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10 Nice Things You Can Do for Your Cat

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On June 4th, National Hug Your Cat Day, cat owners are encouraged to cuddle their felines—but if every day in your household is "Hug Your Cat Day," here are 10 additional ways to give your kitty extra love, attention, and care.

1. KEEP YOUR CAT'S TEETH SQUEAKY CLEAN.

A pet owner brushing his Maine Coon cat's teeth
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According to Purina, eight out of 10 felines over the age of 3 have tooth and gum problems. Since kitties get dental plaque just like humans do, some vets recommend brushing your cat's teeth—but if the idea of shoving a toothbrush inside your pet's mouth makes your arms burn with imaginary bites and scratch marks, consider using a product like ProDen PlaqueOff, a dental powder that can be added to wet or dry food. It breaks down bacterial biofilm buildup to keep your feline's mouth nice and healthy.

2. KEEP YOUR CAT ACTIVE WITH THE RIGHT TOYS.

Cat bats at feather toy.
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Some 60 percent of pet cats were overweight or obese in 2017, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Trick lazy indoor cats into getting exercise by buying them toys like Go Cat's Da Bird, which are designed to engage their natural hunting instincts. ("Every cat owner should have Da Bird," attests Mental Floss editor-in-chief and resident cat expert, Erin McCarthy.) The 3-foot teaser wand has a feathered bauble that's attached to a long string—the ornament resembles a flying bird as it bobs and twists through the air, encouraging your kitty to leap, run, and bat its way to tip-tip shape.

3. BRUSH YOUR CAT REGULARLY.

A pet owner brushing an orange cat's fur on a white bedspread.
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Cats spend around 30 to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves, but it's a good idea to give them regular brushings, too. Not only will you ensure your kitty's coat stays glossy and tangle-free, you'll also decrease the number of hair balls it gets. Both your cat and your rug will thank you.

4. BUY YOUR CAT A CLASSY NEW BED.

The Peacock Ball cat bed by Meyou Paris
Meyou Paris

Feline furniture doesn't always need to be fluffy, leopard print, or sparkly. Made by Meyou Paris, these modernist cat beds, lounges, and cocoons are marketed as "classy furnitures for discerning cats."

5. TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET FOR ANNUAL CHECKUPS.

White and gray cat looks up at a vet.
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Even if your cat is acting like its typical energetic or lazy self (there tends to be no in-between with felines), it's still important to ensure it receives regular preventative check-ups. That way, the vet can screen for new or developing conditions and treat them before they balloon into serious—and expensive—health concerns. It's also a convenient time to address lifestyle and diet, or any behavioral changes. Experts from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center recommend taking animals under 7 years old to the vet once a year, and older pets on a semi-annual basis, depending on their individual health needs.

6. MAKE SURE YOUR CAT'S LITTER BOX IS UP TO SNUFF.

Fluffy gray cat sitting in a pink litter box.
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Cats are clean animals and will typically do their business atop a prized rug if their other option is a dirty litter box. Keep your home furnishings safe—and your cat happy—by keeping their tiny bathrooms sparkling clean. (A self-cleaning litter box might be a good option for busy pet owners.) If they're refusing to use the litter box, try experimenting with different brands or makes of cat litter, or covered and uncovered boxes, to determine which types your kitty prefers.

For pet owners with multiple cats, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that they own one litter box per feline and provide them with an extra "just-in-case" box for emergencies. That way, there won't be any turf battles among your pets.

7. PROVIDE YOUR CAT WITH A CONSTANT SUPPLY OF FRESH FILTERED WATER.

Striped cat drinking from a water faucet.
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Want to treat your cat to clean, tasty water? Instead of pouring the contents of your Brita filter into its dish, opt for a bubbling water fountain with a re-circulating system and a water-softening filter, like the Catit Flower Fountain. It comes with three flow settings and is ergonomically designed for easy drinking.

8. PLAY YOUR KITTY MUSIC THAT'S SPECIALLY COMPOSED FOR CATS.

Gray kitten closes eyes while having headphones on.
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Does your cat love you, but hate your taste in music? Try playing a few tunes by David Teie, a composer who partnered with animal scientists to make the 2015 album Music for Cats. It features songs "based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats," according to Teie's website. (Don't worry, they also sound good to human ears.)

9. HELP YOUR CAT GET 'REVENGE' ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD DOG.

Kitten screams at scared-looking puppy.
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Is there a neighborhood dog whose barking terrifies your cat? Allow your kitty to "fight" back (and give its claws a workout) by providing it with a dog-shaped scratch pad.

10. TREAT YOUR KITTY TO CATNIP 'WINE.'

White and brown cat stares at a glass of white wine.
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Love cats and wine? Enjoy your favorite drink with your furry friend by giving them Apollo Peak's special catnip-laced "wine" for cats. It comes in punny flavors like "Pinot Meow" and "Moscato," but don't worry—the feline beverage is made from beets and natural preservatives, and doesn't actually contain any alcohol.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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14 Bold Facts About Bald Eagles
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Bald eagles are powerful symbols of America—but there’s a whole lot more to these quirky birds.

1. YOUNG BALD EAGLES AREN'T BALD.

A young bald eagle with a brown head on a beach.
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So obviously adult bald eagles aren't really bald, either—their heads have bright white plumage that contrasts with their dark body feathers, giving them a "bald" look. But young bald eagles have mostly brown heads. In fact, for the first four or five years of their lives, they move through a complicated series of different plumage patterns; in their second year, for instance, they have white bellies.

2. BALD EAGLES SOUND SO SILLY THAT HOLLYWOOD DUBS OVER THEIR VOICES.

A red-tailed hawk.
A red-tailed hawk's screech is usually dubbed over the bald eagle's weaker scream.
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It's a scene you’ve probably seen countless times in movies and on TV: an eagle flies overhead and emits a rough, piercing scream. It's a classic symbol of wilderness and adventure. The only problem? Bald eagles don't make that sound.

Instead, they emit a sort of high-pitched giggle or a weak scream. These noises are so unimpressive that Hollywood sound editors often dub over bald eagle calls with far more impressive sounds: the piercing, earthy screams of a smaller bird, the red-tailed hawk. If you were a fan of The Colbert Report, you might remember the show's iconic CGI eagle from the opener—it, too, is making that red-tailed hawk cry. Listen for yourself and decide who sounds more impressive.

3. THEY EAT TRASH AND STOLEN FOOD.

Two bald eagles guard their prey against two magpies on a snowy field.
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Picture a majestic bald eagle swooping low over a lake and catching a fish in its powerful claws. Yes, bald eagles eat a lot of fish—but they don't always catch it themselves. They've perfected the art of stealing fish from other birds such as ospreys, chasing them down until they drop their prey.

Bald eagles will also snack on gulls, ducks, rabbits, crabs, amphibians, and more. They'll scavenge in dumpsters, feed on waste from fish processing plants, and even gorge on carrion (dead, decaying animals).

4. BALD EAGLES USUALLY MATE FOR LIFE.

Two bald eagles perched on a tree.
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Trash and carrion aside, they're pretty romantic animals. Bald eagles tend to pair up for life, and they share parenting duties: the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs, and they both feed their young.

5. … AND THEY LIVE PRETTY LONG LIVES.

Two bald eagles sitting on a rock.
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Those romantic partnerships are even more impressive because bald eagles can survive for decades. In 2015, a wild eagle in Henrietta, New York, died at the record age of 38. Considering that these birds pair up at 4 or 5 years of age, that's a lot of Valentine's Days.

6. THEY HOLD THE RECORD FOR THE LARGEST BIRD'S NEST.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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Bald eagles build enormous nests high in the treetops. The male and female work on the nest together, and this quality time helps them cement their lifelong bond. Their cozy nurseries consist of a framework of sticks lined with softer stuff such as grass and feathers. If the nest serves them well during the breeding season, they'll keep using it year after year. And, like all homeowners, they can't resist the thought of renovating and adding to their abode. Every year, they'll spruce it up with a whopping foot or two of new material.

On average, bald eagle nests are 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. But one pair of eagles near St. Petersburg, Florida, earned the Guinness World Record for largest bird’s nest: 20 feet deep and 9.5 feet wide. The nest weighed over two tons.

7. FEMALES ARE LARGER THAN MALES.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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In many animal species, males are (on average) larger than females. Male gorillas, for example, dwarf their female counterparts. But for most birds of prey, it's the opposite. Male bald eagles weight about 25 percent less than females.

Scientists aren't sure why there's such a size difference. One reason might be the way they divide up their nesting duties. Females take the lead in arranging the nesting material, so being bigger might help them take charge. Also, they spend longer incubating the eggs than males, so their size could intimidate would-be egg thieves.

