Editor’s Notes on recent Possum Posting

Due to several protests over our recent icky opossum posting, the Editor has decided to issue the following clarifications. Specifically, we wish to address the concerns of a friend who shall remained nameless. Our friend, who shall remained nameless, had apparently laid down some new sod in her back yard. She then had to do battle with not one, but SEVEN, opossums who had the misfortune of wanting some fresh grub, i.e., snails and slugs, and had peeled back the sod to get to the grub underneath. To her credit, our friend, who shall remained nameless, relocated these seven unfortunate possums seven different times to seven different locations far far away from her sod.

While we are not advocating adopting an opossum as a household pet (see #1 below), trapping and relocating them is really not very necessary.

1) Opossums are wild animals. Wild animals belong out in the wild. Opossums are also solitary animals. Cuddling is not a top priority for them. There have been many accounts of people rescuing and adopting them as household pets. However, please note that they are not dogs or cats, and generally do not make good “pets”. They are also nocturnal, and unless you keep vampirish hours, it is unlikely that you will be awake enough to enjoy their presence.

2) An opossum is a gardener’s best friend. Possums’ favorite delicacies are snails and slugs, which could easily devour all your vegetables in one night. They also eat insects, cockroaches!!!!, roof rats, and even snakes. They will also clear out carrion and any over-ripe fruit that you haven’t gotten to yet.

3) When trapped or threatened, they may emit a foul-smelling odor. This is part of their defense mechanism. This may or may not accompany the “playing possum” to get you to leave it alone. The foul-smelling odor is mild compared to, say, a skunk. Most people think skunks are cute. This is probably due to the Pepé Le Pew cartoon series in which a French skunk foolishly chased after a poor terrified house cat. Several opossum cartoon characters (Pogo, Banjo, Pistol Packin’) had been in circulation, however, none had ever made it “big” to stardom as Pepé the skunk.

4) Opossums have poor hearing and eyesight, and rely mostly on their keen sense of smell. As most other mammals, they are also lazy. They would much prefer a bowl of kitty krunchies to having to dig for slugs. (Actually, they don’t really dig.) If you prefer that they leave your garden alone, a small bowl of cat/dog food placed near your preferred exit would attract them and send them on their way after feasting.

5) They are not territorial, but they do have a territory. If you decide to vacate opossums elsewhere, keep in mind that other predators will move in. These include raccoons, skunks, and rats…

The National Opossum Society has a great website that has more information on these fascinating animals. The Opossum Society of the United States is also a great website. Note that the “Virginia” opossum isn’t really about possums in Virginia…that’s just what the American opossum is called.


Interesting Cat Facts

  • Cats are believed to have first been domesticated, by most accounts, somewhere between 4,000 and 5000 B.C., by the Egyptians.  Recent evidence, however, indicates that a close relationship with humans may date back much farther than that! A grave found in Cyprus, estimated to be about 9,500 years old, shows that a cat was buried only inches from a human.
  • Egyptians shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning when they lost a beloved cat.
  • Cats can see in color, although they are partially color blind. They have the equivalency of human red/green color blindness.  (Reds appear green and greens appear red; or shades thereof.)  Cats don’t see “detail” very well. To them, their person may appear hazy when standing in front of them.
  • At birth, kittens can’t see or hear.   Cats open their eyes after five days and begin to develop their eyesight and hearing at approximately 2 weeks.  They begin to walk at 20 days.
  • Kittens begin dreaming at just over one week old.
  • A cat’s hearing is much more developed than a dog’s. In fact, cats can hear ultrasonic sounds.
  • Cats have three blood types: A, B and AB. Most cats have blood type A.
  • The cat’s tail is used to maintain balance. They use their whiskers to determine distances.
  • Cats have sharp pointed teeth that are built for killing prey by suffocation/severing of spine. A cat’s teeth are its greatest asset in the wild. In proportion to body size, the elusive Clouded Leopard has the longest canines in the family felidae, whereas the Jaguar has the strongest jaws.
  • On average, a cat will sleep for 16 hours a day.
  • A domestic cat can run at speeds of 30 mph.
  • A cat will almost never “meow” at another cat.  This sound is reserved for humans.
  • There are approximately 60,000 hairs per square inch on the back of a cat and about 120,000 per square inch on its underside.
  • The nose pad of a cat is ridged in a pattern that is unique, just like the fingerprint of a human.
  • Calico cats are almost always female.
  • If your cat is near you, and her tail is quivering, this is the greatest expression of love your cat can give you. If her tail starts thrashing, her mood has changed.
  • Cats wag their tails when it is in a stage of conflict.  The cat wants to do two things at once, but each impulse blocks the other.  For example: If your cat is in the doorway wanting to go outside, and you open the door to find it raining, the cat’s tail will wag because of internal conflict.  The cat wants to go outside, but doesn’t want to go into the rain.  Once the cat makes a decision and either returns to the house or leaves into the rain, the tail will immediately stop wagging.
  • Sir Isaac Newton, discoverer of the principles of gravity, also invented the cat door.
  • The greatest number of mice killed by one cat?  28,899!  Towser, a tortoise-shell tabby in charge of rodent control in Scotland, killed 28,899 mice in her 21 years.  This is about four mice per day, every day, for 21 years.  Towser died in 1987.
  • In households in the UK and USA, there are more cats kept as pets than dogs. At least 35% of households with cats have 2 or more cats. About 37% of American homes today have at least 1 cat.

