Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • Cats at Sea: 7 Famous Seafaring Felines

    Blackie the cat meets Churchill aboard her homestead, the HMS Prince of Wales.Blackie the cat meets Churchill aboard her homestead, the HMS Prince of Wales.When one thinks of service animals, dogs and their inherent affinity for work come to mind. Cats in this capacity? Not so much. Cats may be hell-bent on languidly lounging in the sun, but seldom seem eager to lend a paw.

    The long history of cats serving on ships counters the stereotype. Ship's cats have been employed on trading, exploration, and naval ships going back to ancient times when Egyptians took cats on Nile boats to catch [skipwords]birds[/skipwords] in riverbank thickets. When cats were brought aboard trading ships, the species began to spread throughout the world. Phoenician cargo ships are thought to have brought the first domesticated cats to Europe around 900 BC.

    Eventually their main job at sea was in the position of pest control; rats and mice onboard are a serious threat to ropes, woodwork, food, and grain cargo - not to mention the critters' roles as carriers of disease. Cats also offered companionship to sailors. There's a reason animals are used for therapy, a

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  • How Cats Can Get Trained as Therapy Animals

    A cat can help lower your blood pressA cat can help lower your blood pressStroking or cuddling a cat can have a positive effect on your health. Research shows that felines can relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and studies have found that the hormone oxytocin is released when we're around pets, triggering feelings of happiness.

    With results like these, it's no wonder therapy cats are often taken to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and even prisons. But what does it take for a feline to become a certified therapy animal?

    There are several organizations that certify pet therapy teams. Pet Partners and Love On A Leash are two of the largest, but some areas also have local organizations. Pet Partners' Therapy Animal Program is one of the largest in the U.S., and the organization been training volunteers nationwide since 1990.

    The first step in preparing a cat to be a therapy animal is to make sure the feline meets basic requirements. These can vary by organization, but typically include being comfortable in a harness and up to date with shots.

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  • More People Giving Pets Human Names

    Rover is so overRover is so overTraditional pet names like Fido and Rover have been replaced by popular baby names, according to report by John Lewis Pet Insurance.

    The study of more than 50,000 pet names found that the top 10 pet names also appear among the 70 most popular baby names in England and Wales.

    The most popular name for both cats and dogs was Poppy, which is also the 13th most popular name for baby girls in the United Kingdom. The name is also on the rise in the U.S. - a trend baby name experts attribute to the Duchess of Cambridge's sister.

    The decline of traditional pet names is demonstrated by the fate of Rover and Fido, which were both in the top 10 in the 1970s but have dropped to 840 and 1,480 respectively.

    Also see: 5 ways communities persuade dog owners to pick up poo

    Animal insurance company Petplan says this decrease in popularity suggests that owners regard their children as part of the family.

    But those four-legged family members aren't getting just any names - many of them

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  • 5 Healthy Habits for Kids Heading Back to School

    Is this kid eating healthy?Is this kid eating healthy?by Jenni Grover MS LD RN, Mother Nature Network

    As summer winds down and you look back on all those ice creams at the beach and grilling out with friends, you may well be turning your attention to your kids' return to school. Alongside all the shopping for supplies and meeting new teachers, it's important to remember that healthy lifestyle choices are a critical part of setting kids up for success.

    Here are five ways that you can ensure a healthy, productive and enjoyable return to school.

    1. Always eat breakfast
    Your mother wasn't kidding when she said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. From the role that breakfast plays in maintaining a healthy weight to studies showing that kids who eat breakfast perform better at school (and enjoy more success in life!), there's plenty of reason to focus on a healthy breakfast as a way to kick-start your kids' day. But that doesn't mean you have to go making fancy meals from scratch. Healthy, whole grain breakfast cereals;

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  • Homer, the Blind Cat Who Inspired a Bestseller, Has Died

    Homer the blind catHomer the blind catAfter being abandoned as a kitten and losing both of his eyes to an infection, Homer didn't have it easy, but his life changed when Gwen Cooper adopted him.

    She was impressed by the tiny cat's zest for life despite his hardships, so she took him home and named him after the blind Greek poet who wrote "The Odyssey."

    "Fate may have taken Homer's eyes, but he had my heart from the moment I first held him," she wrote on her blog.

    The bond between Homer and Cooper inspired a book that topped the New York Times bestseller list and enabled them to save countless other special-needs cats.

    But today, those touched by Homer's story are mourning his loss. The famous feline, who just celebrated his 16th birthday, was euthanized last week.

    Homer had been ill since last fall. Veterinarians discovered that his liver enzyme levels were off and he was having intestinal problems.

