A quartet of new books examine different facets of the ways we love pets -- and the ways they love us
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Do dogs love us? It’s the eternal question. It has been argued that dogs simply pretend to love us because we feed them, but in “Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You,” Clive D.L. Wynne, Ph.D., sets out a convincing case that dogs have a real capacity for love, and humans are the beneficiaries.
Wynne, founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, began as a skeptic. His background as a scientist warred with the anthropomorphism inherent in the study of whether dogs truly love humans. But the more he investigated the science, the more he found that the canine brain is wired to build bonds with other species, including humans. From levels of oxytocin (nicknamed the “love hormone” because it plays a key role in bonding) to fMRI brain scans to genes for sociability, research backs up the idea that the human-animal bond is real. It didn’t hurt that the affection shown by his dog Xephos continually nudged Wynne in the direction of a new scientific understanding of dogs.
In the last chapter, Wynne calls for humans to do better by dogs, not only those in shelters but also the ones napping at our sides, writing, “To be loved by a dog is a great privilege, perhaps one of the finest in a human life. May we prove ourselves worthy of it.”
Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz has been writing about dogs since her 2009 bestseller “Inside of a Dog.” In her new book, “Our Dogs, Ourselves,” the head of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College turns her eye to our relationship with dogs: the history of dog ownership, how we name them, what we talk to them about and the ways we live together. Like Wynne, she describes the ways we can know whether our dogs love us. (Hint: Just look at them.) She addresses issues we may have thought were settled -- whether dogs are property, whether we should breed purebreds and “designer” dogs, whether we should spay and neuter our dogs -- and comes to sometimes surprising, sometimes controversial conclusions. Combining science with observations of her own dogs, Horowitz tells the story of a relationship that has existed for more than 15,000 years.
Having a cat go missing is frightening and frustrating, because as any cat lover knows, felines are experts at hiding in the tiniest, darkest, most unlikely places. Finding them is often a matter of luck, but owners can take specific steps to bring a lost cat home. Corralling information from lost-pet studies and the experiences of professional pet finders and people who have successfully found their cats, author Dusty Rainbolt outlines the techniques in “Finding Your Lost Cat.”
Getting inside a cat’s head is the secret, and Rainbolt explains how knowing the ways a cat thinks and behaves can contribute to success. Chapters, charts, photos and checklists address how to make effective signs and flyers, describe a cat, write press releases, use live traps and much more. Most important, she writes, “Never give up.” We all hope our pets will never get lost, but when they do, this book is a must for getting them back.
Hannah Shaw is the Kitten Lady, and her goal is to make all of us Kitten People. Kittens are among the most vulnerable animals in shelters: too young to be adopted and so needful of intensive care to survive that more often they are euthanized than saved. With her book “Tiny but Mighty,” Shaw aims to turn that around by explaining in simple but passionate language not only how to care for baby kittens, but also how to become an activist for them. Step by step, with helpful photos and checklists, she shows how to evaluate, bottle-feed, litter box train, socialize and play with kittens to help them grow up to be great cats.
What should be
in cat’s food?
Q: What are the best ingredients for cat foods? I’ve read different opinions, and I’m confused. All protein -- or some grains?
A: Good question. I asked cat nutrition expert Tony Buffington, DVM, to weigh in. Cats are what biologists call “obligate carnivores” or “hypercarnivores.” That means that to survive, they need to get nutrients from animal tissue or synthetic sources in their diet, thanks to a lack of some enzymes needed to produce them. Cats can’t make the essential amino acids arginine and taurine; vitamins A, D and niacin; or certain essential fatty acids.
But cats can’t survive on “all protein” diets. According to a recent study, when fed diets of similar palatability, cats seemed to prefer diets containing about 30% of calories as protein, 27% as fat and 43% as carbohydrates.
Cats can digest and absorb carbohydrates from grains that are properly processed and cooked, and they may get some benefits from them. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which provides energy to the brain, red blood cells and other tissues and organs. Fiber from plant carbohydrates can help to give a feeling of fullness and help the gastrointestinal tract work more effectively.
The bottom line is that there’s a lot of debate about the appropriate amount of carbohydrates in cat food, and we don’t really know how much is optimal. Factors that may affect the appropriate level of carbohydrate intake for an individual cat include age, whether the cat is spayed or neutered or lives indoors or outdoors.
The best thing you can do is to choose a food with a statement on the label saying that the diet is complete and balanced for a particular life stage -- such as kitten or adult -- and has passed animal feeding trials for cats. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Looking for a
few good dogs
-- Want to be a citizen scientist? You can nominate your dog to be among the 10,000 canine participants in the Dog Aging Project. Researchers for the longitudinal study -- meaning data is gathered from subjects over a period of time -- seek to understand how genes, lifestyle and environment influence aging, with the goal of increasing healthspan, the period of time before diseases of old age begin to affect both humans and dogs. A subset of participating dogs will be selected to be part of a new clinical study to explore the potential of the drug rapamycin to improve healthspan. Visit DogAgingProject.org for more information.
-- With Halloween and other holidays coming up, your home is sure to be overflowing with sweets and baked goods. Be sure to read labels on candy, mints, gum and peanut butter, and ask gift-givers if cookies, cakes or other baked items were made with anything containing xylitol, a sugar substitute. Dogs who gobble down items containing xylitol can suffer a dangerous drop in blood glucose levels, resulting in liver failure and even death. If you believe your dog has eaten anything containing xylitol, take him to the veterinarian immediately.
-- Need to get your dog somewhere but don’t have a car or are turned away by Uber, Lyft or cab drivers? SpotOn.pet to the rescue. The ridesharing service gives pet owners a lift to the veterinarian, the park or wherever else they need to go together. Founded by dog lover Aparna Srinivasan, who was frustrated when other rideshare services wouldn’t take her dog, SpotOn rides are currently available in New York City’s five boroughs. Bonus: Every time you and your dog ride, SpotOn gives a free ride to a dog in need at one of the company’s shelter or rescue group partners. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.