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Meet Khanzir, the Only Pig in Afghanistan 

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Depending on how you look at it, Khanzir is either the world’s loneliest—or luckiest—farm animal. According to The Washington Post, the 14-year-old hog is the only animal of his kind to live in Afghanistan, an Islamic nation that bans the consumption (and in some cases, even touching) of pigs. The solitary swine might be companion-free, but the sheer novelty of his existence means he’s famous in his hog-free nation.

Khanzir (whose name means “Pig” in Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s national languages) wasn’t always Afghanistan’s only pig. In 2002, China gave Khanzir and a female companion to the Kabul Zoo, along with a pair of brown bears. Khanzir became a father, but four years later, tragedy struck: A zoo caretaker left the bears’ cage open, and one of them raided the pig enclosure. The piglets were killed, and the female pig was badly injured, and later died. Khanzir was the only survivor.

Today, Khanzir lives in his own enclosure in the Kabul Zoo. The widowed pig may no longer have a family, but he still receives lots of company: Many Afghans have never seen a pig before in their lives, and travel long distances to see Khanzir. He’s also beloved by his caretakers, and well-fed to boot.

That being said, Khanzir’s celebrity status sometimes attracts unwanted attention. Case in point: During the worldwide swine flu epidemic of 2009, officials placed the famous pig in quarantine after visitors (who knew little about swine flu) feared he would make them sick. Some people even called for Khanzir to be euthanized.

Ultimately, Khanzir had more friends than enemies, and he remained unharmed. Today, he's protected by loyal zoo workers, who tell The Washington Post that Khanzir is "an innocent animal, like all animals"—even though he's haram, or forbidden by Islamic law.

You can learn more about Khanzir (and even watch a video of him) over at The Washington Post. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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