iStock/Erin McCarthy
iStock/Erin McCarthy

11 Ways Big Cats Are Just Like Domestic Cats

iStock/Erin McCarthy
iStock/Erin McCarthy

Just how much do big cats have in common with the tabby in your home? We asked Susan Bass, director of public relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida—you know, the place that puts out all those awesome videos—to walk us through what behaviors big cats share with their domestic counterparts. (And don’t worry—we’ve put in a request for “sitting on computers” and “hanging out in the sink” videos.)


It's a scenario familiar to anyone with a kitty: You come home, head to the bathroom ... and find a toilet paper massacre. When the staff at Big Cat Rescue put TP in enclosures of servals, bobcats, lynx, and ocelots, they found that even big cats love to play with white tissue. "They’re going to be more curious about anything new in their immediate area," Bass says. Also, it's just plain fun! (For them. Not for whoever has to clean it up/reroll the toilet paper.)


If you present a big cat with a box, he'll hop in it quicker than you can say Maru. "Just like domestic cats, big cats like to hide in things," Bass says. "They like to think that they can see out but you can’t see in—even though you can!"

The cats at Big Cat Rescue are also into bags, though probably not in the same way that domestic cats are. "We haven’t tried bags that they can get into—I don’t know where we would find one big enough!" Bass says. "But we give them paper bags filled with either spices or cologne. Our big cats love Obsession for Men. They just start drooling and rolling over."

If the cats were presented with a bag big enough to get into, Bass says, "they would probably rip through it."


No feline can resist the "What is that red dot—oh I got it—where did it go?" appeal of the laser pointer, big cats included. "I think they like that it moves really fast," Bass says. "They have to chase it. You can go up a wall, under things, like I do with my cat. They’re just fascinated with it."


Domestic cats spend between 30 and 50 percent of their waking hours grooming; big cats are similarly fastidious about cleaning themselves. "It’s to get all of their scent off of them," Bass says. "In the wild, if they’re lying in wait somewhere, and a gazelle gets a whiff of a tiger downwind, they’re going to run the other way. So cats are constantly are grooming themselves to get rid of any smell that they have." Cleaning has a number of other benefits, too; it helps cats get rid of parasites and keeps them cool.


It's all about marking their territory. Both big cats and domestic cats "have scent glands all over—in their faces, especially," Bass says. "So they rub against their things, whether it’s the side of a couch, the side of the cage, or a tree. Or you!"

Big cats also scratch to mark their territory. With the exception of lions, which roam in prides, big cats are solitary, Bass says; tiger cubs, for example, will stay with their mothers for just two years before striking out on their own. "If you are a 2-year-old male tiger and you’re wandering through the wild, and you come on these trees where there are claw marks in all the trees about 8 to 10 feet up—that’s because a tiger will stand on his back legs and put his front paws up as high as possible and scratch right there," Bass says. "That’s telling every tiger that comes into its territory, ‘This is how big I am, I can scratch way up here. If you can’t scratch higher, you better keep moving.'”


Your cat meows, chirps, and purrs. Big cats have their own vocalizations, too, and some of them sound kind of similar to the noises your cat makes. "There are four great cats—lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars—and they roar," Bass says. "They have a different bone in their throat that allows them to do that." The so-called lesser cats (but come on, we all know there's no such thing as "lesser cats"), including cougars, lynx, and bobcats, can't roar. "It's probably because of where they live," Bass says. "Lions live on the savannahs in Africa. A lion’s roar can be heard by another lion at least five miles away. They have to be able to do that. A Canadian lynx that lives in the snow in Canada doesn't need to roar to get its point across."

But a roar is just one way big cats converse. "They all talk," Bass says. "They all make different noises." The lesser cats can all purr, and tigers make a chuffing noise, "like a puffing out of their lips," Bass says, in greeting. "Like my tabby cats, big cats will talk to their people. Some cats are very talkative and some don’t make very many sounds. One of our cougars, Reise, is really talkative. If you just walk by her, all of a sudden she’ll be like 'bluh-ruh ruh ruh.'" You can watch Reise playing soccer here.

Fun fact: The young of the four great cats are called cubs, but the offspring of the lesser cats are called kittens!


Or at least some of them are. Responsiveness to catnip is genetic, and half the domestic cats in the world don't respond to it at all. "It’s the same thing with big cats," Bass says. "Some like it much more than others." In one test, 18 of the sanctuary's 25 cats had a strong reaction to catnip.


Your cat spends most of her day sleeping, and so do her big relatives—between 16 to 20 hours a day, in fact. "The reason for that is because in the wild, they are opportunity hunters," Bass says. "They will sprint to catch prey, but they’re not marathon runners. They will sleep to keep their energy intact. They can go from totally asleep to totally awake in a split second if they hear a gazelle go by."

Speaking of hunting: All cats, big and small, will stalk their prey. "Zabu, our white tiger, is a real stalker," Bass says. "If she sees anyone go by, or golf carts go across, she'll stalk them."


My kitten, Pearl, refuses to eat her food in her bowl. Instead, she shovels it onto the ground and then eats it, making a huge mess. (Thanks, Pearl.) Bass says some captive big cats will move their food to the ground to eat, too. "Some are very food aggressive," Bass says. "If there's more than one cat in an enclosure, we separate them before we bring the food by. One will start gobbling it up and then go to the other one’s food."

Another weird thing some domestic cats do is paw around their food bowls, which also has its roots in wild cat behavior. “In the wild, the cats might only catch something once a week or so, and they won't eat it all at once," Bass says. "They want to leave and come back to eat again, so they will actually try and bury their kill so others don’t smell it and eat it.” Other cats, like leopards, will drag their kill high into a tree, where other not-so-talented climbers (lions in Africa and tigers in Asia) can’t go.


Big cats sometimes make biscuits, too! "It's probably for the same reason house cats do it," Bass says. "It's natural to do it as they nurse as babies, and sometimes they continue to do it after they are past nursing when they are happy."


Both domestic cats and big cats have an excellent sense of smell. "Humans smell in parts per thousand, while cats smell in parts per million," Bass says. And if they smell something really strong, they'll open up their mouths to get a better whiff—an act the staff at Big Cat Rescue call "stinky face." "Opening their mouth helps them smell it better than just out of their nose," Bass says.

All images courtesy of iStock.

20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

9 Healthy Frozen Meals to Keep in Your Freezer

Frozen dinners don’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to nutrition. Many of the pre-made meals you’ll find at your local supermarket are loaded with sodium, fat, and calories. But there are still a few nutritious (and tasty) options, as long as you know where to look. Here are a few frozen food brands to keep in your freezer for those times when you need something quick, painless, and yes, healthy.


Pescatarians rejoice: This Colorado-based company specializes in meals made from sustainable, farm-raised seafood. They have your traditional microwaveable meals—like the Baja-style fish taco bowl and the sweet and spicy Korean BBQ bowl—but they also offer oven-ready fish kits. Cooking is easy: Simply place the provided (heart-shaped!) parchment on a baking sheet with the filet on one side; put the frozen sauce cubes on top; wrap it up; and pop it in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also throw in any veggies you might have in your freezer, and Love the Wild provides some tasty recipe ideas on its website. Even Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan: “LoveTheWild’s approach to sustainable, responsible aquaculture is promoting the development of a secure and environmentally-conscious solution to feeding our planet’s growing population," he said last year after investing in the company.


Who says pizza has to be bad for you? With Cappello’s naked pizza crusts, you can build your own healthy pie just the way you like it. The crusts are made from arrowroot and coconut flours and are gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly. The brand also makes pre-made pizzas, vegan cookie dough, and a few varieties of pasta, including lasagna sheets, fettuccine, and gnocchi. Cappello's recommends recipes on its website, and the summer pesto pizza with chicken breast, goat cheese, and arugula is a great, light dish to serve at outdoor parties this season.


