13 Cat Essentials for National Kitten Day

Nils Jacobi, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Nils Jacobi, iStock / Getty Images Plus

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a holiday that celebrates our squee-worthy feline friends. Whether you're thinking of adopting a new furry pal or simply pampering your favorite kitty, here are 13 essentials every cat owner needs, from the stain remover strong enough to tackle any hairball to the scratching post that will please even the most finicky of felines.

1. Nature's Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Eliminator; $10

A red spray bottle of Nature's Miracle stain remover

Cats are messy pets. Even the healthiest felines occasionally hawk up a hairball, and cats with delicate tummies may vomit just about every time you change their food (which will probably be often, because most cats are exceptionally picky). Pet owners swear by Nature's Miracle cleaning products, which will neutralize odors and remove stains from carpets, couches, hardwood floors, and anywhere else your cat has an accident—or decides to express their displeasure.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

2. Rufus & Coco Wee Kitty Natural Corn Cat Litter; $33

Rufus & Coco Wee Kitty litter
Rufus & Coco, Chewy

Compared to dogs, cats' bathroom habits are incredibly low-maintenance. No need to take them for walks outside; just set up a litter box. But if you've never watched a cat sprint across the room after doing their business the box, you may not realize just how important your choice of litter type is. Even the neatest cats track litter outside their box. This corn-based clumping cat litter is an excellent low-track option that will keep your cat's litter where it belongs—in the litter box. It's dust-free (making it excellent for cats with sensitive noses), can absorb up to four times its own weight, and is biodegradable. It can even be flushed down the toilet, according to Rufus & Coco. One 20-pound bag is designed to last up to 18 weeks. Note: You're going to be buying litter regularly, so go ahead and take advantage of the subscription discount. We also recommend investing in a mat to catch errant litter that finds its way out of the box.

Buy it: Chewy

3. Pretty Litter; $22

Crystal litter is another excellent pick if you're looking to clean up after your cat the easy way. It manages odors well, but it doesn't clump, so you don't have to scoop out piles of pee—just scoop out the poop regularly—meaning that one box-full can last up to a month. Pretty Litter is easy on the paws and is sold on a subscription basis, so you can get a regular shipment delivered to your door each month right before your current batch runs out. Even better, it changes colors if your cat's pee is outside the normal range of acidity or alkalinity, providing you with insights into your furry friend's health.

Buy it: Pretty Litter

4. Go-Cat Da Bird Rod and Feather Cat Toy; $9

A rod and feather cat toy
Go-Cat, Amazon

Indoor cats need plenty of stimulation to keep them from getting bored (and fat). You'll want to provide them with toys and games that mimic the hunting they would do in the wild. Veterinarian Mikel Delgado recommends a wand-style toy like Go-Cat's Da Bird feather rod, which will allow your cat to feel like he's stalking a colorful winged creature across your living room. You'll also want to stock up on replacement feathers, since your little hunter is bound to claw the original to pieces. (You can check out Delgado's other tips for getting a cat to love you here.)

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

5. Petstages Kitty Cuddle Pal Cat Toy; $6

A plush Petstages heated cat toy
Petstages, Amazon

Cats have higher body temperatures than we do (typically between 100.5°F and 102.5°F), so they're suited for warm temperatures. That's great if you live in a hot climate, but more likely than not, your home is a bit cooler than your cat would prefer. That's why cats love to curl up on comforters, in cardboard boxes, or next to the warm bodies of their humans and pet siblings. If you're not around to be a human heating pad, Petstages Kitty Cuddle Pals are a good substitute. The plush toys are microwavable to provide a soothing source of warmth for your cat when you're not available. They're great for older cats with body aches, cats with separation anxiety or angst over vet visits, and more. They're also a must-have for young kittens who can't yet control their body temperature.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Merry Products Hidden Cat Litter Box Enclosure; $61

A cat sits on a couch next to a Merry Products litter box enclosure.
Merry Products, Overstock.com

If your home is lacking in space, you may not want to dedicate a whole corner of a room to your cat's open litter box. Or perhaps you just don't want to look at your cat's poop whenever you pass by. That's where hidden cat box enclosures like this one from Merry Products come in. The easy-to-assemble end table is made to house your cat's litter box, allowing your pet to access its toilet out of sight. It also reduces the amount of litter that sprays out of the box when your cat sprints away after it poops, making for a cleaner experience for everyone. Not to mention the fact that you can use the shelf and top space as a regular end table—or a very convenient place to store trash bags, air freshening spray, and other litter essentials. And the handy bar on the side of the box is a great place to hang a towel or a litter scoop. 

