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He calls himself Big Cat Derek, and he makes some of the Internet's most addictive Vines.

Meet the man who made a cougar Internet-famous. Like, an actual cougar.

He calls himself Big Cat Derek, and he makes some of the Internet's most addictive Vines.

In 2014, a cougar named Cassie started an Internet trend when, despite being told not to, she just couldn't keep from squeaking.

Cassie gives zero flips and doesn't even try. All images and Vines via Big Cat Derek.

Big cat and not-so-big cat lovers everywhere followed suit, making Vines to show off their cats' cheeky lack of cooperation and using the hashtag #trynottosqueak.


Big Cat Derek is the man responsible for Cassie's fame. He lives at a cat sanctuary and keeps a three-legged llama in his backyard.

Nearly a million people follow his hilarious Vines of animals who live at the Center for Animal Research and Education. Derek Krahn — known among social media as Big Cat Derek — has loved tigers since he was little, so when the opportunity arose to volunteer at CARE, he was floored.

“I fortuitously stumbled upon an opportunity to become a volunteer at the facility, and they couldn't get rid of me after that point," he said.

An aviation meteorologist by day and a badass volunteer big cat advocate and caregiver by night, Derek has been with the foundation since 2006 and is now on their board of directors. He even met his wife — human, not cat — there.

Baby lions really love Derek. And not in the "love him for dinner" kind of way.

Upworthy asked Big Cat Derek to share some of his stories about the totally #dorbs cats he interacts with every day.

You've started a lot of trends on social media. Which of your videos went viral first?

Derek: It was our tiger, Levi, and he was just walking around in the snow, and the snow was muffling his steps, and how he was moving and how he approached the camera was a beautiful shot. I remember thinking to myself when I first shot that video that it was a special one.

This is one freaking majestic animal.

And then you had your biggest trend, "Try not to squeak."

Derek: Cassie was quickly becoming one of my biggest Vine stars — I call them the “celebrikitties." Almost every single squeak ... in a Vine is taken within the first 40 seconds of me approaching her enclosure because that's when she's excited. So I walked up to the enclosure and said, "Try not to squeak," and of course she did. And it was a hit!

It's adorable every. single. time. #cassie #trynottosqueak

I try to capture the different personalities of the cats because I've been working with the cats for almost a decade. Pawi (Kannapalli) has this kind of Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" air about him, and he's a little bit derpy and a little bit feisty.

Derp.

Each cat is very different. When I do Vines of them or I do posts of them, it's not just like, "Hey look at this beautiful tiger," but rather, “Hey, look at Chompers, and here are moments of Chomper's personality," and people relate.

Luca's always been a bit of a shithead! The jokes kind of capture him perfectly.

Ba-dum-tssss. #LucaJokes

It's a cool thing — you aren't just seeing this generic animal; you're seeing this creature with its own personality.

So ... big cats in the middle of Texas? This isn't a natural habitat for lions and tigers. How does this happen?

Derek: Many of the other cats have been rescued from … less than savory circumstances. A lot of them come from people who had them as pets that obviously shouldn't have them as pets. People have these romantic notions about a lion or a tiger living in their house, and they don't really think it all the way through; they don't know exactly what they're getting into. Our organization is set up to provide a stable, permanent, and loving home for these animals.

Happy big cats, livin' in Texas, roamin' around.

Can you tell me a story about how one particular cat wound up at CARE?

Derek: I can tell you about Tabula, she's one of our lionesses. She actually came in 2008.

There was a private collector up in Midland who had about a dozen or so lions and tigers living in these really ramshackle cages out in his backyard, and they were these really small, tight spaces. She was declawed when she first came over to CARE, and she was accustomed to living in a cage of about 10 by 10 feet, and she'd been living in that cage for close to a decade. ...

When she first got to CARE, the enclosure was spacious and big and there was grass and there were blue skies and it was overwhelming, and she lost her cookies. She hid underneath a wooden housing unit for about three weeks.

Eventually, she started to come out of her shell, lose weight, and approach the fence to actually show affection. She's a lot better off than she was, that's for sure.

Derek + Tabula = <3

People who get these animals as pets and then they declaw them, that's pretty brutal. That comes from the idea that it makes these cats safer, and in a lot of ways, it actually makes them more dangerous. Anyone who works with big cats should know the phrase “claws hurt, teeth kill," and if you take away the “hurt" set of weapons, the only thing that's left is the “kill" set of weapons.

And then the added detriment to the well-being of the animals themselves — you're talking wild animals that weigh 400, 500, 600 pounds that now have to hold themselves on portions of their paws that aren't normally being utilized for sustaining lots of weight like that. … I've seen a lot of cats that have experienced difficulties as they've gotten older; they've become a lot more arthritic too, even, with some of the cats literally having years shaved off of their lives because of the way that they're holding their bodies. We've never declawed any of our cats. The only cats that are declawed are the ones that come to the facility already declawed.

Any final thoughts?

Derek: I'm going to keep on doing this as long as my body will let me! You look at a lot of these Vines on social media. There are a lot of people on social media who have a tailored approach. Yes, my content revolves around big cats because, you know, I'm called Big Cat Derek, but sometimes it's going to be funny, sometimes it's going to be educational, sometimes it's going to be condemning things that I find to be bad, sometimes it's going to be me putting my heart and my feeling and my emotions out there.

NOTE: While these cuddly lion cubs and baby tigers are adorable, remember that a 500-pound wild beast with dangerous #peets and giant teeth does not make a good pet. Instead of taking in a stray leopard, why not try virtually adopting one of CARE's cats?

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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