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Harriet the Singing Donkey

Martin Stanton lives in Ireland, and his neighbors down the road have a donkey named Harriet. Harriet never learned how to heehaw like other donkeys, but she's got an operatic soprano voice with occasional vibrato. I am not making this up. -via Laughing Squid

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All Cats Are Different

Ignoramusky is back, with a new compilation of the smartest, clumsiest, and funniest Russian cats around! Bonus: Many of the clips are enhanced with appropriate musical soundtracks.

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Why Siberian Huskies Have Those Baby Blue Eyes

Genetic testing companies are doing great business- people are even paying to have genetic studies done on their dogs. This is a boon to researchers, as a new study used 6,000 such canine genetic profiles with permission of the dog owners. Adam Boyko and Aaron Sams of Embark Veterinary, Inc. were able to pinpoint the source of blue eyes in Siberian huskies.  

The expansive analysis revealed that blue eyes in Siberian huskies appear to be associated with a duplication on what is known as canine chromosome 18, which is located near a gene called ALX4. This gene plays an important role in mammalian eye development, leading the researchers to suspect that the duplication “may alter expression of ALX4, which may lead to repression of genes involved in eye pigmentation,” Aaron Sams of Embark tells Inverse’s Sarah Sloat.

The genetic variation was also linked to blue eyes in non-merle Australian shepherds. Just one copy of the mutated sequence was enough to give dogs either two blue eyes, or one blue and one brown eye, a phenomenon known as “heterochromia.” It would seem, however, that duplication on chromosome 18 is not the only factor influencing blue eye color: Some dogs that had the mutation did not have blue eyes.

When a scientist asks why, the answer is a gene mutation that they can pinpoint. The rest of us want to know why that mutation became dominant for the breed as a whole. Maybe we'll find out eventually. Read more about the research at Smithsonian.

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Cole and Marmalade Meet the New Kittens

Cole and Marmalade meet their new housemates, Zig Zag and Jugg, but only after a gradual program to get them used to each other first. Along the way, we can marvel at the cat paradise that Chris Poole and his family have made their home into.

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Dog Gets 3D-Printed Titanium Skull

A Pennsylvania dachshund named Patches developed a brain tumor the size of an orange. The cancer invaded her skull and pushed her head up in a large lump. Patches' family was referred to the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, where veterinary surgical oncologist Michelle Oblak recommended surgery.  

Normally in a case such as this, the tumor and a portion of the skull would be removed, and a titanium mesh fitted in place, Oblak told the Canadian Press. Instead, Oblak and her colleagues used a new procedure in which a 3D-printed skull cap is specially fitted for the canine patient, which the researchers claim is more precise and less costly than conventional methods. Incredibly, the titanium cap replaced 70 percent of Patches’ skull, which had to be removed during surgery. Oblak said researchers in the UK have done something similar, but on a “significantly” smaller scale.

Naturally, this kind of surgery raises questions about the expense, but the article does not address that. The surgery came through a teaching hospital that does research, which may contribute to the development of such techniques for humans eventually. Anyway, the surgery was successful, and you can see before and after pictures of Patches at Gizmodo. -Thanks, WTM!

(Image credit: Michelle Oblak)

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Great Dane Does Lunges

"I don't know what you're doing, Dad, but I wanna do it, too!"

Eli Clark was exercising by doing lunges across the living room, and his great Dane Luca did his best to join in. He didn't quite understand what moves were involved, but gosh darn it, he did his best! That's a good dog. Luca now has his own Instagram account. -via Tastefully Offensive 

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"Cat Grandpa" Naps with Shelter Cats

Terry Laurmen of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is 75 years old. He volunteers at Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary, where he enjoys brushing the cats. They love it too! The shelter, which specializes in caring for disabled, ill, and elderly cats, is a comfy place, so Laurmen often falls asleep with the cats.

"They all know him, when he walks through the door they run over to him because they know he has the special brush and the special treats. They all pile on top of him and rub all over him and just love him," sanctuary owner Elizabeth told the BBC.

