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Roberta F, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Quiet Fireworks: A Kinder, Gentler Way to Celebrate

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Roberta F, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

This past New Year’s Eve, the Italian town of Collecchio enacted a quiet-fireworks-only rule to reduce the harm to local animals. Why?

If you’ve ever watched a dog cowering in a closet or under a table on July 4, you know full well how much animals hate fireworks. It’s not just pets; studies have shown that the noise created by fireworks displays creates major disruptions to wildlife and livestock. Birds take flight when they should be sleeping, and some become disoriented in the post-explosion haze. Animals like rabbits and deer become frantic and can flee onto roadways or get lost.

Not all humans are so hot on fireworks, either. Think of the small children you see every year, screaming, crying and covering their ears as the big show begins (sorry about that, Mom). Then there are the combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, many of whom are triggered by the sounds of explosions. 

Nobody wants to hurt children, veterans, dogs, or bunnies, but we also don’t want to give up our glittering overhead extravaganzas. Fortunately, there’s a compromise: quiet fireworks.

Sometimes billed as “silent fireworks,” quiet fireworks are just that: explosives with the sound turned all the way down. The visuals are just as good; it’s only the ear-splitting noise that goes away. 

Not every pyrotechnics manufacturer offers quiet fireworks, but they’re becoming much more common. One wedding venue in the UK has switched to silent fireworks.  

Interested in converting your local fireworks display? Contact your town officials and tell them they’ve got options.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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