Lucy Lou/Facebook
Lucy Lou/Facebook

7 Dogs and Cats with Unusual Jobs

Lucy Lou/Facebook
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

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11 Expert Tips for Adopting a Cat
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If you've been thinking about adding a fuzzy little friend to your household, there's more to consider than whether to name it Pearl or Pickles, or Zoroaster or Apollinaris, like Mark Twain named two of his many cats. So if you're planning on celebrating June's Adopt a Cat Month quite literally, here are 11 tips straight from the pros. Mull them over, then head to your local shelter!

1. BE CHOOSY ABOUT THE SHELTER YOU ADOPT FROM.

A family pets a grey striped cat at an animal shelter.
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According to Gail Buchwald, vice president of the adoption center at the ASPCA in New York City, assessing shelters in person is a must. "I think it's a great idea for a prospective adopter to go to the shelter and check it out, get a visual. If they see animals that don't look healthy, they should ask some questions," she told WebMD. Furthermore, talk to shelter employees to get an idea of what they know about the animals' health and behavior. Shelters that don't do behavior assessments or disease testing aren't able to give you the appropriate information to make a match that truly works for you and for your prospective pet.

2. KNOW THAT YOU'RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL.

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Cats are long-term roommates, so make sure you're ready for the commitment. According to Gwen Sparling, the owner of Camp Kitty boarding facility in Atlanta, over the course of a cat's 15- to 20-year lifetime, a pet owner will spend approximately $1000 annually on vet care, food, treats, toys, kitty litter, and more. "There is this general thinking that cats are no-fuss pets, which couldn't be further from the truth," Sparling told Mother Nature Network.

3. SHELTER CATS ARE GREAT OPTIONS.

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There's a misconception that animals in shelters have physical or behavioral issues; most of the time, that's not the case. "Animals primarily end up in our care because of challenges and transitions that exist in the lives of the people responsible for their care," Michael Keiley, director of adoption centers and programs at Boston's Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told Country Living. Often animals can end up in shelters when their humans move, lose a job, or have to focus on non-pet-related stressors—and that's not a reflection on the cats who now need a new home.

4. ASSESS YOUR NEEDS BEFORE YOU GO IN.

A cat snuggling with a young blonde child while she reads.
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"The goal is for the adoption to work out well for everyone," Susan Daffron, the author of Happy Tabby: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Cat or Kitten, told LovetoKnow.com. Before you fall in love with the first cute face you see at the shelter, make sure you know exactly what you and your family need in a pet. Do you have small children? Are you away from home a lot? Do you have other pets? None of those things preclude you from adopting a shelter cat, but they definitely help set parameters about the personality and type of cat that would be ideal for you and your family.

5. CONSIDER MULTIPLE CATS.

A black cat and a grey cat snuggle together in a wicker basket.
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If you're going to jump in, do it with both feet, right? But there's a method to this madness—according to the American Humane Society, cats provide each other with exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction that humans just can't quite match. And if you're at work or otherwise occupied during the day, having the companionship can be extra important to your cat(s).

6. PREP A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOUR NEW FAMILY MEMBER.

Three grey and black kittens lounging on a piece of carpeted cat furniture.
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Cats are territorial, so entering a new space is stressful for them. Before you go to the shelter, create a special spot in your home to make kitty feel more comfortable when it arrives, writes Sara Kent, the former director of shelter outreach for Petfinder. A quiet spot stocked with a litter box, toys, food, and water will help—let your cat get familiar with the sights and sounds of the room on its own time.

7. VET A VET AHEAD OF TIME.

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Before you choose a cat, choose a vet by getting referrals from people you trust. The American Humane Society recommends making an appointment for an overall check-up within the first few days of the adoption. Be sure to take the vet any medical records provided by the shelter.

8. BOND THE RIGHT WAY.

A young girl in a blue shirt nuzzles a grey kitten.
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You will, of course, want to spend some time bonding with your cat. But how you do so depends on what stage of life the cat is in, Samantha Bell DiGenova, the cat behavior and enrichment lead at Best Friends Los Angeles, told Bustle. "When bonding with kittens, you want to handle them, hold them, let them look at you and see your face," she said. "You want to have as much contact with them visually and tactually as you can so that they grow up understanding that's how they should interact with people."

On the other hand, adult cats require their space. "If you adopt a cat that's four months or older, let them make the decisions. If you … allow the cat to come to you when they want affection, and let them show you that they want to interact, the bond you create will be so much stronger."

9. INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR OTHER CATS.

An adult cat touches noses with a grey, fluffy kitten with a background of fallen autumn leaves.
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But do it the right way. According to cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy, just letting two cats "work it out" is not the best way to get your felines to be friendly. Instead, he wrote on his website, keep your cats separated by a door, but let them sniff each other under the door. Feed them both on their respective sides of the door so they get positive associations with each other. And eventually, swap bedding between your two pets so they get familiar with each other's scents. After a period of familiarization—which can sometimes last weeks—any hissing and growling should subside, and they'll be able to interact without fighting. (Have a dog? You can find some tips for that scenario here.)