Vegetarian burgers on the grill
Beyond Meat

The Beyond Meat team set out to create a vegan burger that looks, tastes, and even "bleeds" like a real beef patty (due to the beet juice used to make the patties red). Ethan Brown, the company's founder, insists that the patties aren't much different from meat burgers. "Our company observation has always been that you don’t need an animal to produce a piece of meat," he tells Forbes. "You can obtain all of the core parts of meat—the amino acids, the lipids, the trace minerals and of course water from non-animal sources. And you can assemble those in the same architecture as animal meat." Some of their products are sold in the meat section of grocery stores, but a few items are available frozen, including The Beast Burger 2.0. Bill Gates and DiCaprio are both investors, and the company just announced it will start selling its products on six continents this summer.


As the name suggests, you’ll find simple, wholesome ingredients here. Since it was founded in 2011, the brand has been on a mission to offer minimally processed meals that "add nothing unnecessary" by way of ingredients. The company abides by a long list of "unacceptable ingredients" [PDF], including a variety of hydrogenated oils as well as artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Although they originally dealt only in breakfast dishes for busy workers on the go—burritos, scrambled egg bowls, pancakes, steel cut oatmeal, and more—they later branched out and started offering ready-made entrées. Their egg white patties are perfect for making your own customizable breakfast sandwiches.


This subscription food service proudly wears the frozen food label. "For decades, the space has been dominated by unhealthy or pseudo-healthy products that are hyper-refined and preserved," Daily Harvest founder Rachel Drori told the Huffington Post. "We are working hard to tell a new story, about the potential in freezing unadulterated to solve the modern eating dilemma of wanting convenience without compromise." Daily Harvest points out that after three days, some frozen fruits and vegetables contain more antioxidants and vitamins than their fresh counterparts. Their produce is frozen on the farm within 24 hours of harvesting, and they offer everything from cauliflower rice and kimchi harvest bowls to chocolate protein and almond chia parfaits. The pre-portioned meals, which are delivered to customers’ homes, are backed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, and chef Bobby Flay.


A burrito

Evol urges its customers to “think outside the microwave.” The brand’s burritos and quesadillas can be heated up in a panini press, on the stove top, or on the grill, allowing a level of customization that most frozen food brands don’t offer. A range of Asian, Italian, and Mexican dishes are available, all of which are free of antibiotics and preservatives. When asked by Dining Out why Evol has become so popular, the company's founder, Philip Anson, replied, "We built a brand rooted in love and farm-to-table values, but with some hipness to it in a category known as a cold and lonely place—legacy brands, uninspiring, mystery meat, sodium and fat." He said Evol's bowls—like truffle parmesan mac and cheese and butternut squash-sage ravioli—are their most popular dishes.


Luvo’s meals are based on what they call the 3-2-None policy. This involves balancing protein, whole grains, and veggies; limiting sodium and added sugar; and avoiding all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and antibiotics. In addition to steam-in-pouch meals and pasta bowls, Luvo offers “power bowls” that are packed with at least two servings of vegetables. The company's emphasis on nutrition goes beyond its products, though: Luvo also partners with WhyHunger, an organization that's addressing the issue of hunger in America by tackling the root cause of the issue while recognizing "nutritious food as a human right." Luvo also partners with A Sense of Home, which helps foster children who have "aged out" of the system transition into a new home.


Organic frozen meals with simple ingredients are the name of the game for Beetnik. Their meals are free of preservatives, gluten, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, hormones, artificial colors and flavorings, and antibiotics. One of their most popular dishes is their Peruvian seasoned chicken stew, made with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and spices. The company's founder, David Perkins, is a chef; when asked by Paleo Foundation what his favorite Beetnik dish is, Perkins replied, "I love our flat iron steaks, our Peruvian chicken stew, and our sablefish, but tomorrow I might give you three different items. I eat our products regularly, which is how I got into the business. Start with great ingredients."


Like Daily Harvest, this subscription food service delivers frozen meals right to your door via UPS. Eatology meals combine aspects of both the paleo and zone (low-carb) diets, while also incorporating lots of lean proteins and healthy fats. In addition to being paleo-friendly, there are plenty of low-carb, Whole30, and vegetarian options available. Bad news for carb lovers, though: You won't find bread, potatoes, or pasta on the menu. Their dishes change daily, but past meals have included white chicken chili on a bed of yellow squash, ratatouille, cilantro jalapeno burgers, and chili cheese fries (using sweet potatoes and carrots).


More from mental floss studios