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Meet Sparky, the Bison Who Survived a Lightning Strike

In July of 2013, wildlife biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman was doing a check-up on the herd at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa when she noticed one bull standing alone. Upon closer inspection, Viste-Sparkman realized that the bull was bloody, though that wasn’t necessarily a surprise—bison bulls often spar during the summer mating season. It wasn’t until she looked even closer that it became clear that the animal had been burned.

“Sparky” had been struck by lightning on his shoulder hump, and a large lump on his hind leg suggested an exit wound, meaning he was lying down when the accident occurred. Sparky was missing hair and soon became thin. He wasn’t expected to live much longer, and since a lightning strike is a natural (though extremely rare) occurrence, the refuge opted to “let nature take its course.” Still, Viste-Sparkman kept an eye on him. Soon, Sparky's wounds healed as he continued to move around, walking with a newly-acquired limp.

Sparky the Survivor

More than two years later, Sparky is doing well and is now considered one very tough survivor. He is 11 years old, and 1600 pounds—thinner than most of his peers, but still strong. If you’re ever near Des Moines, you can visit Sparky and his cohorts at the refuge. And in case you were wondering, the name isn’t an eerie coincidence: Sparky was named after the strike.

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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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