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7 Fuzzy Facts About Exotic Shorthair Cats

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Love the Persian’s sweet, docile personality, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of keeping its coat tangle-free? Consider owning an Exotic Shorthair, also known as the Exotic. The breed is nearly identical to the Persian, save one big difference—it has short fur. Here are seven facts about the friendly, flat-faced kitty.

1. THE EXOTIC SHORTHAIR IS A RELATIVELY NEW BREED. 

There are a few tales regarding the Exotic Shorthair's origins, but this one's the most common: Sometime in the 1950s or 1960s, American Shorthair breeders decided to mate their cats with silver, green-eyed Persians to create short-haired felines with the same lovely coloring. The resulting kittens didn’t resemble their American Shorthair parents. In fact, with their flat faces, round, stocky bodies, and snub noses, they looked more like Persians. A breeder named Jane Martinke took notice of the cats, and in 1966 she proposed to the directors of the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats, the Cat Fancier Association (CFA), that the unique shorthairs be used to create a new breed.

Cat fanciers originally proposed that the new breed be named the “Sterling,” since the original breed standard called for the cats to be silver. However, the cat was called the Exotic Shorthair instead, because the grey-ish coloring was new and “exotic” among American Shorthairs. Eventually, the breed standard was opened up to include cats of all colors and patterns.

Over the years, breeders outcrossed Exotic Shorthairs with Burmese and other cats to perfect its short, plush coat. The offspring were later mated back to Persians, resulting in the modern Exotic Shorthair breed.

Today, the CFA simply refers to the cat as "the Exotic," whereas other cat organizations around the world still call it the Exotic Shorthair.

2. THE EXOTIC SHORTHAIR HAS A SHORT—BUT PLUSH—COAT

The Exotic Shorthair’s fur is short, but plush. That’s because the kitty has a double-layer coat, with a thick, downy under-layer that lifts the topcoat away from the body. This trait is inherited from the Exotic’s Persian ancestors, and is unique among the various shorthair breeds.

3. THE EXOTIC SHORTHAIR IS (RELATIVELY) LOW-MAINTENANCE.

The Exotic’s low-maintenance coat doesn't shed much, so owners only have to give it a weekly comb. However, owners do have to wipe and clean the cat's eyes, which, thanks to its flat, pansy-like face, are prone toward tearing up and staining its fur. The Exotic can also experience sinus issues, or problems with tooth alignment due to its shortened jaw. And because of its short nostrils and heavy coat, it's very sensitive to heat.

4. EXOTIC SHORTHAIRS ARE MELLOW CATS.

Persians are so placid that they’re often referred to as “furniture with fur.” The Exotic Shorthair has a similarly mellow personality, but thanks to its shorthair ancestors, it's a lot livelier than the Persian.

5. EXOTIC SHORTHAIRS COME IN ALL SHADES AND PATTERNS.

Exotic Shorthairs come in all patterns and colors, ranging from black, white, blue, and tabby to Calico and a Siamese-like color point coat. As for their eyes, they range from either blue or blue-green to brilliant copper, depending on the cat's coat [PDF].

6. EXOTIC SHORTHAIRS AREN'T FAT—JUST BIG-BONED.

With their thick, short-legged bodies, wide necks, and large heads, the Exotic Shorthair looks kind of pudgy. The Exotic can weigh up to 15 pounds, but most of this weight is due to its dense bones—not because it's actually fat.

7. EXOTIC SHORTHAIRS REGULARLY GRACE THE SMALL SCREEN, THE SILVER SCREEN, AND COMPUTER SCREENS.

With their adorable, teddy bear-like appearances, it’s no wonder that the Exotic Shorthair is regularly featured in movies, TV shows, and viral Internet memes. In the movie Cats & Dogs (2001) and its sequel, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010), the evil Persian villain, Mr. Tinkles, has an Exotic Shorthair sidekick named Calico. On the Fox sitcom New Girl, the character Winston adopts an ex-girlfriend’s Exotic Shorthair named Ferguson, who quickly becomes his best friend. Meanwhile, two famous Internet cats, Pudge the Cat and Snoopy, are Exotic Shorthairs.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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Pig Island: Sun, Sand, and Swine Await You in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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13 Secrets From the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London
Christine Colby
Christine Colby

Christopher Skaife is a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, an ancient fortress that has been used as a jail, royal residence, and more. There are 37 Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeaters, but Skaife has what might be the coolest title of them all: He is the Ravenmaster. His job is to maintain the health and safety of the flock of ravens (also called an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy”) that live within the Tower walls. According to a foreboding legend with many variations, if there aren’t at least six ravens living within the Tower, both the Tower and the monarchy will fall. (No pressure, Chris!)

