Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • Play Mind Games with Your Cat with These Optical Illusions

    An optical illusionDon't say it too loudly around your own feline, but cats tend to be easily tricked by all manner of quick-moving illusions or sleights of hand (i.e., laser pointers, shadows, movements under the sheets, etc.).

    For an ounce of pure comedy, watching a cat try to pounce on these amazing optical illusions. It speaks to just how convincing the tricks are that they work across the species barrier.

    To be mesmerized by the illusions yourself, check out this video.

    The illusions were created by YouTube sensation brusspup, who has been filming illusion, magic and science videos since 2008. You can view his catalog of mind-bending videos at his YouTube channel here.

    Also see: Your cat thinks you're a much larger cat with good taste in food

    Unlike magicians who never reveal the secrets behind their tricks, brusspup is more than happy to divulge how his illusions work. He has even offered templates for the cat-fooling illusions in the video mentioned above, which can be downloaded

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  • How to Avoid Pet Theft

    You may think your pet is safe running around your fenced-in backyard or alone in the car with the windows cracked, but pet thefts are on the rise. Last Chance for Animals (LCA) urges pet owners to keep an eye on their four-legged family members.

    There are no reliable figures on the number of animals stolen in the U.S. annually because police rarely distinguish between property theft and pet theft. Also, when a pet disappears from a yard, there's often no way to prove the animal didn't just escape.

    However, LCA estimates that 2 million pets are stolen each year. The American Kennel Club, which tracks pet thefts through news reports and customers, reported a 31 percent increase in pet thefts from 2012 to 2013.

    Also see: My pet is missing! What should I do?

    Why people steal pets

    Cats, dogs and other animals are stolen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the theft is financially motivated. Purebred dogs and pets with special skills are the most likely to be targeted, but

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  • Josh Duhamel Produces Web Series to Help Shelter Pets

    Josh Duhamel with rescue puppies.

    One of the first projects for actor Josh Duhamel's production company, Dakotakid Media, is a Web series that follows homeless dogs as they travel thousands of miles for a better chance of being adopted.

    Duhamel teamed up with PetSmart Charities to create "Rescue Waggin': Tales from the Road," an eight-episode series that includes cameos from celebrity pet adoption advocates like Kristen Bell and Bret Michaels.

    PetSmart Charities' Rescue Waggin', a cross-country transport program, has saved more than 70,000 dogs since it launched in 2004.

    Duhamel learned about the program last year and vowed to use Dakotakid Media to raise awareness and funding for it.

    "Adopting my dachshund, Meatloaf, changed my life," he said in a news release. "He was a clumsy little dude with horrible breath - but we adored him."

    Also see: How to save lives at a shelter near you

    Duhamel's Web series will follow dogs and puppies in overcrowded shelters as they're transported to communities where adoptable pets are

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  • What Do You Call a Kitten with Only 2 Legs? King of the World

    Curious kitten

    Mercury is a kitten from Oklahoma who proves that cats don't need four legs to pounce and play.

    The two-legged tabby was 4 days old and weighed just 5 ounces when he was discovered in a yard in September. He hadn't even opened his eyes yet.

    He was missing his two front legs and all but one of his toes on his back legs.

    His injuries are thought to be the result of a run-in with a weed whacker because neighbors had recently been doing yard work in the tall grass he was found in.

    A local family took the tiny tabby to the vet where his wounds were treated, and then they brought him home.

    Also see: 9 inspiring animals that use prosthetics

    They named him Mercury, bottle-fed him around the clock and cleaned his injuries multiple times a day. Despite his disabilities, he quickly grew into an otherwise healthy and playful kitten.(You can see Mercury in action in this video.)

    "Mercury does everything other cats do - he plays with toys, he jumps, plays with other cats

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  • Could Cat Cafes Come to America?

    What snuggly attractions do Japan, Korea and several European countries have that the United States doesn't? Cat cafes.

    But that's about to change.

    Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky plan to open the nation's first combination tea house and cat sanctuary in San Francisco.

    Aptly named KitTea, they envision a space with plenty of natural lighting where patrons can sip tea while stroking a tired tabby or dangling a toy for a playful Persian.

    And if a customer makes a connection with a certain calico, an adoption is possible.

    According to the KitTea website, the business will partner with a local cat rescue shelter to pick about 10 cats that "will be selected based on their personalities and whether they have been socialized to be comfortable around both humans and other cats."

    Given Americans' fondness for both cats and caffeine, why don't we have a cat cafe already? Health codes are mostly to blame.

