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7 Pets Who Rescued Their Humans

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We know how fiercely loyal dogs can be, jumping into action if their human companions find themselves in an emergency. But it doesn’t necessarily take a canine to save lives when the chips are down. Check out seven furry—and feathery—friends who made sure their owners lived to see another day.

1. THE PARROT AND THE POP TART

Willie, a Quaker parrot hailing from Denver, Colorado, earned his babysitting wings in 2009: His owner, Megan Howard, was out of the room when the 2-year-old she was caring for began to choke on a Pop Tart. Willie became hysterical, squawking “Mama baby” to alert Megan to the crisis. Running back in the room to find the child turning blue, she was able to perform the Heimlich in time. Willie was given an Animal Lifesaver Award from the local Red Cross for his efforts.

2. THE CAT IN THE WINDOW

Cats Protection via YouTube

Cats are often forced to endure a reputation for being aloof and disinterested. This stems from cats being aloof and disinterested. But Slinky Malinki, a tomcat hailing from Todmorden, West Yorkshire, helped beat that rap in 2014 when he made headlines for rescuing his owner from a potentially fatal situation. After Janet Rawlinson suffered an adverse reaction to the morphine she was taking for chronic back pain that left her in a semi-comatose state, Slinky—named after a children’s book character Janet was fond of—trotted over to a neighbor’s house and began tapping on the window with his paw to draw their attention.

The feline Morse code worked: They came out to investigate and called for medical attention. Slinky’s bravado earned him a nomination as Hero Cat of the Year at the National Cat Awards. (He lost to Cleo, a cat who began pacing when his owner was having a heart attack, prompting a call for help.)

3. THE RABBIT WHO DETECTED A DIABETIC EMERGENCY

Dory the rabbit knew something was amiss when her owner, Simon Steggall of Warboys, England, was slumped over in his seat while watching television in January 2004. Simon’s wife, Victoria, thought her husband was just tired and napping—but Dory’s strange behavior led her to take another look. As the rabbit jumped up and down on his chest, Victoria noticed Simon couldn’t be roused and called for an ambulance. It turned out that he had fallen into a diabetic coma and needed a quick boost of glucose. The biggest hint? Dory wasn't typically allowed on the furniture.

4. THE PARROT WHO FENDED OFF A RANDOM ATTACKER

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African grey parrot Wunsy and her owner enjoyed going for strolls in parks near their north London home. One day, the two were walking along when an unnamed attacker emerged and began assaulting Wunsy’s owner. After she was pushed to the ground, Wunsy sprang into action, raining beaked blows upon the criminal until he fled. Owner Rachel Mancino told the BBC in 2014 that Wunsy was both a “companion” and a “weapon.”

5. THE CAT WHO DETECTED A GAS LEAK

Trudy Guy was surprised to wake up to her 6-month-old kitten, Schnautzie, sitting on top of her chest one night. The feline kept putting a paw on her nose and tapping it. Curious, Trudy got out of bed and found a broken gas pipe outside her bathroom. Firefighters later told her that if Schnautzie hadn’t alerted her, the entire house could have gone up in flames.

6. THE PIG WHO FLAGGED DOWN A CAR

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Jack and Jo Ann Altsman hadn’t planned on owning a pot-bellied pig, but when their daughter left LuLu in their care in 1997, they quickly grew attached to her snorting charms. It would prove to be a fateful adoption: In 1998, when Jack was away fishing, Jo Ann suffered a heart attack in their Beaver Falls, Pennylsvania home. Frantic, Jo Ann tried to toss an alarm clock out of a window to attract the attention of passing traffic. When that didn’t work, LuLu squeezed through the home’s doggy door and proceeded to lay down in the middle of the road. A driver stopped and followed the pig to Jo Ann, who was quickly flown to a hospital for open-heart surgery; doctors later said another 15 minutes would have proved fatal.

7. TWO BUNNIES AVOID A FIRE

It was shortly before Christmas 2013 when Tucson, Arizona resident Nicole Ochotorena was roused from bed by a strange thumping noise. Walking into her kitchen to investigate, she saw her family’s two pet rabbits, Bun Bun and Promise, drumming on the hardwood floor with their hind legs. Nearby was a crock pot that had smoke coming from its cord. The home’s smoke alarms had not gone off—the steady percussion of their rabbit feet had averted disaster.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs?
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
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Gophers and groundhogs. Groundhogs and gophers. They're both deceptively cuddly woodland rodents that scurry through underground tunnels and chow down on plants. But whether you're a nature nerd, a Golden Gophers football fan, or planning a pre-spring trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might want to know the difference between groundhogs and gophers.

Despite their similar appearances and burrowing habits, groundhogs and gophers don't have a whole lot in common—they don't even belong to the same family. For example, gophers belong to the family Geomyidae, a group that includes pocket gophers (sometimes referred to as "true" gophers), kangaroo rats, and pocket mice.

Groundhogs, meanwhile, are members of the Sciuridae (meaning shadow-tail) family and belong to the genus Marmota. Marmots are diurnal ground squirrels, Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA biologist and marmot expert, tells Mental Floss. "There are 15 species of marmot, and groundhogs are one of them," he explains.

Science aside, there are plenty of other visible differences between the two animals. Gophers, for example, have hairless tails, protruding yellow or brownish teeth, and fur-lined cheek pockets for storing food—all traits that make them different from groundhogs. The feet of gophers are often pink, while groundhogs have brown or black feet. And while the tiny gopher tends to weigh around two or so pounds, groundhogs can grow to around 13 pounds.

While both types of rodent eat mostly vegetation, gophers prefer roots and tubers (much to the dismay of gardeners trying to plant new specimens), while groundhogs like vegetation and fruits. This means that the former animals rarely emerge from their burrows, while the latter are more commonly seen out and about.

Groundhogs "have burrows underground they use for safety, and they hibernate in their burrows," Blumstein says. "They're active during the day above ground, eating a variety of plants and running back to their burrows to safety. If it's too hot, they'll go back into their burrow. If the weather gets crappy, they'll go back into their burrow during the day as well."

But that doesn't necessarily mean that gophers are the more reclusive of the two, as groundhogs famously hibernate during the winter. Gophers, on the other hand, remain active—and wreck lawns—year-round.

"What's really interesting is if you go to a place where there's gophers, in the spring, what you'll see are what is called eskers," or winding mounds of soil, Blumstein says [PDF]. "Basically, they dig all winter long through the earth, but then they tunnel through snow, and they leave dirt in these snow tunnels."

If all this rodent talk has you now thinking about woodchucks and other woodland creatures, know that groundhogs have plenty of nicknames, including "whistle-pig" and "woodchuck," while the only nicknames for gophers appear to be bitter monikers coined by Wisconsin Badgers fans.

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
Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View
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Google

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.
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Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]

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