Skaife has worked at the Tower for 11 years, and has many stories to tell. Recently, Mental Floss visited him to learn more about his life in service of the ravens.

1. MILITARY SERVICE IS REQUIRED.

All Yeoman Warders must have at least 22 years of military service to qualify for the position and have earned a good-conduct medal. Skaife served for 24 years—he was a machine-gun specialist and is an expert in survival and interrogation resistance. He is also a qualified falconer.

Skaife started out as a regular Yeoman Warder who had no particular experience with birds. The Ravenmaster at the time "saw something in him," Skaife says, and introduced him to the ravens, who apparently liked him—and the rest is history. He did, however, have to complete a five-year apprenticeship with the previous Ravenmaster.

2. HE LIVES ON-SITE.

The Tower of London photographed at night
Christine Colby

As tradition going back 700 years, all Yeoman Warders and their families live within the Tower walls. Right now about 150 people, including a doctor and a chaplain, claim the Tower of London as their home address.

3. BUT HE’S HAD TO MOVE.

Skaife used to live next to the Bloody Tower, but had to move to a different apartment within the grounds because his first one was “too haunted.” He doesn’t really believe in ghosts, he says, but does put stock in “echoes of the past.” He once spoke to a little girl who was sitting near the raven cages, and when he turned around, she had disappeared. He also claims that things in his apartment inexplicably move around, particularly Christmas-related items.

4. THE RAVENS ENJOY SOME UNUSUAL SNACKS.

The Ravenmaster at the Tower of London bending down to feed one of his ravens
Christine Colby

The birds are fed nuts, berries, fruit, mice, rats, chicken, and blood-soaked biscuits. (“And what they nick off the tourists,” Skaife says.) He has also seen a raven attack and kill a pigeon in three minutes.

5. THEY GET A LULLABY.

Each evening, Skaife whistles a special tone to call the ravens to bed—they’re tucked into spacious, airy cages to protect them from predators such as foxes.

6. THERE’S A DIVA.

One of the ravens doesn’t join the others in their nighttime lodgings. Merlina, the star raven, is a bit friendlier to humans but doesn’t get on with the rest of the birds. She has her own private box inside the Queen’s House, which she reaches by climbing a tiny ladder.

7. ONE OF THEM HAS EARNED THE NICKNAME “THE BLACK WIDOW.”

Ravens normally pair off for life, but one of the birds at the Tower, Munin, has managed to get her first two mates killed. With both, she lured them high atop the White Tower, higher than they were capable of flying down from, since their wings are kept trimmed. Husband #1 fell to his death. The second one had better luck coasting down on his wings, but went too far and fell into the Thames, where he drowned. Munin is now partnered with a much younger male.

8. THERE IS A SECRET PUB INSIDE THE TOWER.

Only the Yeoman Warders, their families, and invited guests can go inside a secret pub on the Tower grounds. Naturally, the Yeoman Warder’s Club offers Beefeater Bitter beer and Beefeater gin. It’s lavishly decorated in police and military memorabilia, such as patches from U.S. police departments. There is also an area by the bar where a section of the wall has been dug into and encased in glass, showing items found in an archaeological excavation of the moat, such as soldiers’ discarded clay pipes, a cannonball, and some mouse skeletons.

9. … AND A SECRET HAND.

The Byward Tower, which was built in the 13th century by King Henry III, is now used as the main entrance to the Tower for visitors. It has a secret glass brick set into the wall that most people don’t notice. When you peer inside, you’ll see it contains a human hand (presumably fake). It was put in there at some point as a bit of a joke to scare children, but ended up being walled in from the other side, so is now in there permanently.

10. HE HAS A SIDE PROJECT.

Skaife considers himself primarily a storyteller, and loves sharing tales of what he calls “Victorian melodrama.” In addition to his work at the Tower, he also runs Grave Matters, a Facebook page and a blog, as a collaboration with medical historian and writer Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Together they post about the history of executions, torture, and punishment.

11. THE TOWER IS MUPPET-FAMOUS.

2013’s Muppets Most Wanted was the first major film to shoot inside the Tower walls. At the Yeoman Warder’s Club, you can still sit in the same booth the Muppets occupied while they were in the pub.

12. IF YOU VISIT, KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR MONEY.

Ravens are very clever and known for stealing things from tourists, especially coins. They will strut around with the coin in their beak and then bury it, while trying to hide the site from the other birds.

13. … AND ON YOUR EYES.

Skaife, who’s covered in scars from raven bites, says, “They don’t like humans at all unless they’re dying or dead. Although they do love eyes.” He once had a Twitter follower, who is an organ donor, offer his eyes to the ravens after his death. Skaife declined.

This story first ran in 2015.

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