What We Know About Cat Domestication


We know so much about how dogs were domesticated — there’s enough information and research out there to know exactly how and when it happened. Cats, on the other hand, are a whole other story; our understanding of how they came to cohabitate with humans has always been fuzzy. A recent finding has given scientists a better glimpse of our furry friends’ mysterious past…

A recent study conducted on ancient cat bones found in agricultural villages in China suggests that the relationship between humans and felines began to evolve around 5,300 years ago during an agricultural boom. The findings suggest that cats began their domestication through a mutualistic relationship in which the wild cats ate rodents, thus helping to keep the pesty creatures away from farmers’ crops.

​            The team of scientists were also able to deduct from the decay that these cats, while living closely and among humans, are not believed to have lived in people’s homes until much later. Contrary to popular beliefs, neither cats nor dogs came into domestication intentionally. Rather, both fell into life with humans through similar, unprompted circumstances referred to as a “commensal” process. “Unlike cows or sheep, which evolved from wild animals that humans hunted,” states Rebecca Rosen in this Atlantic article, “Dogs and cats came into a mutually beneficial relationship with humans through food. Nothing about the process was intentional; no human set out to try to domesticate a cat or a dog and make it into a pet, but a chain reaction was set off by a human practice, and one thing led to another, and our pets today are the result.”

Interesting, right? We have the feeling there is still much to learn and discover about the ways in which cats found themselves curled up on couches and under beds. We can’t wait to learn more!


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Swimming Pools for Canines Offers Opportunity for Healing and Exercise

In the age of so many technological advances, it’s easy to forget about the basic and most fundamental forms of healing, like moving your body in the water. For dogs, this form of movement offers the same benefits.

In Maryland, a canine aquatic center heated to a comfortable 87 degrees is a great way for dogs old and young to exercise. In fact, even pups that aren’t the wildest fans of swimming are getting strapped up with a life jacket and paired with a swimming coach to maintain or lose weight, and in some instances, work through physical injuries. Similar to humans, swimming can be a wonderful low-impact way for our four-legged pets to build strength and begin to heal ailments and joint-related diseases that make everyday walking or running difficult.

While this is a relatively new field in veterinary care, canine rehabilitation centers are quickly spreading as people realize the restorative nature swimming has on our beloved furry friends, especially our older pets suffering from arthritis or weight gain.

In New York City, Water4Dogs is an aquatic center located in downtown Manhattan. They use rehabilitation techniques like an underwater treadmill to offer controlled water therapy for New York City’s canines, and the center even offers private appointments for people with healthy pets who would enjoy a swim. Another center we love: The Animal Medical Center (AMC) of New York City, which was founded over 100 years ago and offers compassionate care and rehabilitation through innovative clinical research and education. In New Jersey, Aqua Dog Rehabilitation was started by pet owners who wanted a dog-friendly pool to be available for dogs of all walks of life – young, old, healthy and injured.

Swimming is one of life’s greatest joy’s, and with its wonderful healing power, we’re thrilled it’s beginning to be more widely available for our furry friends to experience, without a trip to the beach!

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Food Aggression in Dogs

When you have a dog that’s food aggressive, it can be incredibly stressful and challenging, especially when it’s triggered during every meal time. We like to think of our furry canines as nothing but lovable, affectionate members of the family, so it’s upsetting to see such aggression played out. Here’s what to know if you think you have a pup who’s displaying negative food-related behavior:

  1. Don’t take it personally. We know it can be hard to understand why a pet with a reliable food source (us!) and regular meal times will still act aggressively with their food. Try to remember that our pets, at the end of the day, are also animals with their own instincts. It’s also important to remember that dogs and wolves in the wild exist in a hierarchy in which not everyone sits down for mealtime at the same time. In fact, higher ranking dogs will eat first and will certainly let the other dogs in the pack know if they overstep any lines. The alpha dog in a pack will often snap or bite at a dog that eats when it’s not yet their turn. Of course, we aren’t feeding wild animals, but it can be helpful to keep in mind that their animals instincts — while not always necessary anymore, exist for a reason.
  2. It’s important to assess when exactly the behavior occurs — whether it’s only during meal time or during treats, whether it’s in the presence of other dogs or directed towards you, and if it also happens during other moments of the day — for example, when your pup is playing with toys. We actually recommend jotting it all down so you can see any patterns in behavior.
  3. Like other forms of aggression, food-related aggression isn’t always about dominance. A dog can act aggressively because of anxiety or fearfulness, too. In either case, your response has to match the type of aggression present — and this is where we recommend hiring a skilled dog trainer who can help come up with a plan to make your dog feel more at ease during meal time.
  4. Once you’ve found someone who can help you with your furry friend, you’ll start to feel better, especially once a plan is in place! Depending on the type of aggression, your dog trainer might recommend you do different techniques to re-adjust your furry canine’s association with food, such as feeding him in a crate or incorporating treats during meal time. Whatever the method, stay patient!
  5. At Pampered Pets, we always make sure to take the time to get to know each and every one of our furry clients. Don’t hesitate to let us know exactly what keeps your pup happy when it comes to meal time! 


