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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

Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis

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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Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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