    Although doctors said Homer was close to death, the cat seemed to bounce back early this year. However, his health

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  • 43 Surprising Headache Triggers

    Why does your head hurt?Why does your head hurt?Pounding, throbbing, stabbing, aching - welcome to the world of headaches, an ailment that affects more than 45 million Americans each year.

    Humans have been suffering from the malady for millennia. Recorded depictions date back to at least 4000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, where it was thought that Tiu, the evil spirit of headaches, was to blame. The shenanigans of evil spirits were assumed to be the cause of headaches throughout many cultures, and gave rise to trephination - a procedure in which a small circular portion of the skull was removed, creating egress for the pain-triggering spirits.

    Given how agonizing a headache can be, rowdy evil spirits wreaking havoc doesn't seem all that much of a stretch. Fortunately we know better now, and in most cultures no longer rely on holes drilled in the head for relief. But if not evil sprits, what does cause the pain?

    There are many catalysts that can create the ache, and medical literature has complied a lengthy compendium of causes.

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  • Do You Have to Be Skinny to Do Yoga?

    Can any body type do yoga?Can any body type do yoga?by Lauren Walker, Mother Nature Network

    You look at all the yoga magazines and all the women are skinny. Not just thin but skinny. There are lots of women who are naturally thin, who are healthy and strong and eat real food. But if those magazines are the guidelines for doing yoga, women who are not naturally thin feel a stab of insecurity and the thought of entering a yoga studio seems an insurmountable challenge. So what's a woman to do, a woman with breasts, a belly, thighs made for climbing mountains, hips made for birthing babies, arms made for carrying the weight of a family?

    Many of the women I know have these kind of curvy bodies. And most of the women I know, even the slim ones, suffer from some sort of body dysmorphia, which is preoccupation or excessive worry about a minor or imagined physical imperfection.

    It is nearly impossible to be unaffected by the culture in which we live. Even if you're a forward-thinking free spirit, free in your mind, you are steeped in the

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  • 5 Surprising Ways to Get Great Skin

    You may be doing some things that cause more harm than goodYou may be doing some things that cause more harm than goodby Starre Vartan, Mother Nature Network

    There's so much misinformation out there regarding skin care, not to mention plenty of old-wives' tales (some of which are actually right) and lots of well-intentioned bad advice. That's because skin care is tricky, and depends on your skin type. However, there are some tried and true rules - most of which violate at least a rule or two you may have heard elsewhere - that really do work for all skin types.

    How have I learned the information below? From speaking with skin experts, makeup artists (natural and conventional) and testing out literally thousands of products over the last 10 years that I've been reviewing natural beauty products.

    1. You don't need to wash your face with hot water to get it clean: In fact, hot water can cause redness and irritation in people with sensitive skin, and for those with normal skin, it can still dry out delicate facial skin, leaving it more susceptible to all kinds of issues, from red, flaky dermis to acne.

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  • 5 Unusual Pet Procedures that Improve Quality of Life

    Does this dog need plastic surgery?Does this dog need plastic surgery?While controversial - and often illegal - procedures like ear cropping, tail docking and declawing are nothing new in the world of pet modification, a new breed of surgeries that you'd normally associate with your drastically nipped and tucked Aunt Beryl from Atlantic City have become increasingly popular among pet owners in recent years.

    Most of these procedures won't require you to fly Princess Chubby Cheeks to Sao Paulo for a facelift or tummy tuck as many established veterinarians specialize in plastic surgery for pets. And although these procedures - we've listed five notable ones below - do enhance the physical appearance of your four-legged amigo, most pet-owners consider them not for reasons of vanity. Instead, pets undergo these surgeries to correct discomforting - and often fatal - health conditions (The Humane Society opposes "cosmetic and other forms of surgery on animals when done solely for the convenience or pleasure of the owner and without appropriate benefit to the

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  • 8 Surprisingly Healthy Foods

    Hot chocolate may be good for youHot chocolate may be good for youIn one of the tragic twists of modern eating, it seems that the foods most likely to bring us pleasure are also most likely to bring us poor health. Our lust for fat, salt and sugar was once necessary to boost our ancestors' chance of survival; but the first-world abundance of foods rife with such ingredients seems to be having a counter-effect thanks to food-related heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.

    But sometimes research proves that it's not all gloom and doom when it comes to eating delicious foods with a bad reputation. The following foods defy conventional wisdom about healthy choices.

    1. Hot chocolate
    Hot chocolate as health food? We kid you not. As dark chocolate continues its rise as a health food star, its cousin, hot chocolate, gets a boost too. In fact, researchers have found that it may even exceed plain old chocolate in terms of the health benefits it has to offer. Just avoid the chemical-laden instant mixes and opt for a natural one, or make one of these

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