TIME animals

This Man Turned His Home Into a Purr-fect Playground for Cats

He calls it the House of Nekko, meaning cat in Japanese

A builder from Goleta, Calif., has spent the past two decades converting his house into a kitty playground.

Peter Cohen spent tens of thousands of dollars building an elaborate home filled with colorful catwalks, hideouts, ramps and tunnels for his 15 rescue cats, the Huffington Post reports.

“I never intended to have so many,” he told the website Catster in an interview last year. “It is way too expensive and a tad too much work.”

Despite the expense, Cohen and his roommate are happy that they’ve built a safe and fun, and also very bright, feline haven.

“They give us unconditional love, and building the catwalks is one way of expressing my gratitude for that,” he said.

[Huffington Post]

TIME animals

Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be Released in Florida

Jason Garcia
Wilfredo Lee—AP Jason Garcia, a field inspector with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, tests a sprayer that could be used in the future to spray pesticides to control mosquitos in Key West, Fla., on Oct. 4, 2012

"This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease"

Scientists could release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in an attempt to kill off insects that spread the diseases dengue and chikungunya — if their proposal wins regulatory approval.

The male mosquitoes, created by British biotech firm Oxitec, are engineered to keep their partners from producing offspring when they mate in the wild, the Sun Sentinel reports. The number of mosquitoes capable of spreading the diseases would be reduced if enough wild mosquitoes mate with the genetically modified population.

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told the Sun Sentinel.

Despite the benefits of reducing incidences of dengue and chikungunya, two viral diseases that cause a number of uncomfortable conditions, many are wary about releasing genetically modified organisms into the wild. More than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition opposing the release of the mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.

[Sun Sentinel]

TIME animals

This Baby Beaver Snacking on Grapes Is Your Moment of Zen for Today

Snack time

Starting to feel bad about slacking on your New Year’s resolution to be healthy? Just watch this tiny beaver named Hazel quietly munch on some grapes in a video produced by Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., and you’ll be persuaded to get back on track. Fruit seems to be a change of pace from beavers’ typical diet in the wild of bark and twigs. But Hazel’s clear love of grapes should inspire us all to ditch the junk food for a healthier choice.

TIME Videos

Go Nuts With These 7 Cute Videos for Squirrel Appreciation Day

Squirrel mania

One of life’s greatest ironies is that Squirrel Appreciation Day comes in the dead of winter when many squirrels are hibernating, which makes them harder to appreciate (but easier to juggle). Luckily we live in the age of the Internet and we can appreciate their adorable antics any time we want.

In honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day and the world’s fuzzy, nut-loving little friends, here are some of the funniest squirrel videos around:

While human children think merry-go-rounds are a blast, this squirrel has given up on his dream of resuming his normal life:

This squirrel is doing an impression of anyone who made the grave error of signing up for a pole dancing class:

This squirrel is either having a blast—or regretting ever decision it’s ever made to get to this point in its life:

Here’s a flying squirrel who mistook a bird feeder for an all-you-can-eat Sizzler buffet:

This squirrel ate some fermented pumpkins, which is basically a squirrel kegger:

Here’s a water-skiing squirrel, who has more skills than animals with opposable thumbs:

It’s hard to say who is more confused in this video—the Bernese Mountain dog or the squirrel trying to bury his nut in the dog’s fur:


TIME animals

This Orangutan Has Learned to Talk (Kind Of)

But don't worry, Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't about to happen anytime soon

Researchers from Indianapolis Zoo and the University of Amsterdam have found that at least one orangutan living in captivity can produce sounds that qualify as “faux speech.”

The orangutan in question is 50-year-old Tilda, a Bornean female who resides at the Cologne Zoo in Germany. Researchers have discovered that she can produce consonant and vowel sounds in order to communicate with her keepers at feeding time, USA Today reports.

When she sees her keepers, Tilda claps her hands, emits a series of clicks or produces low guttural sounds. While the rapid sounds are unintelligible to humans, researchers were surprised to learn that the speechlike rhythms are deliberate.

“[It is] perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence thus far that great apes are capable of vocal learning, that is, that they exert sufficient control over all the elements of their vocal tract in sufficient degree to learn how to produce new calls from humans,” said Adriano Lameira, the study’s lead author.

Scientists now question what are the learning processes involved and whether other orangutans could master similar skills.

[USA Today]

TIME animals

This Video of a Seal Hugging a Dog Will Warm Your Heart

Cute overload alert

Animal lovers, try to contain your enthusiasm as you watch this seal scoot right up to a yellow labrador and put its front flippers around the canine. The marine mammal pats the dog on the back and rests its head on top of it in an adorable clip shot at Le Cap Ferret on the coast of southwestern France and uploaded earlier this month by YouTube user Elise Frebourg.

It is the latest in unlikely animal “friendships” to go viral, from a meerkat and a husky, a cheetah and a puppy and an owl and a cat.

WATCH: Incredibly Amicable Meerkat Becomes Best Friends With a Husky

WATCH: Here’s an Ocelot Kitten Having the Time of His Life Playing With His Best Canine Friend


TIME animals

Watch this Paddle Boarder’s Encounter with a Pod of Orcas

The frolicsome killer whales even dive under his board

A videographer from Laguna Beach, Calif., fulfilled a lifelong dream recently when he managed to film a pod of wild orcas playing and swimming around his paddle board.

Rich German has uploaded a host of videos of the sea life around his hometown but always wanted to capture some orcas, more commonly known as killer whales, KPCC reports.

This wish was finally fulfilled when five whales converged on his board not far from Long Beach. “I was too excited to be scared,” he said.


TIME Viral video

This Rat Hates Broccoli More Than You Do

Broccoli is for the birds

Dexter the rat hates broccoli.

In this video making the rounds of the web, the furry little rodent makes his opinion about the dreaded green stuff abundantly clear—not only does he not want to eat it, he doesn’t even want to be in the same room as it. The only way Dexter’s rejection of the little cruciferous could be more adorable is if he had a French bulldog puppy to pass it off to.

Perhaps his owner should point out that eating more vegetables can increase your longevity, that broccoli sprouts can help with autism, broccoli can ease arthritis, and that it is very high in calcium? Or maybe they should try a different cooking technique altogether to convince the little guy that broccoli is a delicious snack. Cheese, perhaps?

Don’t tell his starving subway rat brethren, because they probably aren’t too good for free food—even if it is broccoli.

[H/T Reddit]

TIME Food & Drink

This Is America’s First Dog Café

Getty Images

Customers could stop by for a cup of Joe or a tail-wagging furry friend

Cat cafés are so 2014. Of all the restaurant trends last year, few seemed to get as much press as the fervor surrounding feline-friendly coffee shops. But 2015 is shaping up to be the Year of the Dog.

“The Dog Café,” as it is quite simply named, hopes to open in Los Angeles as America’s first dog café. The project is the brainchild of Sarah Wolfgang who has worked at animal shelters in the States and in Korea.

A dog café is not much different than its cat counterpart. Customers can come in for a coffee or tea knowing that plenty of furry friends will be around to brighten their spirits. All of Wolfgang’s dogs will be up for adoption as well, though you’re not required to grab a new pet with your latte. “The Dog Café’s mission is simple. We want to provide a second chance for shelter dogs that are often overlooked,” she told LA Weekly. “The Dog Café is going to put a spin on the way people adopt by totally reinventing the way we connect with homeless dogs.”

As with cat cafés, Wolfgang’s spot has some restrictions. Because of health code regulations, the service area and dog area have to be separated, meaning even those who aren’t looking to have their leg humped can still get their daily caffeine fix. But even buying a cup of coffee is dog-friendly: the beans come from Grounds & Hounds Coffee, a local roaster that donates 20 percent of profits to a local shelter.

Like pretty much every project on planet Earth right now, The Dog Café is currently in the crowdfunding stage. Wolfgang is hoping to raise $200,000 via an Indiegogo campaign. No projected opening date appears to be given for the café, though as of this writing, the funding is still far short of its goal.

For the record, 2015 is technically the Year of the Sheep, but I don’t foresee any sheep cafés in the near future.

[h/t First We Feast]

This article originally appeared on FWx.com.

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TIME animals

This X-ray Shows How Hamsters Can Fit So Much Food in Their Tiny Cheeks

From the BBC documentary Pets Wild At Heart

Thanks to the Internet, we’ve seen tiny hamsters eat tiny burritos, tiny pizzas and tiny Thanksgiving dinners. We’ve even seen tiny hamsters best competitive eating champion Kobayashi in a food face-off and watch them feast in a tiny mansion. But what is going on inside their tiny heads and tiny mouths while they eat those giant meals?

A recent BBC documentary takes you inside a hamster’s mouth via x-ray, revealing what is happening inside that tiny head while it fills its cheeks with those burritos, pizzas or whatever else it is having for lunch. The documentary, Pets Wild At Heart, which is narrated by once-and-future Doctor Who David Tennant, explains that hamsters come equipped with built-in travel coolers — incredibly stretchy cheek pouches that stretch all the way down to their hips. The cute little rodents can also turn off their saliva glands, which means they can preserve their fancy feasts for any time they are feeling peckish. That probably explains why hamsters aren’t allowed anywhere near the Sizzler salad bar.

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