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12 Cat-Related Patents That Are Really Quite Bizarre

To visit Google's patent website is to lose yourself in a black hole of totally weird wannabe inventions—a surprising number of which are for your feline friends. From toys meant to encourage exercise to systems that deliver live birds for food, here are 12 really weird cat patents.

1. "Method of Exercising a Cat"

If you watch My Cat From Hell (and you obviously do), you know that host Jackson Galaxy’s first step in kitty exorcism is almost always increasing exercise—and America’s inventors are on it. Patents for all kinds of strange, exercise-inspired toy patents exist, including number 5443036, “Method of Exercising a Cat.” Kevin T. Amiss and Martin H. Abbott propose a ray or glue gun-looking device that beams a laser onto an opaque surface. Give it to the human, who must move the light “in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.” (Nothing you can't do with a flashlight.)

2. "Cat Exercise Wheel"

Elmer Paul Venson and Leona June Wilson, on the other hand, take the hamster wheel one step further with patent number D484284, “Cat Exercise Wheel.” Sure, it will get out your cat's excess energy, but expect her to be insulted that you’re asking her to act like a rodent she wants to eat.

3. "Bird Predation Deterrent Shield"

Many cat-related patents aim to keep the creatures from eating birds—and no wonder, since felines take out an estimated 500 million songbirds every year. In patent number 5755186, “Bird predation deterrent shield for a cat,” Susan B. Mandeville suggests a flexible bib that hangs from the cat’s neck nearly down to its feet. According to the patent, “Use of a shield according to the present invention has been shown to drastically reduce the number of birds killed by a cat when worn by the cat while outdoors.” (We can only assume Susan tested this on her own very disgruntled kitty.)

4. “Collar for a Cat for Warning a Bird of the Presence of the Cat"

Similarly, in patent number 5952925, “Collar for a cat for warning a bird of the presence of the cat,” Gordon P. Secker suggests popping a collar equipped with speakers on felines to ruin their stalking skills and warn birds off.

5. "Bird Trap and Cat Feeder"

But Leo O. Voelker doesn’t want to save the birds—or sparrows, anyway. His grisly “Bird Trap and Cat Feeder” is “designed to catch birds the size of a sparrow while releasing smaller song birds, wrens, swallows, or the like. The feeder providing means for continuously supplying a cat or neighborhood cats with sparrows to eat.” The device delivers sparrows into a mesh cage; when the bird sticks its head through the mesh opening, the cat can grab it with its paw and pull it out—bon appétit!

6. "Device for Restraining a Cat"

Cats are fast, and can be easily distracted—hence the patents for restraints that will save your hands from scratches, bites, and potential cases of cat scratch fever. In patent 6394039, “Device for Restraining a Cat,” Shanon O. Grauer imagines the feline equivalent of a straitjacket: There’s a hole for the cat’s head, and one for its tail. It forces the kitty to sit pretty so its human can easily administer medication. “A dog tends to receive medications … without serious complaint,” the patent says. “A cat is, by its very nature, finicky and presents to its owner, a constant challenge to ensure that [it] has received its proper dosage.”

7. "Another Device for Restraining a Cat"

Meanwhile, Ruby Y. Young’s “Cat Restrainer” looks like a horror film-approved torture device. The patent describes it as “a combination of a harness and frame assembly to provide a cat bathing, treating, breeding, transporting, and surgical restraint.” Yikes.

8. “Furniture Device for Cats"

Cats only have their tongues to keep clean, so it’s nice that some inventors have created devices to help with kitty grooming. James Piccone’s “Furniture Device for Cats" is both a house and a fur-removal device: As cats enter and exit through holes in the structure, a “brushing or combing device” affixed to the holes creates an “automatic grooming operation … on the external hair or surface thereof to prevent the shedding of loose hairs on floors and other areas where such shedding is undesirable.”

9. “Device for Collecting Cat Hair”

Jack Randall Kidwell’s “Device for Collecting Cat Hair” is much more likely to strike terror into the hearts of felines – before cats reach their food, they must first journey through an area of suction, which removes “loose particles” and hair.

10. “Vibrating Cat Litter Scoop”

And then, of course, there are patents designed to help humans do their part (if they can’t teach their kitties to use the toilet). Anthony O’Rourke’s “Vibrating Cat Litter Scoop” helps separate cat litter from cat waste by battery-induced vibrations originating from the scoop’s handle. Just don’t accidentally pack this in your suitcase before you go on vacation! (People will wonder what's vibrating in there, and why you brought a litter scoop on your getaway.)

11. “Cat-Shaped Computer Mouse”

These last two proposed gizmos are clearly aimed at the cat lady segment of the population, who would no doubt quickly snatch up patent number D639299, “Cat-Shaped Computer Mouse”...

