Cold weather is just another time to love our pets

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Among the flood of near non-stop holidays and commemorations that span from late October to New Year’s Eve, you might have missed November 1 as National Cook For Your Pets Day.

Yes, many of us love, or are even obsessed by, our pets.

For those who don’t have children – or even for those who do – most of us consider our pets as near-equal members of the family.

Did you know:

There are more pets than children in San Francisco                                                              (https://www.kqed.org/news/11669269/are-there-really-more-dogs-than-children-in-s-f)

In Seattle there are more cats than dogs. And more dogs than children.                              (http://blogs.seattletimes.com/fyi-guy/2013/02/01/in-seattle-its-cats-dogs-and-kids-in-that-order/)

In Japan there are more (far more) pets than children                                                            (https://www.businessinsider.com/japan-has-more-registered-pets-than-it-has-children-2014-5)

75% of pet parents consider their pets to be their son, daughter, or furbaby.

Some consider this “displacement” of human children to be a “psychiatric disorder”            (https://thefederalist.com/2017/05/09/pets-instead-kids-considered-psychiatric-disorder/)

Americans own approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.

And yes, a recent survey confirms what most us knew already – a majority of women (56%!) prefer their pets to men (https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/just-for-fun/do-women-prefer-pets-to-men/)

Like many humans, sometimes a cat just wants to curl up with a newspaper on a cold morning. Photo: Morf Morford
Like many humans, sometimes a cat just wants to curl up with a newspaper on a cold morning. Photo: Morf Morford

There’s no doubt that we love our pets –

Nearly 30% of pet owners recently surveyed prepare a freshly-made meal for their pet everyday. 28% said they do it a few times a week.

When choosing what to feed their dog, 35% said natural/organic ingredients were the most important factor. Up next was a strong source of protein.

And yes, you can buy winter attire for your pets.

A catalog specifically for dogs can be found here.

And for NFL fans, a full range of NFL jerseys and accessories for pets of all kinds can be found here.

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Baby, those birds are cold out there

Ever wonder how birds cope with the cold?

  –  Green Earth Media Group

Wintertime. Love it or hate it, cold weather rolls around every year. Some of us dread the cold, some of us revel in it. While a lot of us head toward the sun, many of us ‘hibernate’ by hunkering down at home, protected from the elements. We stay warm in winter by layering clothing, wearing socks and hats, adding layers of blankets to bedding, blocking drafts and even baking cookies.

Coping with the cold, dark days of winter can be challenging for humans and it’s also a trial for birds. Our feathered friends have developed some ingenious ways to cope with wintry weather.

Some species migrate to warmer places, some flock together to share their warmth and if they stay put, many have developed some unique physical characteristics that protect and defend them from the cold.

So how do wild birds stay warm in winter? They’ve adapted physically: many grow extra feathers or shed all their plumage (called molting) and replace it with a new ‘outfit’ for the new season. So that blue jay or cardinal you saw last spring may have a whole new look this autumn. Plus, they produce a feather-coating oil that offers additional insulation and waterproofing.

Birds’ legs and feet, covered in specialized scales, also have a separate system that sends cold blood up and warmed blood to their toes to keep them warm. That’s how the ducks at the local pond can stand on the ice and keep warm.

There’s also some particular ‘coping’ behavior like fluffing (using air between feathers to trap heat); tucking (picking up one foot and tucking it into their bodies); roosting (sitting on feet and legs for warmth); shivering (we do it too, it expends extra calories but in a pinch, generates needed warmth); sunning (warming up solar-style) and lastly, torpor – a state of greatly reduced body temperature and metabolic rate that enables animals to survive in extreme weather when food supply is reduced. Oh, and just like humans taking great pleasure in ‘comfort foods’ like stew, this time of year birds need to up their fat intake to beef up for the cold.

There’s plenty of enjoyable indoor activities for us to engage in during winter, like baking, reading, games, puzzles and even redecorating, making it easier to cope with extended time indoors. Another rewarding pastime, which more than 65 million Americans participate in, is birdwatching. If you haven’t tried it, fall and winter is a perfect time to start. To jump-start the show of colorful birds and beautiful birdsong outside your window hang a  bird feeder, stock up on quality birdfeed, and you’ve set the stage for your easy enjoyment, while simultaneously offering your feathered friends much needed energy during cold, wintry weather.

–  Green Earth Media Group

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