Buy it: Chewy or Overstock.com

7. Petcube Bites Pet Camera; $125

A Petcub pet cam on a table
Petcube, Amazon

While many of us pet owners would gladly spend all day, every day with our cats, sadly, life tends to get in the way. (We have to go to work to pay for all those cat toys, after all.) But you can still check in on your cat—and feed them treats—with a pet cam. The Petcube features 1080-pixel HD video, a 138° wide-angle view, 3x zoom, and night vision to allow you to check in on your cat at home 24/7 via Wi-Fi. It has two-way audio to allow you to talk to your pet and a dispenser that can hold up to 2 pounds of treats at a time. You can see the past four hours of video for free or upgrade to a membership to see your whole video history in the cloud. It also works with Amazon's Alexa.

Buy it: Amazon or Chewy or Petco

8. Go Pet Club 62-Inch Cat Tree; $70

Cats play on a Go Pet Club cat tree
Go Pet Club, Amazon

Cats need to explore both vertically and horizontally. Rather than trying to chase them off counters and shelves, give your cats a high place to watch over their territory in the form of a tall cat tree like this one. The 62-inch-tall feline play space features stairs to climb, hammocks to lounge in, cubbies to hide in, and perches to rest on. It comes in four different colors.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

9. New Cat Condos Round Multi Scratcher; $52

A cat rubs against a three-post cat scratcher.
New Cat Condos, Amazon

As they are with all things, cats can be pretty particular about the material they like to scratch on. While some love to dig their claws into carpet, others prefer sisal rope or plain wood. For indecisive cats and their owners, this triple cat scratcher is the perfect starter post. It features three different scratching posts—one natural wood, one sisal-covered, and one carpeted—to allow your cat to figure out what it likes best. Considering how expensive scratching posts and cat trees can get, this minimizes the risk of your cat refusing to engage at all with the fancy product you just shelled out for, as our feline friends are wont to do.

Buy it: Amazon or Overstock.com or Walmart

10. PetIsay Couch Guard; $12 for Four

A cat tries to scratch on a couch.
PetISay, Amazon

Even if your cat loves its scratching post, your couch may still provide a tempting place for kitty claws. Dissuade your feline friend from tearing up your upholstery with a sticky couch guard that's a cinch to put on and take off.

Buy it: Amazon

11. True Touch De-Shedding Glove; $12

A True Touch de-shedding glove
True Touch, Amazon

Cats don't always love to be brushed, but de-shedding is a necessary step to prevent both hairballs and dust bunnies. These grooming gloves may look silly, but they're astonishingly effective at removing fur. The soft rubber nubs gently massage your cat and lift away loose hair. Better yet, your cat may find it easier to warm up to the sensation of being petted with gloves than dragged with a harsh metal de-shedding brush.

Buy it: Amazon or Chewy

12. Catit Water Fountain; $24

A cat drinks out of a Catit flower-shaped water fountain.
Catit, Amazon

Cats can be notoriously finicky about their drinking water, and will often turn up their noses at any hydration station that's not up to their particular standards. One of the best ways to tempt your kitty to drink up is with a pet water fountain, which will provide a continuously refreshing stream of water rather than a stagnant bowl that might be coated with cat hair (like everything else in your home) within minutes of you filling it up. This cute fountain has three different settings—flowing, bubbling, and streaming—to please even the pickiest cats.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

