The Reason Some Cats Look Like They're Wearing Socks

iStock.com/TheKoRp
iStock.com/TheKoRp

As anyone who has tried to dress a cat in a fashionable outfit knows, animals aren’t really fond of clothing. Especially boots. That’s probably why some pet owners delight in pointing out that white cat feet sometimes look as though the animal is wearing socks. Nature can do what a human cannot—give some cat breeds the appearance of wearing apparel.

But why do some cats look like they’re wearing socks? Why aren’t their feet the same color as the rest of their bodies?

Science has an answer. Specifically, piebaldism. That’s the name for a condition caused by a mutation in the KIT gene responsible for distributing melanocytes, the cells that “program” pigment throughout a cat’s body.

In the absence of piebaldism, the melanocytes are evenly distributed, giving a cat a coat of fur that’s uniform in color. But if the KIT gene is mutated, cats won't have enough of the cells to cover the entire body and the cells they do have won't be evenly spread. As a result, portions of the coat will be white.

Genetics always play a role in a cat’s coat color. In the case of Siamese cats, it’s also partially temperature-dependent. In that breed, an enzyme can suppress melanin production, and the abdomen will appear sandy in color because it’s warm. Relatively cooler extremities, like the ears, will be darker.

Remember that it's always best to enjoy your cat's natural coat. Dying it can be harmful to the cat, and trying to put actual socks on them can be harmful to you.

[h/t Popular Science]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
solarseven/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.