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Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

13 Fun Facts About the Internet’s Cutest Cat, Lil Bub

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

Vice’s documentary about the cutest creature on the planet, Lil Bub—aptly titled Lil Bub & Friendzopens at the Tribeca Film Festival today. To celebrate, mental_floss went to Social Tees Animal Rescue for an interview with the feline star and her owner, Mike Bridavsky, before a meet and greet with her adoring fans. Here’s what she told us about herself.

1. The official story is that Bub was discovered in a rural Indiana tool shed in June 2011, the runt of a litter of feral cats. But Bub didn't look like any of her siblings, Bridavsky says, "which leads us to believe that she may actually be an alien creature that crashed to Earth, and found this litter of Earth kittens and just joined them to fit in."

2. Because of the shape of her mouth, Bub couldn't nurse, so she was bottle fed until she could eat on her own.

Bub outside Social Tees Animal Rescue. Photo by Erin McCarthy

3. When he first saw her, Bub's vet said she was the weirdest cat he had ever seen. At the time, Bub was 8 weeks old and weighed just 6 ounces, about the size of a hacky sack. "He was concerned that with so many birth defects she may not live very long, maybe only a few months," Bridavsky says. "But after doing some tests it turned out she was in good shape!" She and Bridavsky lived a pretty normal life until one of her photos went viral in 2012.

4. A day in the life of Bub is pretty regimented. She sleeps in bed with Bridavsky on her green blanket (which she also travels with). After they wake up, they take a trip outside so Bub can go to the bathroom. Then Bridavsky mixes Bub's food and medicine, which she eats while he's in the shower; after he gets out, he has to rearrange her food because she smushes it. "She’s a lot of work," Bridavsky says, "but I love doing it. It’s great. We have a good relationship." While Bridavsky prepares the daily Bub blog post, she naps in his lap. Later, they might shoot some photos for the blog or go outside and hang out.

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

5. Bub has an extra toe on each foot, for a total of 22 toes. (Most cats have 18.)

6. Since becoming an Internet sensation last year, Bub has traveled nearly 10,000 miles to places like New York City, Minneapolis, and Portland. She comes on the plane with Bridavsky and hangs out in her carrier at his feet. "She usually sleeps through the flight," Bridavsky says. "Airports and everything, she’s totally fine."

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

7. Bub has met many celebrities—including Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone—but the star she’d most like to shake paws with is Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. (She’s also open to guest starring on the show, if anyone at NBC is reading this.)

8. When Bub wants to treat herself, she goes for one thing: Yogurt. And nothing but Brown Cow yogurt will do.

9. For a small cat—she weighs just 3.9 pounds—Bub snores pretty loudly. But it's still adorable.

10. Although she's a cat, Bub prefers dogs.

11. Bub's favorite internet cat/boyfriend is Smoosh, another celebrity feline from Bloomington, Indiana. His owner, David, designs Bub's merchandise. 

Photo by Erin McCarthy

12. Most of the proceeds from the sale of Bub's merchandise goes to animal shelters in her hometown, including the Bloomington Animal Shelter, the Monroe County Humane Association, and the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. When Bub does meet and greets, people who want to see her must make a donation of money, food, or other supplies to the shelter that's hosting the event. "I’m still looking for a national organization that specializes in special needs cats and cats with birth defects," Bridavsky says.

13. Bub has dwarfism, an underdeveloped jaw, and no teeth—that's why her tongue sticks out! It's also likely that she has osteopetrosis, a rare bone disease. "I think there’s only been a couple reported cases in cats," Bridavsky says. "They think that her bones will continue to grow and get more deformed as she gets older, so it’ll never stop. It seems to have slowed down—her body hasn’t changed much, but the hardest thing is for her to walk around." The most important thing to know about Bub, though, is that despite the challenges she faces, she's a happy, healthy cat.

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

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science
Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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paleontology
Extinct Penguin Species Was the Size of an Adult Human
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A penguin that waddled across the ice 60 million years ago would have dwarfed the king and emperor penguins of today, according to the Associated Press. As indicated by fossils recently uncovered in New Zealand, the extinct species measured 5 feet 10 inches while swimming, surpassing the height of an average adult man.

The discovery, which the authors say is the most complete skeleton of a penguin this size to date, is laid out in a study recently published in Nature Communications. When standing on land, the penguin would have measured 5 feet 3 inches, still a foot taller than today’s largest penguins at their maximum height. Researchers estimated its weight to have been about 223 pounds.

Kumimanu biceae, a name that comes from Maori words for “monster" and "bird” and the name of one researcher's mother, last walked the Earth between 56 million and 60 million years ago. That puts it among the earliest ancient penguins, which began appearing shortly after large aquatic reptiles—along with the dinosaurs—went extinct, leaving room for flightless carnivorous birds to enter the sea.

The prehistoric penguin was a giant, even compared to other penguin species of the age, but it may not have been the biggest penguin to ever live. A few years ago, paleontologists discovered 40-million-year-old fossils they claimed belonged to a penguin that was 6 feet 5 inches long from beak to tail. But that estimate was based on just a couple bones, so its actual size may have varied.

[h/t AP]

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