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There Once Was a Game Show Called Think Like a Cat

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YouTube

Cats are cute and sometimes cuddly, but no one would ever accuse them of being cooperative—which probably makes them less than ideal game show contestants. But that didn't deter Meow Mix and the Game Show Network from airing the first—and probably only—cat game show, Think Like a Cat, in November 2008. The contest was hosted by Chuck Woolery (the original host of Wheel of Fortune, among other game shows) and pitted eight feline–human pairs against each other in the quest to win $1 million. "In my game show career I've worked with TV stars, film stars, sports figures, legendary musicians, and many other contestants,” Woolery said in a press release. “Now I'm thrilled to be working with my furry friends, cats. It's a first for me and I'm delighted to be partnering with Meow Mix and GSN."

Think Like a Cat aired just a single episode. Here's what went down.

ROUND ONE: THE FAST AND THE FURRIEST

The contestants—Judi Basolo and Guido from San Francisco; Alma Coronado and Tabby from Dallas; Hartford Hough and Mr. Guffington from Los Angeles; Mirka Luoto and Phoebe from Denver; Simone Mickelberry and Spooky D. Cat from Portland, Oregon; Stephanie Park and Wolfie from New York City; Ian Stitch and Quinn from Tampa, Florida; and Saunjae Taylor and Charlie from Chicago—were chosen from auditions held by Meow Mix and GSN. The eight humans and their cats were flown to

The lightning round, "The Fast and the Furriest," saw each cat placed in front of a bowl of food. The first three to finish their bowls (or the three to eat the most when time was up) would move on to the second round. The winners of this round were Tabby, Spooky D. Cat, and Quinn; they advanced, while the other contestants were awarded consolation prizes of $1000 and bags of cat food.

ROUND TWO: ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A CAT?

In this Jeopardy!-style round, the humans took over, answering questions worth between 10 and 50 in six categories: Famous Felines; Cat-tistics; Just Kitten Around; Maw & Paw; Hisstory; and Let's Get Fuzzical. If they got the answer right, and the humans earned points; if their answer was wrong, however, the humans lost points. The questions ranged from total softballs ("Morning, noon or night: At what point in the day are cats more active?") to real stumpers ("About how many vocalization sounds does a cat make: less than 10, exactly 35 or over 60?")

The lowest scoring human was Simone; she was eliminated, and went home with $10,000 and some cat food, and $1000 was donated to the feline charity of her choice.

ROUND THREE: THINK LIKE A CAT

Before this round, the cats had been recorded in different situations; the owners had to wager points on what their felines would do before the clip was played. For the first question, the owners could not wager more than half their points, but after that, they could wager any or all of their points. The highest scoring pair was Ian and Quinn, won $25,000 and moved on to the bonus round; Alma and Tabby left with $15,000 and the cat food, and $1500 was donated to their favorite kitty charity.

BONUS ROUND: THE MEOW MIX MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE

This round required cat and human to work together. Ten bags of Meow Mix containing various food symbols were placed around the studio—but only two bags contained the same symbol. Ian and Quinn each chose a bag; if the bags had matching symbols, they would win $1 million, plus $100,000 to donate to the shelter of their choice.

Quinn chose bag #7, which contained a red snapper, and Ian chose bag #2, which contained ... a salmon. The correct bags were #4 and #6, which contained chickens. They didn't win $1 million, but did go home with $25,000 and the cat food, and $2500 was donated to their favorite cat charity.

Sadly, no other episodes of Think Like a Cat were produced, so any felines craving fame will have to get it the old fashioned way: by becoming an Internet meme.

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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