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“Pawternity” Joins the Ranks of Pet-Friendly Employee Benefits

These days, employee benefits go above and beyond. Everything from egg freezing to salad bars to free vacations — companies are finding ways to offer the most appealing employee perks in an effort to recruit and retain the best employees.

In July, we wrote about employer-sponsored benefit plans that insure the family pooch or cat. The newest perk to join the ranks is paid pet leave –“pawternity” — offered for employees who have recently brought home a fur baby and have long nights ahead. The trend, while new in the US, has long been established in the UK, and also includes paid time off during the death of a beloved pet.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with pet owners feeling especially pleased that companies are finally acknowledging and recognizing the large role pets play in our lives.

“We offer maternity and paternity leave,” states the CEO of a firm in this article, “And a pet is another member of the family. We don’t discriminate just because they aren’t human.” Not only is it a perk for new pet parents to spend time with the newest furry members of their family, studies have shown that quality time for bonding, settling in and learning proper socialization is key for a healthy puppy’s development. Most importantly, companies may find themselves with very happy and refreshed employees returning from quality time with their four-legged babies.

In addition, being able to be with any children in the home to help them process the death of a pet and to be together as a family is undeniably important. “When a pet dies suddenly, it highlights the unpredictability of the world,” says Abigail Marks in this NYTimes article, “It tells children that the people and animals they love can die without warning.”

As pet-lovers at Pampered Pets who have dedicated our work to offering the best possible care for the furry friends of New York and New Jersey, we’re happy to see a growth of pet-geared employee perks!

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Cat Owners: Your Cat is Left or Right “Pawed”

Every once in awhile, something new comes out about our furry felines that takes us by surprise. Recently, it’s been the discovery that cats are laterally biased, meaning they favor one paw over the other. The preference varies from feline to feline — just like humans are born left or right-handed, and because it’s a relatively new discovery, there’s still much to learn. Here’s what we know so far…

According to a new study by Animal Behaviour, 44 felines (24 male, 20 female) — young and old and of varying breeds — were tested in a low-stress study conducted in their homes. Owners were asked to observe and keep track of their cat’s behavior when it came to their paws, including how they stepped over things, went down stairs, and reached for food. The results? Male cats favored their left paw, whereas female cats were more likely to use their right.

The gender difference is interesting – and means more research may be needed before we can fully understand why this difference exists. So far, Deborah Wells from the Animal Behaviour Centre has a few fascinating ideas. Limb preference might be an indicator of how well an animal handles stress, she speculates, so a cat that is left “pawed” might show stronger fear responses or aggression. Does that mean male cats are more likely to be aggressive? Not exactly. “Further work is needed to investigate this,” says Wells, “But the strong sex effects reported here, and elsewhere…point more and more strongly to underlying differences in the neural architecture of male and female animals.”

There is still much to learn about this new discovery. Cats join other animals – horses, dogs, apes and whales to name a few — that show lateral bias. We look forward to hearing more about this and are constantly reminded that there is so much still to learn about our beloved four-legged friends!

The Best Way to Keep Your Indoor Cat Active During the Winter

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Winter has hit in New York and New Jersey, and as we fight the urge to hibernate until we can feel our toes, we’re reminded that our beloved pets, while happy to cuddle up on a winter day, also need some activity to stay healthy.

