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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Cat in Your Life

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Cats love playing with tinsel and tissue paper, but discarded wrapping materials shouldn’t be their only holiday goodies. This season, treat your favorite feline to one of these 11 creative gift ideas.

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1. DJ SCRATCHING PAD; $35

This DJ Cat Scratching Pad lets your kitty channel its inner disc jockey while giving its claws a workout. It comes with a record-shaped corrugated cardboard pad, which sits atop a mock record player plastered with old-school-inspired band stickers. And if you’re up for a silent jam session with your pet, the cardboard “record” spins, and the record player’s tone arm is posable. (For easy assembly, the Scratching Pad arrives in a flatpack, and comes with instructions detailing how to fold it together sans glue.)

Find It: Uncommon Goods

2. GRASS PATCH HUNTING BOX CAT REST AND TOY PLAY BOX; $20

Inside every cat beats the heart of a hunter. If your kitty’s an indoor pet, you can arouse its natural instincts with the Grass Patch Hunting Box. It’s filled with tiny jingle balls, which felines can swat and chase by sticking their paws inside peek-a-boo openings on the box’s top and sides. To give your cat a taste of the great outdoors, the box’s top is covered in faux grass that’s suitable for either scratching or lounging.

Find It: Amazon

3. CATIT FLOWER FOUNTAIN; $30

This bubbling, flower-shaped water fountain keeps your cat’s water as fresh as a daisy. A water-softening filter is hidden inside the fountain, along with a re-circulating system that keeps clean liquid flowing. Since every cat drinks at a different speed, it comes with three water flow settings.

Find It: Amazon

4. CATNIP FORTUNE COOKIES; $24

Cats prefer tuna to Chinese food, but they may want to give these catnip-stuffed fleece fortune cookies a nibble. Each hand-sewn cookie is filled with organic, farm-fresh ‘nip and features a randomly chosen cat-themed fortune. (Example: “Your litter box will always be clean.”) The toys come in sets of four, and arrive inside a Chinese take-out carton.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

5. KITNIPBOX; $19-29 PER MONTH (15 PERCENT OFF WITH THE CODE "MENTALPAWS")

KitNipBox is a monthly subscription box for cat owners looking to spoil their fuzzy friends on the regular. It sends customers a curated package of healthy cat treats, toys, accessories, and other goodies—and if you own two kitties, you can opt for a multi-cat box that includes even more feline swag. A portion of KitNipBox’s monthly fee is donated to animal welfare organizations, so your purchase also helps less-fortunate cats.

Find It: KitNipBox

6. PETCUBE PLAY; $199

If you’ve ever wondered what your cat does when you’re not around, the Petcube Camera will help solve the mystery. The Wi-Fi-enabled video camera connects with your smartphone via a website or app, letting you check in with your pet when you’re on the go. And if you’re really missing your kitty, a two-way audio feature and an interactive laser toy allow for long-distance bonding sessions.

Find It: Amazon

7. HEPPER CAT POD BED; $130

This lofted, pod-shaped cat bed is crafted from fabric-covered foam, and its reversible liner—sewn from microfiber and sherpa fleece—is machine-washable (perfect for removing cat fur). The bed’s top is also removable, allowing you to transform it into a hammock-shaped lounger. If your pet ends up preferring discarded boxes to beds, you can return the pod and receive a full refund.

Find It: Amazon

8. MUSIC FOR CATS; $15-25

Typically, felines don’t like music, as it often features pitches and tempos enjoyed only by humans. However, they might dig Music for Cats, an album created by composer David Teie and a team of animal scientists. According to Teie’s website, the 40-minute CD is “based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats.” You can purchase a single album for $20; a digital download for $15; or a four-CD version of the album for $25. (It features silence between the songs, so you can play it for your cats for extended periods of time while you're away.)

Find It: Music for Cats

9. PETSAFE POUNCE TOY; $28

Hunting mice is all about the chase. Pounce features an electronic mouse that races around a circular track, providing your cat with a heart-pounding pursuit. Just like a real rodent, the mouse is unpredictable: It twitches, zooms, hides, and changes direction. Pounce is also suitable for all feline ages: The toy offers four speed settings, including high and medium for active cats, and low or variable for older, less-agile ones.

Find It: Amazon

10. VESPER CAT FURNITURE; $108

Feline furniture can be stylish, too. This sleek, modern cat tree features a cube cave, two platforms lined with memory foam cushions, and a dangling toy.

Find It: Amazon

11. FROSTED DONUTS WITH SPRINKLES CATNIP CAT TOY; $29

Your cats might like playing with these doughnut-shaped, catnip-stuffed toys almost as much as you enjoy eating the real thing. The eco-friendly felt toys are sold in sets of three—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—and come with fake “Nutrition Facts” that tell you how many “Meows of Fun” and “Total Purrs” are in every bite.

Find It: Etsy

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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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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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