DEAR READERS: I know that many of my Animal Doctor columns can be upsetting and alarming, but I hope they are also informative -- and sometimes inspiring. Now for something amusing, if not bemusing: namely, the research study entitled “Not the Cat’s Meow? The Impact of Posing With Cats on Female Perceptions of Male Dateability.”
The study was written by Lori Kogan (of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences) and Shelly Volsche (of Boise State University’s Department of Anthropology), and was published last year in the journal Animals -- though it really gained media traction around Valentine’s Day this year.
The authors summarize the study as follows:
“People use dating sites to look for both long-term and short-term potential partners. Previous research suggests that the presence of a pet may add to women’s perceptions of male attractiveness and dateability. This study sought to understand to what degree, if any, the presence of a cat has on women’s perceptions of men.
“Women responded to an online survey and rated photos of men alone and men holding cats on measures of masculinity and personality. Men holding cats were viewed as less masculine; more neurotic, agreeable, and open; and less dateable. These results varied slightly depending whether the women self-identified as a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person.’ This study suggests that a closer look at the effects of different companion species on perceived masculinity and dateability is warranted.”
As a lover of cats and dogs, I would suggest a “closer look” is indeed called for. In my opinion, many dog owners are not so much “masculine” as controlling and domineering, which one cannot do with cats. So I would advise people scrolling through dating apps to beware of making assumptions, good or bad, based on pictures of pets. And remember that anyone pictured embracing a feline companion is doing so on the cat’s terms -- not the human’s!
DEAR DR. FOX: I’ve heard that when dogs eat dirt, it often reflects some kind of mineral deficiency. But then, I’ve also heard and read a variety of different reasons for this behavior. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. -- C.F., Larkspur, California
DEAR C.F.: Geophagia, or the eating of soil, is a self-medicating behavior seen in many species, including humans. I regard the word “dirt” as a derogatory term indicative of our “civilized” ignorance of soil’s life-giving and sustaining nature. Various soils can be a rich source of trace minerals, and also of bacteria that may help keep the gut microbiome healthy.
Often termed “pica” when evidently compulsive, geophagia could be indicative of a dietary deficiency in essential nutrients -- notably iron in cases of anemia. It could also mean intestinal irritation/inflammation or indicate some parasitic infestation or bacterial imbalance, which geophagia may actually rectify. Many species share such nutritional wisdom: For example, elephants visit particular riverbanks to consume soils containing the minerals they need.
Now, our agricultural soils and the foods grown from them are increasingly deficient in various minerals. Contaminants like synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill the life in the soil that nurtures the crops that we hope will nurture us. For one, the herbicide glyphosate actually inhibits crops’ uptake of manganese and other essential nutrients. For this reason, part of achieving “Certified Organic” status is regenerating the quality of the soil on land previously used to produce conventional crops.
Until all farming methods are organically certified and our soil quality, health and productivity are restored, I believe in consuming fresh, whole, minimally processed foods, and in taking some synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements. I apply this same principle to feeding my dog. Some minerals are better absorbed than others -- calcium and magnesium citrate are superior to calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide, for example. The same is true for vitamins: Those in fresh fruits and vegetables are more digestible than synthetic vitamins, the overconsumption of which could cause health problems.
Some soils also contain considerable soluble fiber from decayed vegetation, which serves as a prebiotic. This is essential for the growth and sustenance of bacteria in the gut microbiome of animals, including us. This is why a high-fiber diet -- sourced from the soluble fiber in cereals, which the gut bacteria convert into beneficial short-chain fatty acids -- is good for us and our dogs.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)