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To Make a Tiger Photo-Ready, Just Spritz Some Perfume

Not everyone has what it takes to be a model, but wildlife photographers face a different problem entirely—their subjects don’t even know they’re posing. As such, sometimes the experts behind the camera need to employ some tricks of the trade, and as National Geographic reveals in the video below, that sometimes means pulling out a pricey fragrance.

In the short movie "How to Catch a Tiger with Joel Sartore," NatGeo photographer Joel Sartore attempts to get the perfect shot of a South China tiger at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Filmmaker Morgan Heim documents the struggle, which results in the use of a Prada perfume after two-and-a-half hours of failing to capture the attention of the uninterested wildcat.

Turns out, zookeepers often use fragrances to keep all kinds of large felines happy and healthy. Eau de toilettes—along with spices and essential oils—often serve as sensory enrichment for wildcats in controlled environments who are less exposed to a variety of olfactory experiences. In the wild, researchers use perfumes to lure the animals, with mixed results, though they’ve proved to be helpful in drawing the cats to hair traps or snares, which collect follicle samples when animals rub against them. With the hair, scientists are able to perform DNA tests, which can aid all sorts of research.

It’s not just perfume either: in 2010, Wildlife Conservation Society researchers at the Bronx Zoo in New York identified Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men as one of the more popular scents among its cheetahs. (It wasn't the favorite among cats in the wild; they declined to reveal which scent was.)

Louise Ginman, the Unit Supervisor for Carnivores at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia told Scientific American that they’d found lions and tigers to be the most receptive—snow leopards were as well—and that Obsession for Men was indeed one of the favorites.

Pat Thomas, a general curator at the Bronx Zoo, described fragrance testing to National Geographic, in which the big cats behaved a lot like your kitty does after breaking into the catnip: "Some would encourage this really powerful cheek rubbing behavior where these big cats would literally wrap their paws around a tree and just vigorously rub up and down. Sometimes they would start drooling, their eyes would half close, almost like they were going into a trance."

Scientific American reports that the big cats’ attraction to fragrances isn’t just about them having high-end taste—it’s because of a chemical compound in perfumes called civetone, which was originally taken directly from civets but is now produced synthetically.

See how the power of perfume makes for a stellar snapshot—like the one here from Sartore—in the NatGeo video down below.

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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
Watch a School of Humpback Whales 'Fish' Using Nets Made of Bubbles 

Just like humans, humpback whales catch many fish at once by using nets—but instead of being woven from fibers, their nets are made of bubbles.

Unique to humpbacks, the behavior known as bubble-net feeding was recently captured in a dramatic drone video that was created by GoPro and spotted by Smithsonian. The footage features a school of whales swimming off Maskelyne Island in British Columbia, Canada, in pursuit of food. The whales dive down, and a large circle of bubbles forms on the water's surface. Then, the marine mammals burst into the air, like circus animals jumping through a ring, and appear to swallow their meal.

The video offers a phenomenal aerial view of the feeding whales, but it only captures part of the underwater ritual. It begins with the group's leader, who locates schools of fish and krill and homes in on them. Then, it spirals to the water's surface while expelling air from its blowhole. This action creates the bubble ring, which works like a net to contain the prey.

Another whale emits a loud "trumpeting feeding call," which may stun and frighten the fish into forming tighter schools. Then, the rest of the whales herd the fish upwards and burst forth from the water, their mouths open wide to receive the fruits of their labor.

Watch the intricate—and beautiful—feeding process below:

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