The fountain of youth for animals and people

In an interesting study conducted by researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of gerontology it was determined that humanin, a peptide encoded in the small genome of mitochondria which is the powerhouse of the cell, is responsible not only for longevity, but for good health.

The study found that children of centenarians had higher levels of humanin then children of non-centenarians. They also found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had lower levels of humanin.

In animals, humanin is found from worms to mammals. The naked mole rate has a very high level and lives up to 30 years. What is also interesting, the researchers found that for both people and animals, those who had higher levels of humanin had fewer offspring.

Researchers are looking into ways to use this information to help people have longer and healthier lives. What I wonder is if they will find a way to increase the lives of animals as well as make them healthier. Imagine being able to help those breeds of dogs that have shorter life spans and medical problems live a longer, healthier life. Both people and animals would benefit.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kelvin Yen, Hemal H. Mehta, Su-Jeong Kim, YanHe Lue, James Hoang, Noel Guerrero, Jenna Port, Qiuli Bi, Gerardo Navarrete, Sebastian Brandhorst, Kaitlyn Noel Lewis, Junxiang Wan, Ronald Swerdloff, Julie A. Mattison, Rochelle Buffenstein, Carrie V. Breton, Christina Wang, Valter Longo, Gil Atzmon, Douglas Wallace, Nir Barzilai, Pinchas Cohen. The mitochondrial derived peptide humanin is a regulator of lifespan and healthspanAging, 2020; DOI: 10.18632/aging.103534

University of Southern California. “Protein in mitochondria appears to regulate health and longevity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2020.

Note that Science Daily has changed their format. To find this article google the name of the article with “science daily” after it.

Finding a Lost Cat

            In many ways looking for a lost cat can be easier than looking for a lost dog. This is because most cats stay very close to home whereas dogs can run for miles. On the flip side, cats can hide in very small places, making it more difficult to see them.

            If the cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, the chances are that the cat is staying away from home on purpose. I have seen cats spend hours waiting for a chipmunk to pop out of a bush or a hole. Sometimes the cat will wander away from the last place they saw the chipmunk only to return an hour later to wait again. While you are frantically looking for your cat, the cat is having a grand old-time hunting. Few cats will come when called in a situation such as this.

            If your cat is an indoor cat and not used to being outside, it is very likely that the cat is frightened. In this case the cat will find a hiding place and most likely stay there. It depends on the cat’s relationship with his owner and how frightened he is whether he will come if you call him. If the area around your house is quiet, the cat is more likely to come out.

         Regardless of which type of cat you have, as soon as you determine that the cat is missing you should act right away. Below are a few steps that you can take to help find your cat. It depends on your cat’s personality and experiences which will work the best, so to be safe, try all the tips.

         Unless you saw your cat run outside, the first thing you must do is search your home. Sometimes a cat will hide in the house. This is especially true if there is unusual activity in your home. If there is going to be unusual activity in your home, it is best to lock your cat in a room or a crate so that the cat cannot hide somewhere where you will not find him or become so frightened that he will run out of an opened door. A cat that runs out of your home in fear will be less likely to come back to your home right away.

         When you search in your home (and outdoors) never underestimate your cat’s ability to squeeze into very small places. If you find your cat in an inaccessible (for you) small space in your home, and the cat can get out on his own, leave him alone, he will come out when he feels safe. Be sure to check attics, basements and closets.

         If your cat is outdoors, check around your home. Most cats will stay within 2 – 3 houses from yours. They typically do not go more than 1/3 of a mile. Be sure to look in every outbuilding even if you think it is impossible for the cat to be there. Check roofs, trees, under porches and in any small space that might be available to your cat. This can include under rocks that form a small “cave.”

         Next search your neighborhood. Be sure to have a photo of your cat to help people identify your cat. If you can, ask friends to help you canvass the area around your home. Knock on doors and show neighbors a picture of your cat and leave your contact information.

         Post flyers around your neighborhood. Be sure to include a picture of your cat on the flyer. Also keep a record of where you post the flyers. Check them every three days to freshen them as needed. People will assume if a flyer is old that your cat has been found.

         Contact all animal related business in your area. This will include veterinary clinics, pet stores, shelters, cat rescue groups and 4-H clubs. You can also contact child groups such as the girl and boy scouts. Post flyers at any store or restaurant that will allow you to do so. Since a person may find your cat and take them to a shelter, you will want to extend your search to five or ten miles away.

         Take advantage of social media. Also check the lost and found section of your newspaper. Some people only read the weekend editions of their newspaper so place an ad in the weekend edition as well as the daily edition. Many newspapers will let you post an ad for free.