13. Sherpa Pet Carrier; $32

A black mesh pet carrier
Sherpa, Amazon

Though your cat is likely to be a homebody, you'll need to take them out into the world occasionally. To keep your cat safe, secure, and calm during vet visits and travel, invest in a comfortable pet carrier. Sherpa's bags are TSA-friendly with lockable zippers and mesh siding that allows your cat to see its surroundings and feel the fresh air. The original deluxe model is collapsible for easy storage and has a rear pocket for treats, or, if you're going to the vet, that necessary fecal sample. Just make sure to measure your cat to ensure the best fit.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Hundreds of Kangaroos Roam the Green at This Australian Golf Course

burroblando/iStock via Getty Images
burroblando/iStock via Getty Images

Anglesea Golf Club has all the makings of a regular golf club: an 18-hole golf course, a mini golf course, a driving range, a clubhouse, and a bistro. But the kangaroo mobs that hop around the holes add an element of surprise to your otherwise leisurely round of one of the slowest games in sports.

Person takes photo of a kangaroo
Anglesea Golf Club

According to Thrillist, the kangaroos have been a mainstay for years, and the club started giving tours a few years ago to ensure visitors could observe them in the safest way possible. For about 25 minutes, a volunteer tour guide will drive a golf cart with up to 14 passengers around the course, sharing fun facts about kangaroos and stopping at opportune locations for people to snap a few photos of the marsupials, which are most active in late afternoon and early morning. Kangaroos are friendly creatures, but Anglesea’s website reminds visitors that “they can also be quite aggressive if they feel threatened.”

Post-graduate students and academic staff from Melbourne University’s zoology department have been researching Anglesea’s kangaroo population since 2004, and some of the animals are marked with collar and ear tags so the researchers can track movement, growth, survival, and reproduction patterns throughout their life cycle.

One of the reasons kangaroos have continued to dwell on land so highly trafficked by people is because of the quality of the land itself, National Geographic reports. The golf course staff regularly sprinkles nitrogen fertilizer all over the green, which makes the grass especially healthy.

Kangaroos graze on Anglesea Golf Course
Anglesea Golf Club

If you decide to plan a trip to Anglesea Golf Club, you can book a kangaroo tour here—adult tickets are $8.50, and children under 12 can come along for just $3.50 each.

[h/t Thrillist]

10 Surprising Facts About Shoebill Storks

MikeLane45/iStock via Getty Images
MikeLane45/iStock via Getty Images

Shoebill storks have been called the world’s most terrifying bird (though the cassowary might disagree). These stately wading birds stalk the marshes of South Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere in tropical East Africa, snatching up prey with their unique, immediately recognizable bills. But there are a lot of misconceptions about shoebill storks—the first being that they're not actually storks. Here are some more surprising facts.

1. Shoebill storks could win staring contests.

Shoebills live in the vast wetlands of the Nile watershed in eastern Africa. You really can’t mistake them for any other bird: They grow 4 to 5 feet tall, have bluish-gray plumage and an 8-plus-foot wingspan, and their bill, which takes up a majority of their face, looks like a huge Dutch wooden clog. Shoebills can stand virtually motionless for hours with their bills held down against their necks. Complemented by their golden eyes, the posture affects a very convincing death stare.

2. Shoebills may be more closely related to pelicans than storks.

Shoebill stork looking at the camera
ApuuliWorld/iStock via Getty Images

Over the past couple of centuries, naturalists have debated where shoebills should appear on the Tree of Life. Some taxonomists said that the shoebill's syrinx, or vocal organ, resembled those of herons belonging to the family Pelecaniformes, which also includes ibises, pelicans, and boobies. Others countered that herons have specialized feathers than release a powdery down to help with preening, but shoebills didn’t have these feathers, so they must be storks belonging to the family Ciconiiformes. “There is, in fact, not the shadow of a doubt that it is either a heron or a stork; but the question is, which?” zoologist Frank Evers Beddard wrote in 1905. More recent studies on the shoebill's eggshell structure and DNA have supported its place among the Pelecaniformes.

3. Shoebills poop on themselves.

Shoebills practice urohydrosis, the effective—if revolting—habit of defecating on their legs to lower their body temperature. In fact, this characteristic confused taxonomists: In the past, some felt that the shoebill’s habit placed it within the family of true storks, since all true storks also use their own droppings to cool off.