House cats in particular can go stir crazy. Living indoors suppresses a feline’s natural hunting instinct, and the days can tick by slowly if they aren’t given a chance to exercise — both physically and mentally. In the wild, for example, cats are snackers, hunting small rodents and birds throughout the day. Often times, they won’t eat right away, but rather, keep their prey for brief entertainment, even tossing it around in the form of play. “The behavior pattern is written in the genes of the animal,” says Dr. Siracusa from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, “Which means that this is a behavioral need.” As you can imagine, having their food available in a bowl at all times is less than inspiring for the nimble and skilled felines, and the lack of stimulation can cause boredom or overeating.

One way to keep a cat entertained and in tip top shape when it comes to food is to make meal time more challenging. It may be a little extra work for you, but offering a “scavenger hunt” for your furry friend activates the inner hunter — and gets them off the couch (or out from under it). There are several feeding systems available — one being the “NoBowl” which has gotten great reviews. Of course, stuffing dry cat food into pouches and hiding them around the house is not for everyone, but luckily there are other ways to stimulate your four-legged pal around meal time. For example, try incorporating some play before dinner, or offer your kitty a strategy-based toy or puzzle. Cats are smart and quick to become bored of a predictable puzzle, so we like this list of 11 unique and challenging cat toys

Paying attention to your furry friend’s feeding behavior can be a fascinating window into their world. By offering a challenge during mealtime, your feline will not only be able to flex their hunting muscles, they’ll find more enjoyment in your home.

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Why Do We Baby Talk to Our Pets?

Put a baby in front of us, and we’ll coo and tickle until we’re blue in the face. Put a puppy or kitten in front of us — and we’ll do the exact same. While the impulse to baby-talk an infant can be explained biologically (it increases attachment and attention) it’s less clear why we feel the same impulse towards our furry-legged companions.

A study conducted by Tobey Ben-Aderet set out to see exactly why we use infant-directed speech when communicating with our furry canines. To do so, Ben-Aderet recorded people using high-pitched, sing-songy voices, and then played those recordings to both adult canines and puppies. The “pet-directed” speech, he found, had an immediate and positive impact on the puppies, but less so on the adults (he theorized that adult dogs would respond more positively to hearing their owner’s voice over a stranger’s voice). As for why we baby-talk our furry pets, Ben-Aderet concluded the following: when speaking to a dog, we modify our speech as if we’re talking to babies or linguistic- foreigners — that is, we believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that the ‘listener’ has not fully mastered the language and thus would respond more positively to simplified speech.

The takeaway? It’s somewhat hardwired for us to talk to our pets the way we do, the same way we talk to our babies. Even if we aren’t baby-talking, chatting to our pets in general is a normal and natural human response to being in the company of others, human or not. We are “natural anthropomorphizers,” says anthrozoologist Hal Herzog, “meaning we naturally tend to [ascribe] all kinds of thoughts and meanings to other things in our lives.” So, is it harmful? Definitely not. Beneficial? Maybe – especially if it means we have someone to talk to, even if they’re only there to listen.

Read more: here and Here.

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?


Do you ever wonder about your cat’s sleeping habits and patterns, or how they manage to sleep anywhere, anytime? Cats are crepuscular, which means that they’re most active during dawn and dusk. They can get up to 16 hours of sleep a day (fun fact: they sleep more than dogs!) and are often snoozing, going in and out of light sleep and deeper sleep, but quick to awaken.

From our resident blogger, Joy:

When I was growing up, we had a black and white cat named Pepe, who would, every evening as my parents prepared dinner, sprint from beneath the couch in the dining room, through the kitchen, around the counter, and into the hallway. She did it religiously and almost always at the same time, as if she had a clock set to remind her. It always baffled me, and to this day, I can hear the sound of her little paws padding quickly on the floor. Now I understand it was always during her burst of energy at dusk! Perhaps she was playing out an elaborate fantasy where a mouse scampered from room to room, and capturing it was her only chance of survival.

Why exactly do cats sleep so much? The answer lies in genetics and evolution. Feline predators (and prey — more on that later!) sleep for long periods of time to reserve their energy; after all, hunting is both physically and mentally demanding — so much so that they need to be fully rested to be the agile, quick and cunning hunters that they are. Interestingly, cats are dreamers — that is, they enter a REM sleep similar to humans and can be seen twitching their whiskers or flicking their tail during their deepest slumber.

While cats are some of the most expert nappers, it’s good practice to be aware of your furry pal’s sleeping habits and be watchful of any changes or behavior that strikes you as odd; it could be a sign of illness or pain.