Do Big Cats Love Catnip, Too?

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You bet they do!

In the 1970s, zoologists from the University of Tennessee and the Knoxville Zoological Park gave catnip and smooth rocks sprayed with catnip extract to 33 of the park's big cats to see what they’d do. The responses were mostly positive.

The park’s lions and jaguars reacted most strongly to the catnip, even at very low doses. Both the males and females of these species responded the same way, but reproductive-age animals were more sensitive than either cubs, immature adults, or very old animals. 

Tigers, cougars, and bobcats, meanwhile, reacted less strongly, and the park's two cheetahs never even approached the catnip or control objects. The researchers noted that the animals that responded to the catnip aren’t ones that would normally encounter it in the wild, since the catnip plant is native to North America and Europe. Except for the cheetahs, the cats that didn’t respond as much would encounter catnip in their natural habitat, and the researchers thought that the difference in the species’ reactions might be because of the plant's novelty, or lack thereof. 

The animals that did respond to the catnip reacted in much the same way that domestic cats do—sniffing and licking the catnip or sprayed rocks, rubbing their chins and cheeks on it or rolling over and rubbing their body on it. The big difference the researchers found in responses was that, while domestic cats will usually respond to catnip for up to 15 minutes and then take an hour or so of “reset time” before responding again, the big cats’ response can last an hour or more and they show the same response if they lose interest and then return to the catnip just a few minutes later. 

Check out some of these big cats playing with catnip below.

Does Washing Your Fruits and Vegetables Really Do Anything?

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Washing produce is one of those habits that some people follow religiously and others shrug off altogether. If you're someone who struggles to find the motivation to cook in the first place, you might fall into the latter group. But cleaning your fruits and vegetables at home isn't just an outdated precaution: As Popular Mechanics reports, a thorough rinse could mean the difference between a meal that nourishes you and one that leaves you sick.

Produce is one common carrier of norovirus—a foodborne viral infection that triggers such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There's no way to know whether your lettuce is contaminated with harmful bacteria before it hits your plate, but cleaning it with plain tap water does make it safer to eat. According to USA Today, rinsing produce is effective enough to remove 90 percent of the pathogens left on it by the growing, harvesting, and shipping process. Rinsing is also a good way to remove any of the visible matter you don't want eat, such as grit and soil.

Cleaning your fruits and vegetables is definitely an improvement over eating them straight from your crisper drawer, but be warned that this isn't a foolproof way to avoid food poisoning. Water won't remove all the microbes living on the surface of your food, and even an extremely thorough rinse isn't enough to make produce contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria like E. coli safe to eat. But that doesn't mean the risk outweighs the benefits of including produce in your diet.

If you have a pile of veggies that need to be prepared for dinner, the best way to make them safer for consumption is to rinse them under cold water and rub them in a bowl of water, starting with the cleanest items and progressing to the produce that's more soiled. Give all the food a final rinse before moving it to the cutting board. Peeling the outside of your produce and cooking it when possible is another effective way to kill or remove stubborn bacteria.

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What's the Difference Between Pigeons and Doves?

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To the layman, the difference between pigeons and doves has something to with color, maybe. Or location. Or general appeal (doves usually get much better press than pigeons do). But what’s the actual, scientific difference between doves and pigeons?

As it turns out, there isn’t one. Paul Sweet, the collection manager for the department of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, says the difference is more linguistic than taxonomic.

“The word dove is a word that came into English from the more Nordic languages, whereas pigeon came into English from French,” Sweet tells Mental Floss.

Both dove and pigeon refer to the 308 species of birds from the Columbidae family, Sweet says. There’s no difference between a pigeon and a dove in scientific nomenclature, but colloquial English tends to categorize them by size. Something called a dove is generally smaller than something called a pigeon, but that’s not always the case. A common pigeon, for example, is called both a rock dove and a rock pigeon.

“People just have their own classification for what makes them different,” Sweet says. “So in the Pacific, for example, the big ones might get called pigeons and the smaller ones might be called doves, but they’re actually more closely related to each other than they are to other things in, say, South America, that are called pigeons and doves.”

The difference boils down to linguistic traditions, so feel free to tell people you’re releasing pigeons at your wedding or that you’re feeding doves in the park. Scientifically speaking, you’ll be correct either way.

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