But grooming 20-30 cats can get exhausting, and the other volunteers began snapping shots of Terry taking his daily siestas with his furry friends.

The pictures, posted at Facebook, went viral. When the shelter attached a fundraising link, they raised more than $40,000 in donations! They also have more volunteers because of the publicity. So what's next?

"People have been requesting we make a calendar with Terry and the cats on it!" Elizabeth says.

"I asked him if he would be comfortable with something like that - and he said he'd do anything to raise money for them."

Read more about Cat Grandpa at BBC. -via Fark

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You Have Teamwork and Courage and Magic in Your Blood

Blair Braverman came home to some "minor tornado damage," meaning there were tree branches all over the yard, so she put her puppies -and some grown dogs, too- to work. After all, dogs are great at fetching sticks!  

The clean-up project was so adorable that the neighbors had to come by for a cuddle. But the best part of the day was the bedtime story that Braverman told the puppies about their grandfather (told to us complete with pictures). It's a tale you don't want to miss at Threadreader. -via Metafilter

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Zig Zag, the Happiest Kitten Ever

Chris Poole and his wife have adopted two new kittens! We don't know Jugg's story yet, but Zig Zag was rescued from underneath a car, where she had taken shelter from a busy road.

Zig Zag was scared, sick, and hungry, but has taken well to her new home, and has now joined Cole and Marmalade (and Jugg), the world's luckiest cats, inside the house. Poole also fosters kittens from a shelter, so Cole and Marmalade are used to extra cats around. Zig Zag and Jugg, however, are there for good.

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Mrs. Herman, Monkey Firefighter

Around the turn of the 20th century, fire stations in New York City were allowed to have one dog as a mascot, or one cat, but not both. Of course, they all had horses to pull the fire engines. Engine Company No. 31 and No. 1 Tower Company, at 87 Lafayette Street, broke the rules and sheltered all kinds of mascots, including a monkey named Mrs. Herman, who considered herself a firefighter just like the men she lived among.  

Mrs. Herman was a native of Java, an island of Indonesia primarily comprising a tropical rain forest. I don’t know how or why she came to the United States, but I do know that she joined the fire department in 1904.

Mrs. Herman knew every firefighter by name, and she enjoyed wearing the regulation fire-fighting attire of her male counterparts (she did not like to wear dresses). She also liked to spend time with Pluto, the big gray horse of the No. 1 Tower Company, and with Pinky, the four-year-old spotted coach dog mascot owned by Lieutenant Sullivan of the tower company. Two of her favorite things to do were ride around the block on Pinky’s back and take naps on Pluto’s back.

Mrs. Herman didn’t get along very well with Boxer, the firehouse cat. In fact, she made his life pretty miserable. Poor thing.

Read about Mrs. Herman and the firefighters of Engine Company No. 31 at The Hatching Cat.

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Hand-Raising a Pallas's Cat Kitten

A wildcat crept into an abandoned train carriage in Russia and gave birth to cubs. Workers moved the car to the Daursky Biosphere reserve, without knowing who lived inside. The mother Palllas's Cat abandoned the carriage during the move, but one cub was left behind. Several days later, reserve director Vadim Kirilyuk heard a kitten meowing, and saw her crawl out of the train car. The cub's mother was nowhere to be found. She was tiny and weak, and the scientists called wildlife experts for advice on feeding her. Kirilyuk named her Dasha.   

Scientists had to play the role of Dasha’s mother, massaging her stomach after each meal, and keeping a hand on the kitten’s back to help her fall asleep in a den made out of a cardboard and an old fur hat.

Their efforts paid off and Dasha grew into a curios and healthy kitten.

‘Her eye colour changed from blue to yellow just before she was two months old.

'In the middle of June she went outside for the first time, and immediately ran back inside, to her humans, because she got too scared’, said Vadim Kirilyuk, the reserve’s director.

The scientists hope to return Dasha to the wild someday, if she can be properly prepared for life on her own. Read more about Dasha at The Siberian Times, and see plenty of pictures. Follow Dasha's life at Kirilyuk's Facebook page. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Vadim Kirilyuk)

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Does Your Cat Actually Hate You?

