CLOSE
tsn.ua
tsn.ua

12 Jobs People Decided to Give to Cats

tsn.ua
tsn.ua

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

Infinite Cat

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

Getty Images

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

Neatorama

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

Getty Images

“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


Catmoji

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

Youtube

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

Facebook

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

Getty Images

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

Wikimedia Commons

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).

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
iStock
iStock

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios