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Jane Kirkland via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

America’s Oldest Polar Bear Turns 36

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Jane Kirkland via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today the oldest zoo in America celebrates the birthday of one of its oldest residents. On December 13, Coldilocks the polar bear turned 36 years old, making her the oldest polar bear in America.

Coldilocks spent the first few months of her life at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York before moving to her current home at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1981. She arrived there at the same time as another polar bear cub named Klondike. Just a month her senior, Klondike previously held the title of oldest polar bear in the country before passing away last year at age 34. The life expectancy for a polar bear is normally up to 30 years in captivity and just 15 to 18 years in the wild.

In addition to being the Philadelphia Zoo’s oldest polar bear, Coldilocks is the zoo’s only ambassador for her species. Last year the staff celebrated her big day with two peanut-filled pumpkins and an ice “cake” loaded with fruit, granola, and peanut butter icing on top. If you aren’t able to make it to Philly to see Coldilocks in person this year, you can mark the occasion by watching this festive throwback video of her and Klondike playing in the snow.

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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
Listen to the Impossibly Adorable Sounds of a Baby Sloth
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RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages

Sometimes baby sloths seem almost too adorable to be real. But the little muppet-faced treasures don't just look cute—turns out they sound cute, too. We know what you're thinking: How could you have gone your whole life without knowing what these precious creatures sound like? Well, fear not: Just in time for International Sloth Day (today), we have some footage of how the tiny mammals express themselves—and it's a lot of squeaking. (Or maybe that's you squealing?)

The sloths featured in the heart-obliterating video below come from the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The institution rescues orphaned sloths, rehabilitates them, and gets them ready to be released back into the wild.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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