         Keep the ad, posters and social media fresh and up to date. If you find your cat, it is very important to let all the organizations know that the cat was found. Remove all posters as well.

         At your home you can put a litter box outside and articles of clothing that has your scent on it, such as an old tee shirt or shoes. Also leave a bowl of water and food for your cat. I like to get play sand that is used in children’s sand boxes and spread it on the ground around the food and water. This way if another animal comes to eat the food you will know by the tracks that it was not your cat. If another cat comes to your food, you will know that it is a cat and hope that it is your cat. If you have access to one, or if you want to purchase one, you can mount a wildlife camera outside to see if your cat is coming to the food.

         You can also put the cat’s bedding in a cardboard box with a hole cut in it big enough for your cat to enter. Be sure to secure the box so that it will not blow away or be unstable. You cat may be lured to this familiar, safe place.

         Also consider that the best time to search for your cat is at night after midnight when the surrounding area is quieter. At that time you can open a can of food if your cat knows that sound, it may attract him to you. When you do this, be patient, sound travels quiet far at night so your cat may not come running to you right away. Instead he may wait to be sure that it is safe and slowly approach you. If you do this in the same location every night, your cat may come out the second or third night. If you see your cat, stay calm and let your cat come to you. If you try to catch your cat you may frighten him, and he will be hesitant to approach you again. Be sure to leave the can of food outside in the same place you opened it.

         If you have recently moved, be sure to search your old neighborhood using the same methods. Cats have an amazing homing instinct. Searching your old neighborhood is especially necessary if your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat.  If you have moved too far away to do this, ask former neighbors and friends to help you.

         The most important thing is not to give up. Cats have been known to return home months after disappearing. Although it is heartbreaking to not find your cat, in many cases people find a cat and assume it is a stray that has been dumped and keep him, giving him a good home. If this happens and your cat is kept indoors, he will not be able to get back to you unless he gets out again and comes home. Which is why some cats come back months after they disappear. So never give up.

Cockatoos use multiple tools

There aren’t many animals that use multiple tools to solve a task, now the Goffins cockatoos are added to the list. What is equally important, researchers have determined that the birds know that they know how to use the tools and can decide which tools to use. This indicates that they have metacognition.

         A team of researchers led by Antonio Osuna-Mascaro from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna tested both tame and wild cockatoos. They found that the birds actually have a set of tools that they use and can decide which tools will work best for the task at hand. They use up to three different tools and will carry more than one to accomplish their goal. Birds often play with different objects, but this study showed the behavior that the birds exhibited was not play but that they were solving a task.

Sue’s Note: Bit by bit our understanding of animals as well as being able to develop the right kind of tests shows how intelligent animals are. I am confident that we have much more to learn. Because this report is very good, rather long and detailed, I suggest that you click on the link and read it. I try to keep my blog posts short and to the point.

  1. Antonio J. Osuna-Mascaró, Mark O’Hara, Remco Folkertsma, Sabine Tebbich, Sarah R. Beck, Alice M.I. Auersperg. Flexible tool set transport in Goffin’s cockatoosCurrent Biology, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.01.023

Human breast cancer drug helps dogs with lung cancer

The HER2 gene which is found in women with breast cancer, has been linked with canine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (CPAC) in dogs. Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) which is an affiliate of the City of Hope and Ohio State University found that a drug, neratinib, can help the over 40,000 dogs who develop CPAC each year.

CPAC is an aggressive cancer that is similar to the type of human lung cancer that non-smokers develop. This study has given researchers more information about the genetics of this disease and treatment options that can help both dogs and humans.

DNA Study shows disease causing variants in cats

Studying the DNA of animals helps breeders produce healthier animals. A recent study conducted by Heidi Anderson from Wisdom panel in the USA and researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland found that there were 13 genetic variants in pedigree cats that are linked to diseases. This was more than researchers previously thought. The good news is that these variants are decreasing in breeds that are regularly DNA tested.

The researchers studied over 11,000 cats which included 90 pedigree breeds and breed types as well as 617 non-pedigree cats. What is interesting is that the researchers found that there was more genetic diversity in the non-pedigree cats. The non-pedigree cats had three disease associated variants found exclusively in non-pedigree cats. The bad news is that they found 13 disease associated variants in 47 breeds where none had been found previously. In the past, 40% of Persian cats were affected by PKD1, the variant that causes Polycystic Kidney Disease yet of the 118 Persians tested, none had the variant, yet it was found in Main Coon and Scottish Straights cats. Good breeding practices will continue to provide healthier pets for everyone.

Do octopuses, squid and crabs have emotions?

If they do, then this may change the way people think of these creatures. In a view shattering report, Kristin Andrews, a York University Professor, and also the York Research Chair in Animal Minds, who is working with the London School of Economics supported by the U.K. government has concluded that there is enough proof that decapod crustacean’s and cephalopod mollusks have feelings.

Scientists have demonstrated that octopuses can solve complex puzzles and that they show preferences for different individuals. This is a huge leap in traditional beliefs. For example, even up to the 1980’s it was believed that human babies who were pre-verbal and animals did not feel pain. However, research has shown that mammals, fish, octopuses and crabs, avoid pain as well as dangerous locations. Mammals have shown empathy and concern when their young are in pain.

photo from dreamstime

This research has opened the door to consider whether or not these animals experience curiosity, affection or look forward to a future reward. But more importantly, just as the United Kingdom is seriously considering amendments to its animal welfare legislation that acknowledges the feelings of these beings, so must the rest of the world.

Sue’s Note: Think about the thought process that it takes to solve complex puzzles and show preference to a specific individual. Wouldn’t that indicate the presence of emotions? When someone prefers one thing over another, isn’t that an example of an emotional reaction? Think about it.   

Cannabis poisoning in pets

Since the use of cannabis has become legal in Canada and the United States, there has been an increase in the number of pets who have suffered cannabis poisoning. Researcher Richard Quansah Amissah of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues have conducted a study of this problem.

Although most of the animals that suffered from cannabis poisoning were dogs, the other pets included, cats, iguanas, ferrets, horses and cockatoos. Most of the poisoning was due to the pets eating cannabis edibles.

The symptoms (mostly in dogs) included urinary incontinence, disorientation, and a slow heart rate. Most pets were treated as outpatients and recovered. Although some died, it is not clear if there may have been underlying medical issues that contributed to the death of the pet.

Authors Note: Cannabis edibles should be treated as any other drug and kept in a safe place where pets, children and other adults who are not authorized to use cannabis, cannot ingest the products.  

Many pet owners do not handle pet food safely

A recent study conducted by Dr. Emily Luisana of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and her colleagues demonstrated that many pet owners do not handle pet food and bowls safely. According to their study people did not handle their pet food or pet dishes in manner that reduces the bacteria that causes illness in both people and pets.

Pet food should not come in contact with surfaces where human food is prepared, bowls must be thoroughly cleaned and/or sanitized and people should wash their hands after handling food and bowls.

Sue’s Note: This is especially important where children are concerned because they will touch pet food and bowls, and possibly put their fingers in their mouths without washing them.

photo from freepic

Older pets whose digestive systems are weakened from age or illness may not be able to tolerate the bacteria buildup and suffer further health issues. Treats such as rawhide, natural bones, pig ears, cow hooves and other such products are a high risk due to the bacteria on them as well as a choking or intestine blockage risk for dogs.

Pet bowls and any utensils used with the pet food such as forks, spoons, etc. should be washed with very hot water and soap or run through a dishwasher after each use, this would include water bowls which should be cleaned at least daily.

Night blindness in dogs cured

Just a few short years ago, 2015 researchers at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine discovered that dogs could develop a form of inherited night blindness that is very similar to the same condition in people. Then in 2019 they identified the gene that is responsible for this condition.

Night blindness in people is referred to as congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) and prevents people from distinguishing objects in dimly lit situations. This condition makes it nearly impossible for people with CSNB to drive at night or see when there is no artificial light.

The researchers have found that a group of cells deep in the retina called ON bipolar cells are the culprit. They have developed a single injection of gene therapy that has corrected night blindness in dogs that lasts a year or longer. They did observe that some dogs had better recovery than others.

The researchers are studying whether or not one injection will last a lifetime. They are also developing a therapy that can be used in a clinical trial for people.

Real Estate Today: Seller Beware

The real estate market is probably the most active then it has been in many years. The job of the RE agent is a difficult one since they have to juggle negotiating between the seller and buyer. Often the seller has lived in their house for most of their adult life. They have invested thousands of dollars into their home. While most RE agents are honest and do their best, this book will help the seller understand what is taking place and enable them to make decisions that will benefit them. My book Real Estate Today: Seller Beware helps the seller understand these decisions.

Sometimes RE agents on both sides of the transaction lean toward helping the buyer instead of the seller. This book will save the seller thousands of dollars. It is well worth the investment.