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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