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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.

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?

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

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Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

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