The 6 Weirdest Pet Questions on Quora, Answered

Ah, Quora. It's like Yahoo Answers, but a little less early-aughts-bonkers. In case you're not familiar, Quora.com is a website where people can go to post questions about, well, literally anything. The answers are crowd sourced, which means you might get an answer from an expert in the field or you might get an answer from a guy in Idaho in his mom's basement who is definitely, 100 percent just guessing.

We've rounded up a handful of the weirdest questions about cats, dogs, and pets in general on Quora and, instead of just hoping for a real answer from an anonymous rando on the internet, we've dug deep for the real answers. Let's dig in.

1. Do dogs know people aren't dogs?

Redheaded Girl and White Puppy Smiling Together
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The top Quora answer:

"A friend of mine proposed an interesting idea about whether or not dogs know they are, at the very least, DIFFERENT to their human pack members. She said that if you have one dog, they are probably more likely to see themselves as just part of the human pack (and may well demand to be treated as equal to the humans of the pack - as they have no frame-of-reference to show them they are NOT in fact human).

However, if you have more than one dog, it is highly likely that they are able to discern that there is a difference between them and their pack leaders. They have their own language and instinctual ways of understanding body language and eye-contact (or lack thereof), but humans are NOT sensitive to THEIR language, therefore they MUST be able to discern that they are different to their human pack leaders.

The greatest thing about it though? Is that dogs don't care if you're different, as long as the pack sticks together and defends… and loves and nurtures. Dogs don't give a fat rat's what species you are. A pack is a pack, and the pack always comes first.

It's just another example of how much more noble and pure they are as compared to humans." - Leisha Young, Courier - self employed at Sundigo - Casual Courier for Macedon, Victoria Australia

The real answer: While dogs are incredibly intuitive and loving creatures who can definitely think of us as their "parents"—that is, their protectors and providers—and develop as strong an emotional bond with us as if we were blood related, they don't necessarily believe we're just giant hairless dogs.

The reason? Because dogs have incredible noses and we humans just don't smell like dogs. To put things into perspective, humans have about 5 million smell receptors. Dogs, on the other hand, have about 220 million. As such, a dog's sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than human senses, according to James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University.

Thanks to their superhuman (by human standards, anyway) sense of smell, dogs are able to decipher one individual's odor-causing secretions from another's. What's more, dogs possess a pheromone at the base of the nasal passage that provides species and sex information—meaning they definitely know the difference between their human family members and other dogs, on a basic species level.

2. Is it possible to manufacture mouse-flavored cat food?

Cat eating food out of bowl
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The top Quora answer:

"I've read the other answers and I believe most of their objections can be overcome except for one. First, let's dispense with a few of these objections.

To solve the issue that humans buy the cat food, we could overcome any distaste on their part by labeling the flavor Crème de Souris,* thereby not only making it sound good, but making it look upscale for marketing purposes—100% organic meat, grain free!

As far as production goes, you could just throw all the mouse bodies in a giant food processor. They're completely edible, even the parts that cats leave on your doorstep to find in the morning before you've had your coffee.

However, the real problem is mouse farming. The average house mouse weighs .68 oz., that means 4.41 mice for every 3 oz. can of cat food, or 106 mice per the average 24 can case of 3 oz. cans. At the mid-sized pet food store I worked at, we sold about 100 cases a year of each flavor of 3 oz. cat food—so that's 10,600 mice per year for just one store.

Consequently, not only would you need millions and millions of mice, but they're not the kind of animal you can leave out in a field or in the ocean to fatten up. They'd have to be raised indoors! Even if you have a multi-level barn of some kind, the costs of feeding them and removing all their poop would be astronomical.

So, I think it's possible to manufacture mouse-flavored cat food, it doesn't make much sense." -Nancy Jacobsen, Owns over 400 Cookie Cutters

The real answer: Mental Floss covered this question in its September 2014 issue and spoke to Shaun Belongie, the national brand manager for cat food company Friskies to get to the bottom of the issue. The short answer is that, while it would be possible to create mouse-flavored cat food, it's not legal to do so in the United States.