We learned the other day that when cats sneer, that doesn't necessarily mean they are disgusted with you. But there are other behaviors that may lead you to think your cat doesn't like you at all. That's because you're not thinking like a cat. Gizmodo asked various cat experts about how cats relate to humans. UC Davis veterinarian Mikel Maria Delgado tells us:

For whatever reason, people seem really obsessed with projecting their own anxieties about their relationship with their cat onto the cats themselves. Maybe that’s because they’re comparing cats do dogs. Cats have fewer facial muscles than dogs, so they have fewer expressions that mimic human ones, whereas dogs have more facial expressions, and these expressions are closer to ours than cats’ are. Cats present a more neutral palette for people, so when someone’s encountering a cat it may not be obvious to them what the cat is feeling just from looking at them.

That said, cats will often have preferred people in the home, and some of that is likely due to socialization. A cat whose exposed to many different types of people when they’re young will be more adaptable to different types of people when they get older. A kitten who is fostered in a quiet home with only one very quiet woman will probably be more comfortable with women later.

Delgado has more to say, as do other cat experts, on the behavior of cats vs our expectations.

(Image credit: Chelsea Beck/Gizmodo)

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Raccoon Wants to Befriend Cats

(YouTube link)

Sima the raccoon just wants to fit in. He is the only raccoon in the family, and he has to deal with humans, cats, and dogs. The cats seem the closest to what he'd want in a companion, but they aren't too happy with his un-catlike overtures. They won't let Sima forget that he's the oddball of the household. The language you hear is Russian, so this might be in Ukraine, where raccoons are becoming more common. -via Boing Boing   

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Why Is Your Cat So Disgusted With You?

(YouTube link)

If you've seen your cat give you "that face," you probably felt bad about it, because the same sneering expression on a human indicates disgust, horror, or at least a hateful thought of some kind. But that's not what's happening from the cat's point of view. Hank Green of SciShow is here to explain. -via Geeks Are Sexy

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Meet Beau Tox

This is Beau Tox, a Labrador who was born with facial deformities. His first Instagram photo explains:

Before I was born, I was so squished in the womb by my puppy siblings that my skull didn’t form as it should have. Although my face may look different, it doesn’t cause any issues with brain function. I was adopted after my previous owner had kept me outside and uncared for. I was so infested with heartworms and ear mites that it wasn’t likely I would survive very long. However, a group of amazing doctors did whatever it took to get me healthy again. Because of my ear mite infestation, I lost hearing in my left ear. I am also partially blind, due to my facial deformity. However, these issues don’t bring me down. I am one of the happiest and most loving dogs you’ll ever meet!

Jamie Hulit adopted Beau and makes the many ties you'll see him wearing. Beau now works to promote the adoption of shelter animals. Some have noticed his resemblance to Dug from the movie Up.

The first picture of Beau Tox that I saw reminded me of something else. Remember the Lion of Gripsholm Castle? You can see more of Beau at his Instagram feed. After you look at his many pictures, he starts to look completely normal.  -via reddit

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Sweetest What the Fluff Surprise Yet

(YouTube link)

Zephyr is a four-year-old golden retriever witnessing the "What the Fluff Challenge." We don't know what Zephyr was expecting (he's certainly very attentive), but we were expecting the young man holding the blanket up to disappear. Instead, he changed into Kevin, Zephyr's favorite person, who has been gone for nine months doing Army training at Ft. Bragg. Zephyr was pretty happy with the trick! -via Digg

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Stickeen: The Story of a Dog

You know John Muir as the adventurer who helped create America's national park system. In 1897, Muir wrote about his 1880 exploration of Alaska, a trip during which he found a new best friend, a dog named Stickeen. The dog was not demanding; rather he was independent and aloof, giving no benefit to the team, yet he followed Muir everywhere. That included a solo exploration of a glacier during a storm.