4. European naturalists were introduced to shoebills in the 1840s.

Shoebill stork
neil bowman/iStock via Getty Images

A German diplomat and explorer named Ferdinand Werne was the first European to hear about the shoebill. On his expedition in Africa to find the source of the White Nile in 1840, Werne camped at Lake No, part of a 12,000-square-mile wetland called the Sudd in what is now South Sudan. Werne’s indigenous guides told him “that they had seen an extraordinary bird, as big as a big camel, with a bill like a pelican’s, though wanting a pouch,” according to a 1908 edition of The Avicultural Magazine.

About 10 years later, a collector named Mansfield Parkyns brought two shoebill skins to England, giving British zoologists their first look at the weird bird. At an 1851 meeting of the British Zoological Society, naturalist John Gould presented a description of the shoebill based on Parkyns’s specimens and gave it the scientific name Balaeniceps rex.

5. Shoebills are also called whale-headed storks.

Balaeniceps rex means “whale-head king,” evidently a reference to its bill shape resembling the head of a baleen whale (as well as a shoe). Other names for the shoebill include the boat-bill, bog-bird, lesser lechwe-eater (referring to the shoebill’s alleged taste for lechwe, or aquatic antelope), and abu markub, or “father of a slipper” in Arabic.

6. Shoebills love lungfish.

Yum, lungfish! These air-breathing, eel-like fish grow to more than 6 feet long and comprise the shoebill’s favorite food. Shoebills also chow down on actual eels, catfish, lizards, snakes, and baby crocodiles. To catch their prey, shoebills stand still in the water and wait for an unsuspecting fish to appear. Then, the bird swiftly “collapses” on its target, spreading its wings and diving down bill-first to ambush the fish. Then, with the fish in its mouth, it decapitates it by grinding the sharp edges of its bill together.

7. Shoebills really earned their fierce reputation.

Victorian photographers learned the hard way that shoebills could be as mean as they looked. “The shoebill is capable of inflicting a very powerful bite,” 19th-century zoologist Stanley S. Flower wrote, “and is by no means a safe bird for a stranger ignorant of its ways to approach, a fact which we often have to impress on amateur photographers anxious to obtain ‘snap-shots’ of Balaeniceps at close quarters. It has been amusing to see how rapidly in some cases their enthusiasm has waned, when (as requested) confronted with the great bird screaming shrill defiance and crouching as if were about to spring, with gaping bill and half-spread wings.”

8. Shoebills have always been a rare curiosity at zoos.

Shoebill stork with its mouth open
neil bowman/iStock via Getty Images

In the 19th century, the Sudanese government made the shoebill a protected species, but that did not stop collectors from attempting to transport shoebills to zoos. Flower, then director of the Zoological Gardens in Giza, Egypt, brought three shoebills (along with four giraffes, nine antelopes, a lion, a leopard, three servals, two ostriches, two porcupines, an aardvark, five tortoises, a crocodile, and several other animals) on a train north from Khartoum to the gardens. The temperature rose to 118°F and the irritated shoebills barfed up their dinners. Their diet of fresh fish that Flower had ordered never materialized, so he resorted to feeding the birds canned shrimp. Miraculously, the birds arrived at the Zoological Gardens in one piece and survived in captivity for at least five years. Today, only a handful of zoos open to the public have shoebills, including the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic, Pairi Daiza in Belgium, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the Dallas World Aquarium.

9. Shoebills are worth thousands of dollars on the black market.

Shoebills rarely breed in captivity: In the last hundred years at least, only two chicks have hatched. In today’s zoos, all shoebills were either born there or were legally collected from the wild. Unfortunately, their scarcity and mystique have also made shoebills a sought-after bird for poachers in the illegal wildlife trade. According to Audubon magazine, private collectors in Dubai and Saudi Arabia will pay $10,000 or more for a live shoebill.

10. Shoebills are at risk of extinction.

The IUCN Redlist estimates between 3300 and 5300 mature shoebills live in the world today, and that number is decreasing. The iconic birds are threatened by a number of anthropogenic forces, including loss of their marshland habitat from farming, livestock ranching, oil and gas exploration, fires, pollution, and more. International wildlife groups and local conservationists are monitoring shoebill habitats in South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia and patrolling the sites for poaching, but much more attention is needed to protect shoebills.