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How 7 Obese Animals Lost Weight

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Humans aren’t the only species with an obesity problem. A recent study shows that 55 percent of domestic dogs and cats are overweight or obese, and even zoo animals are getting in on this unhealthy trend. Fat cats and dogs might be cute, but animal obesity is nothing to laugh at. Here’s how seven animals dropped a few pounds and got healthy.

 1. Obie the Dachshund: Diet, Exercise, and Surgery

Eight months ago, this Portland, Oregon pooch (above) tipped the scales at 77 pounds. A diet and exercise routine helped him shed 40 pounds, and a recent surgery took off 2.5 pounds of loose skin. Now 37 pounds, Obie needs to lose just 5 more to be at his goal weight; you can follow his progress on Facebook.

2. Bobby the Rabbit: Diet and Exercise

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When Bobby, a bunny from Richmond in North Yorkshire, England, came to the PDSA’s Pet Fit Club, she weighed 5.2 pounds—nearly two pounds above the ideal weight for a rabbit of her size.  In fact, the fold under her chin (called a dewlap) so was large that it kept her from grooming herself properly. To help Bobby drop the pounds in a healthy way, owner Becky Magson got the rabbit new toys and built her a pen that gave her a lot of opportunities to run around. By the end of the program, Bobby was down to a healthy weight for her size; her grooming was back to normal, and Magson reported that she was much happier and more alert.

3 and 4. Lowland Gorillas Bebac and Mokolo: Diet and Foraging

In 2008, handlers at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo started their quest to get these two male apes—who have heart disease—down to a healthy weight. Step one was eliminating processed biscuits, which made up the bulk of their food, from their diet. Instead, the staff placed vegetables and leafy greens around the enclosure so the apes would have to forage for it, as they would in the wild. This not only catered to the apes' natural behavior, but also increased their activity level. By 2011, Bebac had lost 20 pounds, and Mokolo had lost 60 pounds.

5. Holly the Cat: Swimming

It seemed like there wasn’t anything Holly’s owner, Dani Lawhorne, could do to get her to become more active. The nearly 20 pound, 13 year old cat didn’t like catnip or playing with toys, and hated going for walks outside. So Lawhorne tried something unconventional: Swimming. After a month on her new fitness program—which also included a healthier diet—Holly dropped a pound.

6. and 7. Grizzly Bears Jim and Axhi: Healthier Diet (and Hiding the Food)

These grizzlies at the Brookfield Zoo outside of Chicago currently weigh about 900 pounds—but they weren’t always so fit. In fact, the pair was obese, thanks in part to their diet: The bears dined on processed dog food, ground beef, bread, and fruits like oranges, bananas, and mangoes. Zookeepers swapped out that food for whole prey such as fish and rabbits, and incorporated fruits and vegetables like kale, peppers, and heirloom apples. Additionally, the zookeepers stopped giving the animals food on a schedule and hid it around the exhibit so they had to sniff it out, as they would do in the wild. Putting wax worms in the bears’ foraging piles helped them burn calories while they searched for the tasty snacks. After a year of their new diet, the bears had lost hundreds of pounds. And it’s not just the bears who had their diets adjusted: Other animals at the zoo went on a Weight-Watchers-like program to ensure they were at their healthiest.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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