The reason, it turns out, comes down to regulation and bureaucracy. According to Belongie, the FDA prohibits mouse-flavored cat food. Turns out, the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) holds pet food to the same sanitation and safety standards as human food, which is good news, really, considering how much we all love our little furbabies.

Under FDA standards, only ingredients that are deemed "appropriate and necessary" to an animal's diet are approved and rodents just don't make the cut. They, understandably (and thankfully) aren't sanctioned as a food source in the U.S. and, therefore, the Department of Agriculture doesn't have an official inspection procedure for mice. And that is why you can't have mice-flavored cat food, even if cats love mice IRL.

3. When and why did people start keeping cats as pets?

Cute bengal funny cat laying on back on a rug
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The top Quora answer:

"People keep different pets for different reasons. I keep cats.

I keep cats because the brighten up my life. They make me laugh, smile and overall happier.

When I am having a bad day or feeling blue I can go to my cats and love or play with them and my mood improves.

Before I had my cats I didn't worry about when I came home from work, but now I do. I make sure to come home for them because they need me and they deserve my love and attention. I live alone, so it's nice to come home to someone waiting for me.

There are other animals that could satisfy me but the care needed for cats fits my lifestyle. Cats don't need walks. Cats don't need a tank and woodchip bedding cleaned. I can go to work then out for the night and not worry about them.

I live my cats and can't imagine my life without my boys." - Lee Atkin, Had cats growing up and now assist with a local cat rescue group.

The real answer: This one is a two-parter. Let's start with the first part: When did people start keeping cats as pets?

When did cats start living with people as pets? Thousands and thousands of years ago. According to National Geographic, "the earlier ancestors of today's domestic cats spread from southwest Asia and into Europe as early as 4400 B.C. The cats likely started hanging around farming communities in the Fertile Crescent about 8,000 years ago, where they settled into a mutually beneficial relationship as humans' rodent patrol."

Why did people start keeping cats as pets? The basic answer to this one, amazingly, is because the cats decided they wanted us to. Researchers who have studied the origins and history of domestic cats believe that cats domesticated themselves—which is unique. No other species is thought to have just woken up one day, looked at a group of humans and said, "Hmm. I live here now. Take care of me, please."

In a study in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers found that the change in cats from wild to domestic isn't a major DNA shift, but likely a choice. The study examined the DNA of 200 different cats over 9,000 years, including mummified Egyptian cats, Romanian cat remains, and African wildcats, and what the researchers found is that even though cats became tame and domestic, humans didn't accomplish that without the cats' permission. Have you ever heard anything more quintessentially cat in your life?

4. Why don’t dogs like it when you stick your middle finger at them?

The top Quora answer:

"Because it's not something a sane person does. I imagine finger four or five waved at them wouldn't be too well received either.

Dogs are creatures of habit. They read us. Wacky behavior makes them nervous. Were their leaders.

Once, when my Doberman jumped completely over my grandson, averting a crash, in our shock and relief, some major laughter followed. First she seemed to accept it, as being a good reaction to her. But when it went on a bit too long, she began to stare at us, then making an indignant paws down jump. It made us laugh harder, which put her face to face with…me. The stare down caused us even more giggles, but I forced myself to stop. She stared a moment longer, spun away and went to her bed, completely disgusted by us all." - Marilynne Rapp, Entrepreneur

The real answer: The internet is rife with compilation videos of dogs who really, really hate being given the middle finger. But why? Dogs don't really know what the middle finger means, right?

While dogs don't explicitly understand the meaning of the middle finger, there is a good chance that, if your dog is reacting in a negative way to the gesture, it's because he can at least sense the meaning. In a sense, dogs can read our minds because dogs have evolved to be able to read humans extraordinarily well.

In fact, modern dogs, use cues, context, and experience to understand humans and even our non-verbal cues. Dogs are great at observing patterns in human behavior and their ability to pick up on the meaning behind our gestures and body language is uncanny.