The weather was now making quick changes, scattering bits of dazzling brightness through the wintry gloom at rare intervals, when the sun broke forth wholly free, the glacier was seen from shore to shore with a bright array of encompassing mountains partly revealed, wearing the clouds as garments, while the prairie bloomed and sparkled with irised light from myriads of washed crystals. Then suddenly all the glorious show would be darkened and blotted out.

Stickeen seemed to care for none of these things, bright or dark, nor for the crevasses, wells, moulins, or swift flashing streams into which he might fall. The little adventurer was only about two years old, yet nothing seemed novel to him. Nothing daunted him. He showed neither caution nor curiosity, wonder nor fear, but bravely trotted on as if glaciers were playgrounds. His stout, muffled body seemed all one skipping muscle, and it was truly wonderful to see how swiftly and to all appearance heedlessly he flashed across nerve-trying chasms six or eight feet wide. His courage was so unwavering that it seemed to be due to dullness of perception, as if he were only blindly bold; and I kept warning him to be careful. For we had been close companions on so many wilderness trips that I had formed the habit of talking to him as if he were a boy and understood every word.

On the way back, the snow worsened, and the original path was lost. Muir found himself on an ice island, with wide crevasses surrounding. There was one small ice bridge, so Muir carefully chipped handholds and footholds in it until he could cross, although he was well aware that it might be his last adventure. But what about Stickeen? It was at that moment that the dog seemed to realize that ice was slippery. Read the adventures of John Muir and Stickeen at Longform. It is a beautifully-written story. -via Metafilter

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Creative Dog Plays Ball with Himself

(YouTube link)

There's no doubt this is a much-loved dog. But humans can't be there all the time, school and all. Bear has figured out how to harness the power of the trampoline to toss a ball for him to catch! Yes, Bear is pretty smart. -via Tastefully Offensive

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Open the Dryer Door!

(YouTube link)

Teddy the Dobby Cat (previously at Neatorama) loves doing the laundry. Specifically, he and his sibling oriental shorthair cats enjoy sitting in the dryer with the warm laundry. In this video, he beeps while waiting for the dryer door to open. Here he is with Stache, Bindi, and Dexter.

Dexter is the black cat, and you can guess which ones are Stache and Bindi. See more of these cats at Instagram and Facebook. -via Laughing Squid

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The Cat Museum of San Francisco

The Cat Museum of San Francisco exists online and in temporary exhibitions, and hopes to occupy a permanent location in the future. The website explores the history of cats, in records and in pop culture. They also have a Facebook feed that pays tribute to a different celebrity, historical figure, or artist each day on their birthday or anniversary, as long as that person has ever been photographed with a cat or produce cat art. Shown above is a publicity photo of actress Dolores Del Rio, whose birthday was earlier this month, with her cat.

The next day was the anniversary of the birth of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who decorated his poem "Verses on a Cat" with a sketch of a cat. -via Nag on the Lake

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Sheep Romps on a Trampoline

(YouTube link)

A family in Marlborough, New Zealand, has a pet sheep named Bacon, which you have to admit is a slightly better name than Mutton. Bacon is having a great time on the backyard trampoline. I don't think this is his first time playing on it. It's a pretty good life for a sheep, even with that weird name. -via Tastefully Offensive

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The Cat Who Loves Peaches

This is Ozzy. He belongs to journalist Lydia Coutré's parents. Ozzy loves peaches, and can't wait until they are in season. I can understand- in August and September, I can't get enough fresh peaches. But Ozzy does not eat the peaches, he just loves to sit among them and maybe nuzzle a few. You can't get any cuter than that! Ozzy has gone viral on Twitter, and people have responded with pictures of their own peach cats, cats who love other fruits, and other animals who like peaches, too. And then there's the fan art.

See more pictures of Ozzy and Ozzy fan art at Bored Panda.

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The Dog Who Was an Official Prisoner of War

(YouTube link)

Judy was an English pointer born in Shanghai in 1936. She was purchased to be a mascot for a British gunboat, and lived quite an adventurous life from that point on. Not only did she become a prisoner of war during World War II, she was smuggled around the Pacific theater, escaped a torpedoed ship, gave birth to puppies, and managed to attack Japanese prison guards and live to bark the tale. Simon Whistler of Today I Found Out tells the story of Judy, the heroic war dog.   