If you're trying to tell male and female eagles apart, this size difference may help you—especially since both sexes have the same plumage patterns.

8. TO IDENTIFY THEM, LOOK AT THE WINGS.

A bald eagle flies across the water.
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People often get excited about a big soaring bird and yell "It's an eagle!” just before it swoops closer and … oops, it's a vulture. Here's a handy identification tip. Bald eagles usually soar with their wings almost flat. On the other hand, the turkey vulture—another dark, soaring bird—holds its wings up in a shallow V shape called a dihedral. A lot of large hawks also soar with slightly raised wings.

9. THEY'RE COMEBACK KIDS.

Baby eagle chicks in a nest.
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Before European settlers arrived, bald eagles were abundant across the U.S. But with settlement came habitat destruction, and the settlers viewed the eagles as competition for game and as a threat to livestock. So many eagles were killed that in 1940 Congress passed an act to protect the birds.

Unfortunately, another threat rose up at about that time. Starting after World War II, farmers and public health officials used an insecticide called DDT. The chemical worked well to eradicate mosquitos and agricultural pests—but as it traveled up the food chain, it began to heavily affect birds of prey. DDT made eagle eggshells too thin and caused the eggs to break. A 1963 survey found just 471 bald eagle pairs in the lower 48 states.

DDT was banned in the early 1970s, and conservationists began to breed bald eagles in captivity and reintroduce them in places across America. Luckily, this species made a spectacular recovery. Now the lower 48 states boast over 9700 nesting pairs.

10. THEY'RE UNIQUELY NORTH AMERICAN.

An African fish eagle flies over the water.
The African fish eagle is a relative of the North American bald eagle.
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You've probably heard of America's other eagle: the golden eagle. This bird lives throughout much of the northern hemisphere. But the bald eagle is only found in North America. It lives across much of Canada and the U.S., as well as northern parts of Mexico.

Though it may be North American, the bald eagle has seven close relatives that are found throughout the world. They all belong to the genus Haliaeetus, which comes—pretty unimaginatively—from the Latin words for "sea" and "eagle." One relative, the African fish eagle, is a powerful symbol in its own right. It represents several countries; for example, it's the national symbol of Zambia, and graces the South Sudanese, Malawian, and Namibian coats of arms.

11. THEY'RE AERIAL DAREDEVILS.

A bald eagle carries a fish off in its talons.
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It seems too weird to be true: While flying, bald eagles sometimes grab each other's feet and spin while plummeting to the Earth. Scientists aren't sure why they do this—perhaps it's a courtship ritual or a territorial battle. Usually, the pair will separate before hitting the ground (as seen in this remarkable set of photographs). But sometimes they hold tight and don't let go. These two male bald eagles locked talons and hit the ground with their feet still connected. One subsequently escaped and the other was treated for talon wounds.

12. THEIR EYES ARE AMAZING.

Close-up of a bald eagle's face.
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What if you could close your eyes and still see? Besides the usual pair of eyelids, bald eagles have a see-through eyelid called a nictitating membrane. They can close this membrane to protect their eyes while their main eyelids remain open. The membrane also helps moisten and clean their eyes.

Eagles also have sharper vision than people, and their field of vision is wider. Plus, they can see ultraviolet light. Both of those things mean the expression "eagle eye" is spot-on.

13. THEY MIGRATE … SORT OF.

A bald eagle sits in a snowy tree.
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If you're a bald eagle that nests in northern Canada, you'll probably head south for the winter to avoid the punishing cold. Many eagles fly south for the winter and return north for the summer—as do plenty of other bird species (and retired Canadians). But not all bald eagles migrate. Some of them, including individuals in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, stick around all year. Whether or not a bird migrates depends on how old it is and how much food is available.

14. THEY CAN SWIM … SORT OF.

A bald eagle
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There are several videos online—like the one above—that show a bald eagle swimming in the sea, rowing itself to shore with its huge wings. Eagles have hollow bones and fluffy down, so they can float pretty well. But why swim instead of soar? Sometimes, an eagle will swoop down and grab an especially weighty fish, then paddle it to shore to eat.

Note that the announcer in the video above says that the eagle's talons are "locked" on a fish that's too heavy to carry. In fact, those lockable talons are an urban legend.

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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