Move over, dog days -- cats rule the night sky
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
We always talk about the dog days of summer -- those scorching days from late July to mid-August when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises and falls with the sun. But did you know that cats are also represented in the heavens? Three constellations bear the names of feline species: Leo, Leo Minor and Lynx.
Leo, after the Latin word for "lion," was described by second-century astronomer Ptolemy. It contains many bright stars, making it one of the most recognizable constellations. The lion's mane and shoulders especially stand out, forming the shape of a sickle (or a reverse question mark). When stars appear to form a shape or pattern like this, it's known as an asterism.
Ancient Greeks, masters of making up stories about the stars, thought that the crouching cat shape represented the Nemean Lion, a mythical beast that met its match in equally mythical Greek hero Heracles (Hercules, to the ancient Romans). In the Greek tale, the lion's golden fur protected it from weapons, so Heracles took matters into his own hands -- literally -- by wrestling the beast, which had been terrorizing people in the surrounding countryside. The goddess Hera, who had loved the lion, placed it in the sky, making it a constellation.
Babylonian astronomers also saw a lion in the sky, referring to Leo as "the great lion." Other ancient people who recognized Leo in the sky were those of Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkey, Syria, Judea and India. In many places, the constellation was identified with the word for "lion" in the respective language.
Apart from the sky, you can see the Nemean Lion in various works of art. A Renaissance bronze sculpture of Hercules wrestling the lion resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A small bronze plaque by Moderno depicting the scene, also dating to the Renaissance, is held by the Cleveland Museum of Art. And a Greek postage stamp depicts a mosaic of the encounter.
But what about Leo Minor and Lynx? Because they were both designated as constellations in the 17th century, neither is associated with any ancient myths.
Leo Minor was named by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius; the name, of course, means "the smaller lion" in Latin. It is a small, faint constellation located in the northern sky between Leo and Ursa Major (the Great Bear). In 1870, British astronomer Richard A. Proctor renamed Leo Minor as Leaena, meaning "lioness," but the constellation is still best known by its original name.
Hevelius also named Lynx -- he must have been a cat lover! It is joked that Hevelius named it Lynx because the constellation was so faint, it took the eyesight of a lynx to spot it. According to the Constellation Guide website, Lynx is a member of the Ursa Major family of constellations, which among others includes Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), Draco (the Dragon), Leo Minor and Ursa Minor (the Little Bear).
Beyond looking for feline constellations, on Aug. 17, you can celebrate the start of Cat Nights. The Old Farmer's Almanac says that this designation harks back to an old Irish legend about a witch who could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time, would be unable to regain her human form.
This may be where we get the folklore that a cat has nine lives. So listen to your cats carefully on Aug. 17. If they are yowling particularly loudly, they may have changed shape for the last time!
Dogs' diets hard
Q: Are dogs carnivores or omnivores? Twenty bucks is riding on your answer.
A: I hope your bet allows for a third possibility: that they don't fall definitely into either the omnivore or carnivore camp.
Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, meaning that they must have meat in their diet to thrive. Classifying dogs is more challenging because they don't have the same specialized metabolic pathways as cats.
Technically, dogs belong to the family Carnivora, but they have some adaptations that allow them to feed on both meat and vegetable matter. That means they are frequently called omnivores, despite having several metabolic adaptations that can be classified as typically carnivorous. According to a paper by Dutch veterinary nutritionist Dr. Wouter Hendriks of the veterinary school at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, these adaptations include a limited ability to synthesize arginine and a lack of salivary amylase.
Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Laura Gaylord says that because of these adaptations, dogs can be described as "carnivorous omnivores." In the proceedings for the 2023 North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Gaylord wrote that "natural feeding studies indicate that dogs do prefer to consume a diet containing 30% of energy from protein, with less than 10% of energy derived from carbohydrates."
In his paper, Dr. Hendriks concludes: "Both domestic cats and dogs are descendants of true carnivores, with cats having a relatively highly nonadaptive metabolism, while dogs have inherited a moderately adaptive metabolism due to the feast-and-famine lifestyle of their direct ancestor. The proposed classification of our domestic dogs as an adaptive carnivore and cats as an obligatory carnivore appear to be the most accurate. Knowledge regarding the ancestral diet of our domestic dogs and cats can provide important information and evidence to improve the nutrition of our modern-day domestic dogs and cats." -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
for ear infections
-- You know that cats and dogs can suffer ear infections -- well, so can bunnies. If your pet rabbit frequently scratches its ears, shakes or tilts its head, flinches when you touch its ears or seems uninterested in playing, there's a good chance a painful ear infection is involved. Any time you notice these signs, take your rabbit to the veterinarian for an ear check and treatment. Letting an ear infection go untreated is not only unkind, it can cause your rabbit to experience hearing loss.
-- Heat, humidity and poor air quality put all pets at risk, including backyard chickens. Make sure any pets who spend time outdoors have access to plenty of shade, fresh drinking water and, in the case of chickens, a coop that is well ventilated. They will also appreciate water misters and frozen fruit treats to peck at. If chickens are struggling to breathe, or if their comb or wattle appears dark red or purple, take them to a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about poultry. Find out in advance which veterinarians in your community treat chickens so you know where to go in case of an emergency.
-- In May, a 2-year-old morkie-poo named Susie Q benefited from a corneal transplant at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Susie Q had been diagnosed with an eye tumor and was scheduled for surgery. Veterinarians thought they might have to remove the eye, but a serendipitous donation saved the day. The team was able to use corneal tissue from another dog -- a patient at the facility's emergency room the night before the surgery -- whose eye had popped out of its socket and couldn't be replaced. Veterinarians removed Susie Q's tumor and some tissue around it, then applied a graft of corneal tissue from the other dog's lost eye. -- 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.