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The 2018 Algonquin Cat Fashion Show

Thursday night was the annual Algonquin Cat Fashion Show at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. It's a fundraiser for the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals. It also marked the society debut of the hotel's newest resident cat, Hamlet VIII. The theme of the gala this year was "Purring 20's," so the cats were costumed in replicas of 1920s fashions. Gothamist took photographer David "Dee" Delgado to capture the event's best-dressed felines, which you can see in a gallery at Gothamist, along with a video. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: David "Dee" Delgado/Gothamist)

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Pusic and the Treadmill

(YouTube link)

Pusic, Russia's most spoiled cat (previously at Neatorama), is fascinated with the new treadmill. He learns how to use it in only six days! It's an accomplishment, alright, but since he's conquered the learning process, he can go on to other things. The hooman can practice every day until he gets it right.   

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How Empathetic Is Your Dog?

(YouTube link)

Would your dog go out of his/her way to help you if you really needed it? We'd all like to think so. This experiment involved 34 dogs of different breeds and how they reacted to seeing their humans in distress. The good news is that most of them wanted to help, or at least be with, their owners. One might suspect that some were just too dumb to know what to do. Others may be smart enough to realize it was a setup. At least that's what we'd like to think. After all, they are all good dogs. Read more about the experiment at the New York Times. -via Laughing Squid

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Bronson, the 33-Pound Cat

Mike Wilson and Megan Hanneman went to the Humane Society to adopt a third cat. They met and fell in love with a polydactyl cat named Bronson, who weighed 33 pounds! All the shelter knew was that Bronson's original owner had passed away.

Since he was all the way up to 33 pounds and only three years old, they suspected it was an elderly person who may have been feeding him table scraps or something. We went in to meet him and instantly fell in love. I remember my cheeks hurting from smiling for so long.

Bronson was so affectionate and sweet and was happily kneading his cat bed when we first petted him. All of a sudden, we noticed that he was a polydactyl cat with extra fingers and had very pronounced thumbs! Even more adorably, his paws oddly resembled our home state of Michigan. He was the sweetest cat we had ever met and he seemed so happy to be home and have a big space of his own.

Bronson is on a diet of only 375 calories a day, with the goal of losing a pound a month until he is deemed healthy. He's already lost 1.6 pounds. Read Bronson's story at Bored Panda, and follow his weight-loss process at Instagram.

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What Dog and Cat Years Really Mean

"How much is that in dog years?" We are used to assuming that for every calendar year, a dog will age the way a human will in seven years. That makes some sort of sense according to a dog's expected life span, but it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, the dog in this picture has one candle on her birthday cake, but she's old enough to have puppies. Veterinary professor Jesse Grady explains the life stages of dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats age differently not just from people but also from each other, based partly on breed characteristics and size. Bigger animals tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones do. While cats vary little in size, the size and life expectancy of dogs can vary greatly – think a Chihuahua versus a Great Dane.

Human life expectancy has changed over the years. And vets are now able to provide far superior medical care to pets than we could even a decade ago. So now we use a better methodology to define just how old rule of thumb that counted every calendar year as seven “animal years.”

You'll find life stage charts for cats and dogs at The Conversation. According to the cat chart, I have two mature cats and one cat entering his prime.  -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: Flickr user Omer Balamir)

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What Kittens Do To Your Brain

(YouTube link)

Cats are so devious, they've fooled humans into loving them. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Shannon Odell explains the mechanism in our brains that make us defenseless against cute little baby cats. -via Nag on the Lake

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Dog Knows How to Cool Off

(YouTube link)

It's hot this summer in North Carolina, especially if you are a dog bred for cold climates. Mako the Husky has found a way around that, because he's found his place -inside the ice maker! He would have never been found if he'd pulled his tail in properly. Now the ice machine belongs to him. 

Boing Boing has another video where they caught Mako in the act of climbing into the ice machine.

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