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The Right Way to Hold Your Cat, According to a Vet

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Every cat parent has experienced the soul-crushing rejection of picking up their kitty for some cuddles, only for Fluffy to fight for freedom, occasionally leaving behind a nasty trail of scratches. The good news is that your cat probably doesn't hate you—you might just be holding him wrong.

There are a few ways to avoid having to break out the first aid kit, all while making your cat feel more comfortable and secure. In a video spotted by IFL Science, veterinarian Uri Burstyn of the Helpful Vancouver Vet YouTube page used cat models Claudia and Pirate to demonstrate some proper handling techniques.

There are a few different maneuvers you can use, depending on your cat’s personality and what you’re trying to accomplish—whether it be picking them up for some cuddles or holding them down to get them to swallow a pill. First, Dr. Burstyn advises pet owners to approach with caution, letting the cat sniff your fingers or giving her some gentle tickles under the chin.

If the cat seems receptive, you can now pick him or her up. Dr. Burstyn notes that “the key to picking up a cat safely is to make them feel supported.” Let’s say you want to remove your cat from the kitchen counter for the thousandth time: Place one hand under the cat’s chest, another under the abdomen, and lift gently. This prevents the cat from kicking its hind legs in an attempt to gain ground, which is one of the most common causes of scratches, Dr. Burstyn says.

Whether you’re holding a cat in your arms or trying to stop them from running away, the key is cat squishing. Yes, really. Gently press down on a cat that’s trying to wriggle its way out of your grasp. If you're holding the cat, pull it closer to your body.

“If we do have a cat who’s trying to get away from us, we always squish that cat,” Dr. Burstyn says. “You don’t have to worry about hurting a cat. They’re very tough little beasts and just squishing them against your body is never going to do them any harm. In fact, they tend to feel more safe and secure when they’re being held tightly.”

There’s another hold that Dr. Burstyn calls the “football carry,” which involves scooping up the cat so that its head is tucked between your arm and your torso. One hand supports its abdomen while another supports its bottom. This is best for emergency situations when you need to move your pet quickly.

And if you happen to have a “shoulder cat” like Pirate, they’ll do most of the work themselves by climbing onto your shoulder, but there’s still a proper holding technique. Support their butt with one hand, and when you’re ready to put them down, slowly lean forward while still supporting their bottom until they twist around and hop back on their feet.

Of course, some cats simply don't like to be held, so it's important to pay attention to their body language. A low tail and flattened ears are both signs that your feline probably wants to be left alone, according to Mother Nature Network.

For more on Dr. Burstyn's tips, check out the video below.

[h/t IFL Science]

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Animals
How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Honey Bees Can Understand the Concept of Zero
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The concept of zero—less than one, nothing, nada—is deceptively complex. The first placeholder zero dates back to around 300 BCE, and the notion didn’t make its way to Western Europe until the 12th century. It takes children until preschool to wrap their brains around the concept. But scientists in Australia recently discovered a new animal capable of understanding zero: the honey bee. According to Vox, a new study finds that the insects can be taught the concept of nothing.

A few other animals can understand zero, according to current research. Dolphins, parrots, and monkeys can all understand the difference between something and nothing, but honey bees are the first insects proven to be able to do it.

The new study, published in the journal Science, finds that honey bees can rank quantities based on “greater than” and “less than,” and can understand that nothing is less than one.

Left: A photo of a bee choosing between images with black dots on them. Right: an illustration of a bee choosing the image with fewer dots
© Scarlett Howard & Aurore Avarguès-Weber

The researchers trained bees to identify images in the lab that showed the fewest number of elements (in this case, dots). If they chose the image with the fewest circles from a set, they received sweetened water, whereas if they chose another image, they received bitter quinine.

Once the insects got that concept down, the researchers introduced another challenge: The bees had to choose between a blank image and one with dots on it. More than 60 percent of the time, the insects were successfully able to extrapolate that if they needed to choose the fewest dots between an image with a few dots and an image with no dots at all, no dots was the correct answer. They could grasp the concept that nothing can still be a numerical quantity.

It’s not entirely surprising that bees are capable of such feats of intelligence. We already know that they can count, teach each other skills, communicate via the “waggle dance,” and think abstractly. This is just more evidence that bees are strikingly intelligent creatures, despite the fact that their insect brains look nothing like our own.

Considering how far apart bees and primates are on the evolutionary tree, and how different their brains are from ours—they have fewer than 1 million neurons, while we have about 86 billion—this finding raises a lot of new questions about the neural basis of understanding numbers, and will no doubt lead to further research on how the brain processes concepts like zero.

[h/t Vox]

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