The World Health Organization declared April 7th, 2017 as World Health Day, a day focusing on mental health, but it’s also a year-long campaign which aims to educate, raise awareness and help people suffering from mental illness.
Depression, Anxiety, and other mental health issues now affect over 300 million people worldwide according to the WHO and we think that more needs to be done to educate and inform just how tough this illness can be. It’s usually also the underlying cause of many other social issues.
Those of us who have a dog in our life, knows just how important they are for keeping us fit, socializing and living life to the full.
Written by Suzanne Redfearn for Nat Geo WILD and USA Today
Article originally appeared in a special edition of USA Today for Nat Geo WILD
Did you know that there are very few differences between your house cat and endangered big cats like the lion, tiger, cheetah and leopard? The main difference: size. Otherwise, genetically and behaviorally, they’re pretty much the same.
Even in the lab. Scientists recently were able to sequence the genomes of tigers, snow leopards and lions, and found that they share 95.6 percent of their DNA with domestic cats sitting in window sills and lying on beds across the world.
That’s not a surprise. Just look at all the behaviors and other traits they have in common.
1. Night vision: You can see your cat’s eyes glow at night. The same thing goes for big cats. All cats have a “tapetum lucidum,” a layer of tissue in their eyes that reflects light back through the retina, increasing available light to the photoreceptors in the eye. The result? Night vision that’s six times better than ours. All the better to stalk prey.
2. Sensitivity to movement: The thick shaft of the cat whisker is filled with tiny, super-sensitive nerves that help your furry buddy — and a lion — easily judge the size of the space they’re in, measure distance and detect changes in the air to suss out what’s around them. It’s like a very sophisticated GPS and radar system, helping big cats be the apex predators that they are, and helping your house cat catch mice and other critters.
3. Retractable claws: Over time, cats both big and small evolved to be able to bring their claws out when they’re needed for digging into prey or scaling a tree, then pull them back in to preserve their sharpness until they’re needed again for tearing or climbing. There’s an exception, though: the cheetah. A cheetah’s claws stay out at all times, to better grip the ground as they move at high speeds after prey.
4. Agility: All cats are nimble and agile, with their long tails aiding in their extraordinary balance. House cats and big cats alike can jump very high and land very well when descending from high up.
5. Stalking their prey: Both big cats and house cats will watch their prey from a distance, moving extremely slowly toward it with muscles tensed, then suddenly run at it in a burst of speed, ending with a pounce.
6. Climbing trees: House cats climb trees and so do big cats. Leopards are known for climbing up trees with their prey in tow, so they can eat without being disturbed by other predators. Cougars, cheetahs and even lions sometimes climb up trees.
7. Marking territory: Big cats and house cats alike will spray to scent-mark their territory with urine. Big cats like lions and jaguars will rub secretions from glands onto objects to mark them like your house cat rubs on you with the side of his face and neck to mark you as his.
8. Tight spaces: Your house cat likes to be in boxes and under the covers. Big cats like leopards and cheetahs like to be in dens. Both especially want small, private spaces when it comes time to give birth or nurse a wound.
9. Stripes and spots: Cats big and small have stripes, spots or rosettes throughout their coat. Big cats like cheetahs, leopards and tigers use their unique patterns for camouflage, while solid coats like that of the lion blend into open territory. House cats still have these patterns from their ancestor, the African wildcat, from which they descended 10,000 years ago when some African wildcats were brought to the Middle East and domesticated.
10. Grooming themselves: All cats big and small groom themselves. They have a sandpaper texture on their tongue, called “papillae,” that does double duty, helping cats work meat off of bones and work dirt out of their coats.
So when you tune into Big Cat Week tonight to watch Soul of the Cat and see a lion stalking a wildebeest or a leopard climbing up a tree, look down at your furry pal with a new appreciation for his genetic code and the awesome abilities he shares with his wild cousins.
Today is Born Free USA’s 15th annual National Bird Day: a day to raise awareness for wild and captive birds everywhere.
According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation: “We want to use this day to remind the public that birds belong in the wild. They do not deserve to be bred in captivity in unregulated, often miserable conditions. They deserve to fly and not be traded and sold as pets where they spend their lives in cages, and where people cannot possibly meet the complicated needs of a bird.”
“National Bird Day is a time to celebrate birds for the true wild animals they are,” Roberts adds.
Born Free USA’s facts about birds:
How many species of birds are there? There’s no single correct or universally agreed-upon number, and that’s because there is more than one definition of “species.” By one definition, there are 18,000-20,000 bird species; by another definition, there are only half that.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night. “Blackbird,” a song on the Beatles’ White Album, is said to have been inspired by the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds employed live birds in many scenes. To attract the birds, actors often had ground meat or fish smeared on their hands.
Indeed, a very Big Bird. Big Bird, a beloved character on the children’s program Sesame Street, debuted in 1969. He is 8 feet 2 inches (249 cm) tall.
Keep on Rockin’! The common pigeon we see in cities around the world (and sometimes in rural or wilderness areas) used to be called the Rock Dove, but it’s now called the Rock Pigeon. It’s a feral, domesticated variation of the wild type found in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Edgar Allen Poe’s famous narrative poem, “The Raven,” was first published in The Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845.
Now, that’s old! Parrot fossils have been found that date back as far as 60 million years.
The bald eagle. The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States, but Benjamin Franklin had originally argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol.
This is what it sounds like. Prince’s 1984 song “When Doves Cry” stayed at number one on the Billboard Music Chart for five weeks, keeping Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” from reaching the top spot.
Kept captive around the world… Turacos and louries—long-tailed, medium-sized birds—are only found in the wild in Africa, but we commonly see them in zoos.
Beep, beep! Looney Tunes characters The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote debuted in 1949. Their adversarial relationship was inspired in part by Tom and Jerry.
The bird is the word. “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen was released in 1964. The song regained fame and notoriety after it was featured in a television episode of Family Guy.
I smell an advantage for this owl. Great Horned Owls are found in every mainland state and Canadian province—and they have a really bad sense of smell! But, that’s good for them, because a major prey species for this owl is the skunk. The skunk’s best defense, a foul-smelling spray from their anal scent glands, does not deter the Great Horned Owl. Museum specimens of the owls, decades old, often retain traces of the skunk odor!
The Last Suppers. In his two frescos of “The Last Supper,” painted in Florence in 1480 and 1482, Renaissance artist Domenico Ghirlandaio prominently featured flying peacocks. Art historians believe the peacocks are meant to emphasize the “Oriental” setting of the Last Supper scene.
And, a partridge in a pear tree. In the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” a holiday season standard, the singer’s true love gives her 364 gifts—184 of which are birds.
Giving Tuesday is a global day for giving back that was created by the 92nd Street Y and United Nations Fund in 2012 with the goal of starting a movement around charitable giving at the beginning of the holiday season. In recent years, it has become one the most important revenue-generating days of the year for Best Friends Animal Society.
Best Friends has set a fundraising goal of $500,000 this year for Giving Tuesday, which also happens to be the day that kicks-off the annual Best Friends $2 million Holiday Match (thanks to a group of generous donors who create the match fund each fall).
Did you know that you can help raise funds for Best Friends on Facebook? Your friends, family, and followers can give to your fundraiser without ever leaving Facebook. Any gifts you raise will go directly to Best Friends, and best of all they’ll be matched! What could be better than that?
All you have to do is go to the Best Friends Facebook page, and click the blue button that says “Create Fundraiser”! You will be guided through the process and then your friends can donate right from Facebook. It’s so easy.
And of course, don’t forget to share with your friends on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!