    Also see: 19 works of latte art

    A Boston cat cafe called Miaou

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  • To Help Disabled Dog Enjoy the Great Outdoors, Man Builds Custom Wagon

    KellerKeller

    When Josh Wulf met his dog Keller, she was a 1-year-old stray that had been taken to the New York shelter where he volunteered.

    "We weren't quite sure if she had bad vision or she was blind," Wulf said.

    The stray dog stole his heart, so Wulf adopted her and took her to a veterinarian who determined that Keller was likely born blind due to dwarfism since her retinas never attached.

    Surprisingly, she got around just fine until an accident broke her hind leg beyond repair and it had to be removed. A year later, Keller was diagnosed with glaucoma and had both eyes removed.

    Also see: 7 inspiring dogs with disabilities

    Despite her setbacks, Keller still wanted to explore the outside, so Wulf placed her in his kayak trailer and attached it to his bike. He took Keller for a ride, and it was an instant hit.

    "She loves riding around with her nose in the wind," Wulf said.

    Inspired by Keller's love of riding, Wulf constructed a bright red wagon complete with pneumatic, or

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  • Determined Kitten Takes Disability in Stride

    A kitten born with a rare deformity was rescued from a hoarding situation and given a second chance at life when he was taken to a no-kill animal shelter.

    The weeks-old orange tabby kitten - whom the shelter named Stockings - had hind legs that were turned inward and twisted like a pretzel. He was also underweight and needed treatment for a respiratory infection.

    "He had to drag his whole behind, and we knew that was going to be a really difficult way to live," Jenny Schlueter, development director of Chicago's Tree House Humane Society, told ABC Chicago.

    The shelter brought in veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Neihaus who decided that Stockings should undergo a series of surgeries to cut the tendons of his back legs so they could be extended and properly aligned.

    "If we did nothing, this cat would most likely have been euthanized," he said.

    Also see: 7 inspiring dogs with disabilities

    The first surgery took place in October and was followed by three more.

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  • Together Forever: Law Would Allow Pets, Owners to Be Buried Together

    Pet lovers celebrate their animals' birthdays, take them on family vacations and even include them in their wills. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that people would want to spend the afterlife with their furry friends.

    However, in most cemeteries, pet remains aren't welcome. But a bill on its way to Virginia's House of Delegates could change that, at least in one state.

    Republican lawmaker Israel D. O'Quinn has submitted a bill to Virginia's General Assembly that would allow pets and their owners to be buried together.

    Currently, the state's code defines a cemetery as "any land or structure used or intended to be used for the interment of human remains."

    Recognizing that some people wouldn't want to be buried alongside an animal, O'Quinn's bill specifies that human-pet burials would be segregated from traditional gravesites.

    "Some people have an extreme aversion to animals, and others have a strong affection for them," he told The Washington Post. "There are some

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  • What Can You Do with 99 Cats?

    Dr. Leslie Lyons has 20,000 genes to sequence, and she needs 99 cats to do it.

    Lyons - who made headlines in 2001 when she analyzed the DNA of a cat named Cc and proved that the kitty was the first true cloned cat - is leading the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative at the University of Missouri.

    Scientist are mapping the genomes of everything from people to wheat, but the cat genome remains mostly un-deciphered.

    Lyons says a mapping of the 20,000 genes in various cat breeds could help identify the cause of cats' fur and eye color, as well as the source of certain feline health problems.

    It could even aid research on diseases that affect both cats and humans like polycystic kidney disease and spinal muscular atrophy.

    "When a sick cat comes along, you could genetically sequence it and say, 'Hey, look, this has a variation we've never seen before,'" she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It might give us clues very quickly as to what genes to focus on for

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  • 10 Foods Most People Eat the Wrong Way

    Eating should be a simple thing - open mouth, insert food, chew, swallow - but somehow this basic necessity of life comes with its own set of subtle complexities. Many manufactured foods are designed for maximum ease of eating; these are the products of food scientists who are tasked with translating hard-to-eat or messy foods into tidy, quickly consumable, everlasting ones (sticky pastries become Pop-Tarts, sloppy sandwiches become Hot Pockets), but there's a world of food out there that remains hard to eat.


    Is there actually a right or wrong way to eat these foods? Not really; it's all subjective, of course; but the following suggestions may be neater, result in less waste, and/or simply work more smoothly when it comes to the mechanics of biting and chewing the things we eat.


    1. Apples
    Every one knows how to eat an apple. You wash it, hold it by the core using your fingers, and commence chomping. But as it turns out, there's a better way - one that eliminates all waste,

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