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7 Superstitions About Cats From Around the World

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by Sarah Dobbs

Everyone knows black cats are unlucky ... or lucky, depending on the day, where you are, and whether they’re crossing your path from left to right or right to left. Cts have attracted a lot of different superstitions over the years, some easier to believe than others. After reading these cat superstitions from around the world, though, you might never look at your favorite pet the same way again.

1. CATS ARE GOSSIPS.

In the Netherlands, cats are apparently believed to be gossipy creatures who will happily blab all of your deepest, darkest secrets. For that reason, people try not to have important or private conversations while a cat’s in the room, just in case it’s listening.

2. A GROOMING CAT MEANS UNEXPECTED VISITORS ARE COMING.

A cat licking its paw.
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According to Japanese superstition, if a cat washes its face with its paws, it's not just grooming—it means that visitors are on their way. There are similar superstitions in other countries, too, with some people in the U.S. expecting a visit from a member of the clergy if a cat starts cleaning its whiskers.

3. A SNEEZING CAT IS LUCKY (EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T).

In Italy, hearing a cat sneeze is supposed to be good luck. Specifically, if your pet gets the sneezes, it means there’s money coming your way. If a bride hears a cat sneeze on her wedding day, it means the marriage will be a good one. Beware, though—while one sneeze might be good luck, if a cat sneezes three times it supposedly indicates that you’re going to come down with a cold.

4. BLACK CATS SINK SHIPS.

A black cat on a boat.
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Of all the kinds of cats there are, black cats are the ones with the most superstitions attached. Maybe that’s due to the ancient Egyptian belief that black cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, and keeping one would bring her favor; maybe it’s to do with the European conviction that witches had black cats as familiars and so they were evil omens. One black cat superstition you might not have heard, though, is that if a black cat walks onto a ship and then back off again, the ship will sink on its next voyage.

5. CATS CAN RAISE THE DEAD.

In parts of Southern Europe, folklore has it that if a cat jumps across a person’s grave, they’ll rise again as a vampire. And this idea spread beyond Southern Europe. Writing in the late 19th century, William Henderson recounted  that in England a cat jumped over the coffin during a funeral, and no one was willing to move until the cat was killed.

6. BEING A CAT LADY CAN HELP YOU GET MARRIED.

A couple with their cat.
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Although pop culture has turned cats into a symbol of eternal singledom, according to one book on Pennsylvania German tradition, cats can help a woman who is anxious to get married. All she has to do is “feed the cat from her shoe,” although the superstition doesn’t say what’s supposed to happen next—or how to get the uneaten cat food out of the shoe.

7. WET CATS MAKE IT RAIN.

You might suspect there’s some cause and effect confusion going on here, but in parts of Indonesia, cats are associated with the weather. If people wanted it to rain, they’d pour water over a cat. Presumably the cat in question then made it rain as revenge.

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

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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