CLOSE
Original image
Lucy Lou/Facebook

7 Dogs and Cats with Unusual Jobs

Original image
Lucy Lou/Facebook

From herding sheep to pulling sleds to bringing down criminals, dogs have worked for humans since they were domesticated a long time ago. It's a win-win situation, since the dog receives room and board for life, plus the satisfaction of pleasing his boss. That's not much of a factor for cats, who are mostly employed in pest control. Still, every once in a while we find a cat or dog who is gainfully employed in some activity that surprises us. Here are some of those hardworking dogs and cats.

1. Lucy Lou, the Small Town Mayor

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky achieved some notoriety in 1998 by electing a dog to be its mayor. Since then, all mayoral elections in the unincorporated village have been won by dogs, although cats, goats, and other animals have run for the office. Lucy Lou, the current mayor, is the third dog to hold the office. The border collie won a hotly-contested race in 2008 and spends her time in office at the town's General Store, posing for pictures, greeting visitors and "making sure they see all the sights." She also maintains a Facebook page

2. Millie the Security Guard

Dogs work as security guards all over the world, as can be seen in the the many "beware of dog" signs in private homes and businesses. But Millie is a cat. This feline guard works at Bandai’s toy warehouse in Southampton, England. Millie, a Bengal, was assigned the job because she was always on the factory floor anyway. The position comes with a tiny uniform (a t-shirt) and a lifetime supply of fish and cat food.

3. Misty, the Quarry Administrator

Misty is a 9-year-old border collie who is an administrator at Burlington Stone in Cumbria, UK. Elaine Prickett started bringing Misty to work with her as a puppy, and over the years the dog learned what goes on and how to do it. For the past five years, Misty greets customers and takes their orders -in her mouth- to the office. She also carries and returns credit cards and invoices, delivering them without a scratch, only an occasional bit of wetness. She was never formally trained to do the work, but picked it up herself from watching the human workers. Customers love Misty because she is eager to please and never has a bad word to say. See Misty in action on video

4. Virginia the Foster Mother

The Cattery Cat Shelter in Corpus Christi, Texas, gets litters of kittens in frequently, and finds homes for them. Then there is Virginia, the cat who works as their foster mother, watching, bathing, cuddling, and keeping the kittens out of trouble until they are adopted. When the kittens leave, there is always another litter to take care of. The job of foster mother is not all that rare for a cat, but Virginia is a special case, because of her disabilities.

Perhaps one day Virginia will find her forever home, but according to Person, it will take "a really special household." Virginia is disabled -- one of her rear legs has been amputated, and the other is paralyzed. Lacking control of her bladder and bowels, she also wears a diaper.

At the Cattery, homeless, abused, or abandoned cats live cage-free and are separated by age groups. Virginia cannot handle the occasionally rough play of cats her own age, so she lives with the kittens -- and she has embraced the role of adoptive mother. And until she finds that special home of her own, Person says, there's always room for her at the Cattery, which is a no-kill shelter.

The staff built a therapy cart for Virginia to help her strengthen and learn to use her remaining hind leg, and she has made some progress.

5. Lolo the Truffle Hunter

Lolo works for Toil and Truffle in Seattle as a truffle-sniffing dog. The highly-prized fungus hides in lush woodlands, but a dog's nose can find them with proper training. Lolo is a Lagotto Romagnolo, a breed traditionally associated with truffle-hunting, but she has co-workers that are mixed breeds who also find truffles. Toil and Truffle has quite a few trained dogs available for hire to landowners who want to find truffles.

6. Sable the Crossing Guard

The students at Enterprise Middle School in West Richland, Washington state, have extra help crossing the road. Sable is a black cat who worked his way into a job as crossing guard by being there every day as the children arrived in the morning and left school in the afternoon. Sable does it for the love of the kids, who give him plenty of attention and ear scratches. After he made the newspapers, owner Tamara Morrison got the cat an orange safety vest, and he was made an honorary member of the Enterprise Safety Patrol. That was last year. Recently, the Morrisons gave Sable to a teacher at the school because they are planning to move to Colorado. Sable went missing from his new owner's home just last week. Those involved believe he missed the crossing and tried to find his way back.

7. Tucker the Orca Poop Sniffer

Researchers study marine animals in more ways than just watching them. Analyzing the scat they leave behind can give them invaluable information about the animal's genes, diet, and health. Tucker is a black Labrador scat detection dog trained in finding orca droppings for the Center for Whale Research. Tucker was turned down for employment by law enforcement because he was too hyper, but life on a boat helps him focus on the job, because he's afraid of the water! His team says that other dogs were distracted because they wanted to swim, but Tucker goes to work, then is rewarded with his favorite activity -playing with a ball.

See more working dogs and cats in these previous posts:
10 Stories of Lifesaving Dogs
6 Remarkable Police Animals
Four Feline Photographers
10 Excellent Bookstore Cats
8 Library Cats
7 Heroic Dogs
10 of History's Most Power-Hungry Cats

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
Original image
iStock

Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
arrow
Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios