What's up with that FACE?


Does your cat ever make that face? You know the one I’m talking about- it will appear as if Lucifurr is casually sniffing around when she looks up at you with a blank stare, mouth open, and lips curled, then immediately returns to normal?


There is a name for this phenomenon: it’s called the flehmen response, and it occurs in various species, including your domestic cats, horses, goats, elephants, hedgehogs and large felines. Flehmen is a German word that translates as “to bare the teeth” which is exactly how the expression looks.


The flehmen response is most commonly elicited by the odor of urine (i.e. a veterinary professional’s scrubs when he or she returns home…) or other pheromones. During this facial expression, the animal is essentially “smelling” through its mouth, triggering olfactory sensors on the roof of the mouth. The flehmen response is primarily used for intraspecies communication, but there is evidence that animals may respond to the urine or pheromones of other species as well.

Next time your feline friend makes this face, just know that they smell something really, really good!

Please note: if your cat has their mouth open (similar to the photo at the top of the article) for more than a few seconds, he/she may be panting, which is a medical emergency in felines. Please take your cat to a veterinarian if you notice this behavior!

What's the deal with prescription diets for pets?

Via the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, "Why do veterinarians prescribe certain diets, such as gastrointestinal-friendly food, and why does it cost so much?"

This is a short article, but it does a very good job explaining what makes prescription diets special. I particularly liked this line: "Typically it’s not the ingredients that make therapeutic diets expensive—it’s the science that goes into putting them all together. "

The thing I always want to add to these articles (and I'm always surprised when it's not included) is the big difference between pet food and human food. Pet food (little beige nuggets/morsels/whatever) has to contain everything a pet needs to live. People buy grocery carts full of food to provide themselves with these necessities, and sometimes we still fail to compose balanced diets for ourselves.

So, developing just a basic, run-of-the-mill pet food takes a ton of time, testing, science, etc. to make sure pets can survive and be healthy on that food alone. Now, imagine the amount of work and thought required when making a major modification to the ingredients of one of those pet foods. For example, cats with kidney disease need a lower protein diet. OK, well, now we have to subtract a chunk of a big, important macronutrient from this food, and then we have to re-test it to 1) make sure the cats can still survive on it as a cat food and 2) evaluate how effective it is at treating the condition. If the food doesn't meet one of those standards, it's back to the drawing board. 

Feel any better about how much pet food costs?