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This is What Happens When a Python Tries to Eat a Porcupine

Jean-Claude Chanu was biking through South Africa’s Lake Eland Game Reserve on June 16 when he came across an unforgettable sight: A nearly 13-foot-long African Rock Python, its body swollen by whatever it had just eaten. “Seeing a snake of that size up close, eating whatever it was eating, was surreal,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” When snakes find large enough prey, they can survive for months without eating again; officials at the game reserve wrote on their Facebook page that the animal “must have swallowed a small warthog or an impala calf!”  

But this meal, the snake's last, was not something as mundane as an impala. After the snake was found dead on June 21, an autopsy revealed that it had attempted to eat a 30-pound porcupine. The animal’s quills were lodged in the snake’s digestive tract. 

Python sebae is Africa’s largest snake. The animals can grow to be 20 feet long, and they're exceptionally aggressive. Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic in 2009 that the snakes “come out of the egg striking.” The species has even been known to kill people: One rock python strangled two sleeping boys in Canada in 2013, and there are verified reports of the animals killing people in the wild.

This isn’t the first time a species of python has died after biting off more than it could swallow: A Burmese python in the Everglades burst after attempting to eat an alligator.

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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