5. Can cats survive in space?

Cat astronaut in space on background of the globe
credit: Sonsedska/iStock/GettyImages

The top Quora answer:

"Given our current limitations in space travel, I'd have to say the answer is no. However, in the future when space travel is a little bit more accommodating for humans, I suspect cats will be among our first companions in space.First off, they really are more trainable than "common sense" dictates, but this requires they be understood and treated as cats, not miniature dogs. Toilet facilities are no huge engineering feat once that hurdle is overcome.Second, some adjustments in habitat would be needed. Trainability notwithstanding, sensitive controls would need some thought to prevent accidental activation.Third, some sort of protective gear would be needed in case of loss of air pressure, at least in intermediate habitat designs." - Erik Halberstadt, serial servant to multiple Cats.

The real answer: It depends on what you mean by "survive in space." Obviously, cats can't just float around in the open universe, DJ-ing on spinning pizzas, no matter how much we would love the memes to be true.

However, if you mean, can cats survive space travel, the answer is, yeah, at least sometimes.

We've all heard of Laika, the first dog to travel to space, but the feline species has also engaged in some space travel. On October 18th, 1963, a French cat named Félicette became the first (and, so far, only) feline to ever travel to space. According to Space.com, Félicette flew nearly 100 miles above the Earth atop a Véronique AG1 rocket. The rocket sped along at up to six times the speed of sound and exposed the cat to 9.5 g's of force. She even briefly experienced weightlessness. The whole trip lasted just fifteen minutes and, at the end, she parachuted back down to Earth in a space capsule, and arrived alive and well.

While cats haven't made a return to space since Félicette's trip, scientists haven't ruled out their future in space travel. According to American astronaut, doctor, and engineer Robert Satcher, pets could totally survive in space with us if we humans start rocketing off to, say, colonize Mars.

"The history of the space program is interesting in that the first rockets with living beings that were launched actually didn't have humans they had animals," he told Australian site NewsHub. "They are actually the real space pioneers."

6. If dogs had Quora, what kind of questions would they ask?

Dog using laptop computer
credit: BrianAJackson/iStock/GettyImages

The top Quora answer:

"Grrrr..Grrrrrrrrrr..!?

Hoooooouu..Hoooooooooooouu !?

Bowww..Bowwwwww..!??

Woof….woooooooooof…woooff…??

...

& the list goes on…" - Vamsi Krishna Namala, An Indigenous Indian

The real answer: Dogs definitely think about a lot of things—and probably have some pretty complex thoughts at that.

"Oh my gosh yes! They probably have the level of cognition of a 3-to-5-year-old human," Dr. Jill Sackman, senior medical director of BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Michigan, said.

As for what dogs would ask a service like Quora, it stands to reason that they would ask questions about the things that most preoccupy their thoughts IRL. Here are some examples of questions dogs might ask, with the science to back up why.

"How can I make my human happy?"

Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about making us happy—a fact that will come as a surprise to exactly zero people who have ever interacted with dogs. In one study, scientists scanned dogs' brains while letting them smell their owners' scents and found that the smell activated the "reward center" of the dogs' brains.

In addition to the burst of joy we know they get when they get to be near us (or even just near our smells). we also know that dogs' brains are in tune to the inflections of emotion in our voice in a similar way to humans, which explains why they're so good at comforting us.

Given the burst of joy they get when we're around and the attention they already pay to our emotional states, it seems reasonable to assume that dogs would search for ways to make us happy.

"Food?"

Obviously, in addition to loving humans, dogs also love food. If dogs had Quora access, they would probably ask a lot of questions about food—specifically about where and how to procure more of it.

Fun fact though: Some dogs actually value your praise more than a tasty treat. In a study by Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, dogs were offered a hot dog, and then on a separate occasion, they were offered praise. The researchers then measured the dogs' brains' responses to these two things and found that majority of the dogs responded to both options equally—meaning most dogs love food and good vibes from their person about the same amount. About 20 percent of the dogs actually responded more positively to the praise than they did to the food, which brings us back to Dog Quora Question No. 1.

"How can I help other dogs?"

Dogs aren't just nice to us. They're also nice to each other—especially when it comes to another dog they know well.

In one study, scientists sought to learn if dogs would be nice to another dog if there was no reward in it for them. To test the questions, the researchers put two dogs in cages and gave one access to a lever that dispensed food into the other dog's cage. When the dogs knew each other, brain scans revealed that the giving dog was actually happy to give a treat to its friend. If the dogs didn't know each other, however, they were less likely to light up the happy centers of their brains when dispensing a treat.