10. CONSIDER PET INSURANCE.

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Even if your cat is the picture of health when you first adopt, you never know what medical issues could arise down the road. As with human insurance, veterinarian Tracy McFarland wrote that it's a good idea to purchase pet insurance while your ball of fluff is totally healthy. It could eventually save you a bundle and make sure your cat is around for a long time.

11. HAVE PATIENCE.

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Renowned cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, reminds new owners to have patience with their new pets. From remembering the location of the kitty litter box to interacting with your family, it takes them some time to learn the ropes. Have patience as they are learning, and you'll be rewarded with a relationship that lasts for years to come.

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10 Nice Things You Can Do for Your Cat
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On June 4th, National Hug Your Cat Day, cat owners are encouraged to cuddle their felines—but if every day in your household is "Hug Your Cat Day," here are 10 additional ways to give your kitty extra love, attention, and care.

1. KEEP YOUR CAT'S TEETH SQUEAKY CLEAN.

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According to Purina, eight out of 10 felines over the age of 3 have tooth and gum problems. Since kitties get dental plaque just like humans do, some vets recommend brushing your cat's teeth—but if the idea of shoving a toothbrush inside your pet's mouth makes your arms burn with imaginary bites and scratch marks, consider using a product like ProDen PlaqueOff, a dental powder that can be added to wet or dry food. It breaks down bacterial biofilm buildup to keep your feline's mouth nice and healthy.

2. KEEP YOUR CAT ACTIVE WITH THE RIGHT TOYS.

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Some 60 percent of pet cats were overweight or obese in 2017, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Trick lazy indoor cats into getting exercise by buying them toys like Go Cat's Da Bird, which are designed to engage their natural hunting instincts. ("Every cat owner should have Da Bird," attests Mental Floss editor-in-chief and resident cat expert, Erin McCarthy.) The 3-foot teaser wand has a feathered bauble that's attached to a long string—the ornament resembles a flying bird as it bobs and twists through the air, encouraging your kitty to leap, run, and bat its way to tip-tip shape.

3. BRUSH YOUR CAT REGULARLY.

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Cats spend around 30 to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves, but it's a good idea to give them regular brushings, too. Not only will you ensure your kitty's coat stays glossy and tangle-free, you'll also decrease the number of hair balls it gets. Both your cat and your rug will thank you.

4. BUY YOUR CAT A CLASSY NEW BED.

The Peacock Ball cat bed by Meyou Paris
Meyou Paris

Feline furniture doesn't always need to be fluffy, leopard print, or sparkly. Made by Meyou Paris, these modernist cat beds, lounges, and cocoons are marketed as "classy furnitures for discerning cats."

5. TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET FOR ANNUAL CHECKUPS.

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Even if your cat is acting like its typical energetic or lazy self (there tends to be no in-between with felines), it's still important to ensure it receives regular preventative check-ups. That way, the vet can screen for new or developing conditions and treat them before they balloon into serious—and expensive—health concerns. It's also a convenient time to address lifestyle and diet, or any behavioral changes. Experts from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center recommend taking animals under 7 years old to the vet once a year, and older pets on a semi-annual basis, depending on their individual health needs.

6. MAKE SURE YOUR CAT'S LITTER BOX IS UP TO SNUFF.

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Cats are clean animals and will typically do their business atop a prized rug if their other option is a dirty litter box. Keep your home furnishings safe—and your cat happy—by keeping their tiny bathrooms sparkling clean. (A self-cleaning litter box might be a good option for busy pet owners.) If they're refusing to use the litter box, try experimenting with different brands or makes of cat litter, or covered and uncovered boxes, to determine which types your kitty prefers.

For pet owners with multiple cats, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that they own one litter box per feline and provide them with an extra "just-in-case" box for emergencies. That way, there won't be any turf battles among your pets.

7. PROVIDE YOUR CAT WITH A CONSTANT SUPPLY OF FRESH FILTERED WATER.

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Want to treat your cat to clean, tasty water? Instead of pouring the contents of your Brita filter into its dish, opt for a bubbling water fountain with a re-circulating system and a water-softening filter, like the Catit Flower Fountain. It comes with three flow settings and is ergonomically designed for easy drinking.

8. PLAY YOUR KITTY MUSIC THAT'S SPECIALLY COMPOSED FOR CATS.

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Does your cat love you, but hate your taste in music? Try playing a few tunes by David Teie, a composer who partnered with animal scientists to make the 2015 album Music for Cats. It features songs "based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats," according to Teie's website. (Don't worry, they also sound good to human ears.)

9. HELP YOUR CAT GET 'REVENGE' ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD DOG.

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Is there a neighborhood dog whose barking terrifies your cat? Allow your kitty to "fight" back (and give its claws a workout) by providing it with a dog-shaped scratch pad.

10. TREAT YOUR KITTY TO CATNIP 'WINE.'

White and brown cat stares at a glass of white wine.
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Love cats and wine? Enjoy your favorite drink with your furry friend by giving them Apollo Peak's special catnip-laced "wine" for cats. It comes in punny flavors like "Pinot Meow" and "Moscato," but don't worry—the feline beverage is made from beets and natural preservatives, and doesn't actually contain any alcohol.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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