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12 Jobs People Decided to Give to Cats

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Think canines are the only four-legged creatures that can hold down jobs? Think again.

1. Millie: guard cat

When workers at Bandai’s toy warehouse in Britain found a lonely Bengal cat roaming the grounds, they decided to hire her. Now an official security guard, Millie (top) has a pet care clause woven into her crime-stopping contract.

2. Ketzel: music composer

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Move over, Keyboard cat: In 1997, Ketzel the feline became an award-winning music composer. Ketzel’s owner, Morris Moshe Cotel, was a pianist and professor at Peabody, and he transcribed the tune after Ketzel jumped onto the piano keys one morning. “This piece has a beginning, a middle, and an end,” Cotel said, amazed. “How can this be? It’s written by a cat.” Cotel submitted the piece to a Parisian music competition, where it won a prize. (The judges didn’t know a cat wrote it.)

3. Rusik: crime-buster

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Each year, Russia loses about $800 million from illegal sturgeon fishing. So in 2003, police in Stavropol hired a cat named Rusik to sniff out sturgeon smugglers. He successfully busted a handful of mafiosos. But that July, Rusik died in the line of duty after being run over by a mafia car he had sniffed out. It was a fishy ending—police believe the driver was a hitman.

4. Kuzya: assistant librarian

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It’s tough landing a job as a librarian. Now it might be impossible. After all, who can outdo a cat in a job interview? Earlier this year, Kuzya was promoted to assistant librarian at the library in Novorossiysk, Russia, where she earns a salary of 30 packs of cat food per month.

5. Belgium’s mail cats

In the 1870s, the Belgian village of Liège trained 37 mail cats to deliver letters. Conceived by the esteemed Belgian Society for the Elevation of the Domestic Cat, the plan was to wrap waterproof mailbags around each feline’s neck. The New York Times reported that, “Unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail cats, the messages will be delivered rapidly and safely.” To the joy of jobless mailmen everywhere, the plan failed.

6. Mr. Bigglesworth: actor

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“Mr. Bigglesworth” is a great name for a cat. Not only is the purebred hairless sphinx from Austin Powers an actor, but it has a smashing name in real life, too: “SGC Belfry Ted Nude-Gent.”

7. Félicette: astrocat


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The first cat to go where no cat has gone before, Félicette was blasted 97 miles into space on October 18, 1963, by a French Veronique AG1 rocket. She survived! Prior to the big launch, the French government collected 14 alley cats and tested their mettle for spaceflight, subjecting them to compression chambers and centrifuges. Ten of the cat astronauts were discharged for over-eating.

8. Oscar: grim reaper

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If you ever see Oscar and he curls up in your lap, you might have a reason to worry. You’ve probably got only two hours left to live. Adopted by a nursing home in Rhode Island, Oscar has accurately predicted the demise of dozens of patients. He’s so good at predicting when you’ll kick the bucket, the nursing staff will call a patient’s family when he pays their loved one a visit. Some scientists believe that Oscar may be attracted to the smell of biochemicals released by dying cells, called ketones.

9. CIA Spy Cat

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With all this talk about the NSA snooping around, you might want to think twice if your tabby is looking over your shoulder. In the 1960s, the CIA tried spying on the Soviets with cats. To eavesdrop, the CIA implanted a microphone into the cat’s ear canal and hid a transmitter at the bottom of its skull. After burning through $20 million over five years, the prototype cat—a nameless gray and white female—was ready. The CIA parked a reconnaissance van on a D.C. street. The cat hopped out, dashed across the road, and was promptly hit by a taxicab.

10. Stubbs: mayor

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Stubbs has been mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska for 16 years. His time in office has been mired by multiple assassination attempts. A group of teenagers once shot him in the rump with a BB gun, and this August he was mauled by a neighborhood dog (obviously a political foe). He’s still living the high life, though. Stubbs drinks water out of a wineglass coated with catnip every day, and he continues to inspire felines to run for office. In 2012, a 9-year-old Maine Coon named Hank ran for Senate in Virginia under the independent ticket. He got 7000 votes.

11. Larry: former chief mouser to the cabinet office

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The British government employs over 100,000 cats to keep mice away, reports the Guardian. But Larry is king. He lives at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron, which may explain why he’s given in to a couple scandals. In 2011, Larry was seen slipping out of the house to spend time with a neighboring lady cat. He’s also been criticized for sleeping on the job. After making only one confirmed kill, Larry was sacked for poor job performance. Thankfully, unlike every Chief Mouser before him, Larry’s upkeep was not paid for by taxpayers.

12. Tama: stationmaster and economy-booster

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When Tama became stationmaster at the Wakayama electric rail station in Japan, ridership suddenly increased 10 percent—a boost of 2.1 million passengers per year. The local economy reported an overall boom of 1.1 billion yen (that’s $11 million!). To recognize the calico cat’s achievement, the railway promoted Tama to Operating Officer, making her the first cat to become an official railroad executive. She now has two assistants (who are also cats).

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

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

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