Interesting Dog Facts

  • Dogs are mentioned 14 times in the Bible, but domestic cats are not mentioned at all.
  • Humans have kept dogs as pets for over 12,000 years.
  • A 50,000 year old cave painting in Europe seems to show a dog-like animal hunting with men.
  • The oldest breed of dog is the Saluki.
  • Pekingese dogs were sacred to the emperors of China for more than 2,000 years. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world.
  • There are 701 types of pure breed dogs. (Although this is disputed by many.)
  • The breed Lundehune has 6 toes and can close its ears.
  • Greyhounds are the fastest dogs on earth, with speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. The average dog can run up to  nineteen miles per hour when running at full speed.
  • The world’s smallest dog is the Chihuahua, which means “tiny dog in the sky”.
  • Among purebreds, supposedly the “smartest” dogs are the Border Collie, Poodle and Golden Retriever; the “dumbest” dog is the Afghan.
  • Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic – a Newfoundland, a Pomeranian, and a Pekingese.
  • A dog, named Laika, was the first in space in 1957.
  • Bingo is the name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box.
  • Gidget is the name of the Taco Bell dog.
  • The average dog has 42 permanent teeth.
  • Dogs’ only sweat glands are between their paw pads.  They cannot lose heat rapidly by perspiring from head to toe like people do. Instead the dogs sweat by panting, which removes body heat by evaporation from the surface of the tongue.
  • Dogs also pant when they are nervous or excited.
  • The longer a dog’s nose, the more effective it’s internal cooling system.
  • Dogs have about 100 different facial expressions, most of them made with the ears.
  • A dog’s smell is estimated at 1 million times better than humans.
  • Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children
  • Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.
  • Like human babies, Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot in their skull which closes with age.
  • Like humans, obesity is the #1 health problem among dogs.
  • It has been established that people who own pets live longer, have less stress, and have fewer heart attacks.

Birds and Bugs

  • An eagle can kill a young deer and fly away with it
  • Over 1,000 birds a year die from smashing into windows
  • Ants stretch when they wake up in the morning
  • The ant, when intoxicated, will always fall over to its right side
  • A hummingbird weighs less than a penny
  • The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards
  • Slugs have 4 noses (I know this is not quite “insect”, but I don’t want to have one just for slugs)
  • Owls are the only birds who can see the color blue
  • Honeybees have hair on their eyes
  • In its entire lifetime, the average worker bee produces 1/12th teaspoon of honey
  • Bats always turn left when exiting a cave (OK, not quite a bird, but they fly…)
  • The penguin is the only bird who can swim, but not fly
  • A one-day old baby cockroach, about the size of a spec of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents
  • The Madagascan Hissing Cockroach is one of the few insects who give birth to live young, rather than laying eggs
  • The world’s largest roach (which lives in South America) is six inches long with a one-foot wingspan
  • A cockroach can live a week without its head. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can’t drink water and dies of thirst
  • Roaches can live without food for a month, but will only survive a week without water
  • The oldest group of insects are the cockroaches, dating back 300 million years
  • Bats always turn left when exiting a cave (it’s not a bird, I know, but it flies…)
  • A dragonfly has a lifespan of 24 hours
  • Dragonflies are one of the fastest insects, flying 50 to 60 mph
  • The male deer bot fly is reputed to develop flying speeds of several hundred miles per hour, but this is probably an exaggeration. A tabanid fly, related to horse flies, has been clocked at 90 miles per hour. Hawk moths have been timed at 33.5 miles per hour. A dragonfly of the species Anax parthenope has been clocked at almost 18 miles per hour. Honeybees fly at about 7 miles per hour, and have to beat their wings 190 times per second to do it
  • Painted ladies migrating from Africa to England must travel over 3,000 miles
  • The praying mantis is the only insect that can turn its head
  • Baby robins eat 14 feet of earthworms every day
  • An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain and weighs 3.3 pounds
  • Crickets hear through their knees
  • A flamingo can eat only when its head is upside down
  • There are more plastic flamingoes in the United States than real ones
  • The average chocolate bar has 8 insect legs in it
  • Fleas can jump 130 times higher than their own height. In human terms this is equal to a 6 foot person jumping 780 feet into the air
  • Homing pigeons use roads where possible to help find their way home. In fact, some pigeons followed roads so closely that they actually flew around traffic circles before choosing the exit that led them home
  • The queen of a termite colony may lay 6,000 to 7,000 eggs per day, and may live 15 to 50 years
  • The biggest group of insects are the beetles, numbering 330,000 species (wow!)

Some telling facts about Internet usage

More than one-third (37%) of smartphone users have made a purchase from their device. Approximately 88% of 12- to 17-year-olds use social networks every day. Thirty-seven percent of Americans age 18-24 use Twitter. Around 45% of Americans have watched live streaming coverage of a sporting event via the Internet. In 2009 approximately 90 trillion emails were sent (81% of which were spam), and there were 234 million websites.

The Internet is changing how people interact, communicate, make purchases, pay bills, make decisions and entertained.