12. “Acrylic Night Light Cover in the Form of a Cat”

...and patent number D426910, “Acrylic Night Light Cover in the Form of a Cat”.

Erin McCarthy is Deputy Editor of mentalfloss.com.

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Bizarre New Species of Crabs and a Giant Sea Cockroach Discovered in Waters Off Indonesia
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
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A crab with green googly eyes, another with "ears" resembling peanuts, and a species of giant sea cockroach are among the dozen new kinds of crustaceans discovered by scientists in the waters off Indonesia, Channel News Asia reports.

These finds are the result of a two-week expedition by Indonesian and Singaporean scientists with the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES 2018), which involved exploring deep waters in the Sunda Strait (the waterway separating the islands of Sumatra and Java in Southeast Asia) and the Indian Ocean. Using trawls, dredges, and other tools, researchers brought a huge variety of deep-sea life to the surface—some species for the very first time.

"The world down there is an alien world," Peter Ng, chief scientist of the expedition, told Channel News Asia. "You have waters that go down more than 2000 to 3000 meters [9800 feet], and we do not know … the animal life that's at the bottom."

The giant sea cockroach—technically a giant isopod, also nicknamed a Darth Vader isopod—is a new species in the genus Bathynomus, measuring almost a foot long and found more than 4000 feet deep. The isopods are occasionally seen on the ocean floor, where they scuttle around scavenging for dead fish and other animals. This marked the first time the genus has ever been recorded in Indonesia.

Another find is a spider crab nicknamed Big Ears, though it doesn't actually have ears—its peanut-shaped plates are used to protect the crab's eyes.

More than 800 species were collected during the expedition, accounting for 12,000 individual animals. Researchers say it will take up to two years to study all of them. In addition to the 12 species that are completely new to science, 40 were seen for the first time in Indonesia. Creatures that the scientists dubbed a chain-saw lobster, an ice cream cone worm, and a cock-eyed squid were among some of the rarer finds.

A "Chain-Saw Lobster"
Nicknamed the "Chain-Saw Lobster," this creature is a rare blind lobster, found only in the deep seas.

Researchers took to the giant sea cockroach quickly, with some of the crew members reportedly calling it “cute” and cradling it like a baby. Check out Channel News Asia Insider's video below for more insight into their creepy finds.

[h/t Channel News Asia]

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The Mysterious Case of the Severed Feet in British Columbia
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While walking on the beach, many people look out for a number of things: Shells, buried treasure, crabs, and dolphins among them. But if you’re on a beach in British Columbia, you might want to keep an eye out for something a little more sinister—about 15 severed feet have washed up on the shores there in the past few years. The latest was found on May 6, wedged in a mass of logs on Gabriola Island, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The feet have been surprising unlucky British Columbians for over a decade. The first appeared back in 2007 on Jedediah Island; it was eventually matched to a deceased man whose family declined to provide additional information. Bizarre, but not particularly alarming—until another one showed up on Gabriola Island less than a month later. More feet followed, and though some were matched to missing persons, most remained anonymous (feet, unfortunately, don’t contain much identifying information). Instead, police focused on the fact that each foot was encased in a running shoe—though sizes, genders, and brands differed.

This seems like a real-life episode of The X-Files, but it turns out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the severed feet: They’re not really “severed,” which would indicate cutting or slicing, at all. According to scientists who tested the theory, the feet likely belong to suicide, drowning, or plane crash victims. It’s common for decomposing bodies to come apart at the joint, making it natural for the foot to come apart from the leg. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t hands be similarly susceptible to washing up on beaches? Nope, that’s where the shoes come in.

While the rest of the body naturally decomposes in water, feet are surprisingly well protected inside the rubber and fabric of a shoe. The soles can be pretty buoyant, and sometimes air pockets get trapped inside the shoe, making it float to the surface. Most of the “severed” feet have been clad in jogging shoes such as Nikes and Pumas, but at least one case involves a hiking boot. In that instance, the boot (and foot) was matched to a man who went missing while fishing more than 25 years ago. The most recent case also involves a hiking boot.

That leaves the question: Why British Columbia? According to Richard Thompson, an oceanographer with the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences, it’s connected to ocean current. “There’s a lot of recirculation in the region; we’re working here with a semi-enclosed basin. Fraser River, False Creek, Burrard Inlet—all those regions around there are somewhat semi-enclosed. The tidal currents and the winds can keep things that are floating recirculating in the system." Several feet have also been found further south, in Washington state, which shares a network of coastal waterways with British Columbia.

Others aren’t so quick to accept this scientific analysis, however. Criminal lawyer and crime author Michael Slade still wonders if a serial killer is afoot. "We also have to consider that this could be a serial killer," he said. "Somebody who right now is underneath the radar. That has to be on the table."

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