Nestle Purina
Nestle Purina

How Kitties Helped Create Friskies' New Line of Cat Food

Nestle Purina
Nestle Purina

Cats are notoriously persnickety eaters, often turning up their noses at food chosen for them by their humans. But Friskies is betting that picky felines will be a little bit more excited about food chosen by their kitty counterparts: It debuted Cat Concoctions, a wet food that features flavor creations picked by cats, earlier this year.

“At Friskies, we’re always looking for new, unique things to do,” Friskies Brand Manager Jessica Nichols told mental_floss at the New York City launch of Cat Concoctions. “We have a lot of great tasting cat food, but we don’t want to just do more of the same, and we know that cats are quirky and they have their own wants and needs.”

So the company decided to let cats pick flavor combinations for once, though humans still had to help a little bit. Friskies scientists took flavors they knew cats liked and threw them together in bizarre variations. Then, they turned to the cats in the company’s St. Joseph, Missouri facility for tasting help. “We fed them different combinations to see what they gravitated towards the most,” Nichols says. “We literally gave each cat two bowls and asked them to choose which one they liked.” (Many of the cats in the facility—which also houses dogs; Friskies is owned by Purina—come from shelters, and each one has a name. “A lot of them end up getting adopted by the people who work there,” Nichols says.)

Celebrity cats Grumpy Cat, Nala Cat, and Waffles help introduce Friskies® Cat Concoctions, a wet cat food that features curious flavor combinations from the minds of cats at an event in New York City. Image courtesy of Bennett Raglin/AP Images for Friskies.

Based on how much the cats ate, flavors were either scrapped or advanced to the next round, until, eventually, “we narrowed it down to what they like the most,” Nichols said. “It’s all scientifically studied.” Four flavors were ultimately chosen: Scrumptious Salmon & Chicken Liver Dinner Pate; Chicken in Creamy Crabby Sauce; Cod in Cheesy Bacon Flavored Sauce; Lamb in Clam Flavored Sauce. “The cod and cheesy bacon sauce, I think, is the most unappetizing to humans,” Nichols says. The flavor has at least one feline fan, though: “Grumpy has been really enjoying the cod in the cheesy bacon-flavored sauce,” Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, told mental_floss.

Despite the fact that humans don’t get the appeal of these combinations, the response to Cat Concoctions, according to Nichols, has been “overwhelmingly positive. It’s one of our most successful launches with wet cat food with Friskies. It’s really just about letting cats call the shots, so it’s not just scientists determining what’s going to sell best—it’s what cats like.”

Four Cat Concoctions flavors are in stores now; two more will hit shelves next January. You can get a coupon here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
iStock
iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Honey Bees Can Understand the Concept of Zero
iStock
iStock

The concept of zero—less than one, nothing, nada—is deceptively complex. The first placeholder zero dates back to around 300 BCE, and the notion didn’t make its way to Western Europe until the 12th century. It takes children until preschool to wrap their brains around the concept. But scientists in Australia recently discovered a new animal capable of understanding zero: the honey bee. According to Vox, a new study finds that the insects can be taught the concept of nothing.

A few other animals can understand zero, according to current research. Dolphins, parrots, and monkeys can all understand the difference between something and nothing, but honey bees are the first insects proven to be able to do it.

The new study, published in the journal Science, finds that honey bees can rank quantities based on “greater than” and “less than,” and can understand that nothing is less than one.

Left: A photo of a bee choosing between images with black dots on them. Right: an illustration of a bee choosing the image with fewer dots
© Scarlett Howard & Aurore Avarguès-Weber

The researchers trained bees to identify images in the lab that showed the fewest number of elements (in this case, dots). If they chose the image with the fewest circles from a set, they received sweetened water, whereas if they chose another image, they received bitter quinine.

Once the insects got that concept down, the researchers introduced another challenge: The bees had to choose between a blank image and one with dots on it. More than 60 percent of the time, the insects were successfully able to extrapolate that if they needed to choose the fewest dots between an image with a few dots and an image with no dots at all, no dots was the correct answer. They could grasp the concept that nothing can still be a numerical quantity.

It’s not entirely surprising that bees are capable of such feats of intelligence. We already know that they can count, teach each other skills, communicate via the “waggle dance,” and think abstractly. This is just more evidence that bees are strikingly intelligent creatures, despite the fact that their insect brains look nothing like our own.

Considering how far apart bees and primates are on the evolutionary tree, and how different their brains are from ours—they have fewer than 1 million neurons, while we have about 86 billion—this finding raises a lot of new questions about the neural basis of understanding numbers, and will no doubt lead to further research on how the brain processes concepts like zero.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios