Products Association, 32 percent of dog owners take their pets with them in the car when they are away for two or more nights.
* Canine ergonomics is the study of how working dogs learn to traverse rubble and other environmental hazards or barriers, all the while using their nose and then indicating finds to their human teammates.
* Nearly half of pet owners - 45 percent - buy presents for their dogs or cats for Christmas or Hanukkah, but only 20 percent celebrate a pet's birthday with a gift, according to a 2013 survey by the APPA.
* The color of a goldfish will fade without exposure to sunlight or full-spectrum artificial light.
* Rabbits love to run and twist in the air, then land facing a different direction, an activity that rabbit lovers call "binking."
* Hamsters eat grains, greens, vegetables and fruits, plus the occasional insect or other form of protein. A good daily diet might include a tablespoon of commercial food; a few leaves of lettuce, spinach or other greens; a small, thin slice of apple; and a broccoli or cauliflower floret.
* The word for the sound a cat makes is similar in many languages. In English, cats "mew"; in India, cats say "myaus"; in China, "mio." In some Arabic-speaking countries, the word is "naoua," and in Egypt it's "mau."
* In no particular order, 10 of the most pet-friendly cities in the United States are: Santa Fe, New Mexico; Laguna Beach, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; San Francisco; Boston; Colorado Springs, Colo.; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; and Austin, Texas.
* Letting your dog give you kisses is probably less germy than letting a human lick your face. But skip playing kissy-face with your pooch if your immune system is compromised by illness or recent surgery.
* The most popular reptiles kept as pets include red-eared slider turtles, ball pythons, iguanas, bearded dragons, corn snakes, Burmese pythons and redtail boas.
* Kittens start out meowing at their mothers when they want to eat, but it doesn't take long for them to learn to meow at people for food - or anything else they want!
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books.