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20 Funniest Animal Stories of 2020

When an octopus high-fives you, is it actually a high-eight or a high-one?

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The MVPs of this crazy year

It seems like good news is few and far between in 2020, but a few hilarious animals are here to save us with their headline-making antics. It’s true that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but now we have coronavirus-sniffing pups. Yes, we live in a world where natural disasters are next-level, but it’s also a world where a rat received a medal of honor for saving hundreds of humans. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate the dog who bailed his owner out of jail. Want more? Here are the cutest critter stories from 2019.

Loyal dog springs owner from jail

When someone is arrested, it’s not uncommon for a loved one to come down and pay bail or plead for their release. And such was the case when a Dominican man was taken into custody by police for violating curfew—except his loved one was of the canine variety. As seen on a police Facebook video, the dog strolls in confidently and begs for his owner’s release. It worked. “You know why I’m going to let him go? Because anyone can come here, and that dog came and told me [the man] was his. And that’s why I’m going to let him go,” said police colonel José Francisco de la Cruz Mercedes. “This is the first time I have handed over a prisoner to a dog.” The man, for his part, reportedly promised to behave going forward. Do you have your own pooch? Brush up on these 15 everyday habits of great dog owners.

Cat accidentally becomes a god, goes viral

Clyde, a fluffy white kitty, went viral on Twitter when his owner, Amanda Hyslop, posted a photo she’d taken of him. By chance, she’d managed to catch his reflection perfectly in the window while photographing clouds, making it appear that the cloud-like cat had ascended to his rightful throne in the sky. “Took a pic of the cat lookin’ out the window and accidentally turned him into some sort of god,” she tweeted. People loved Clyde’s regal pose. He hasn’t let the 1.5 million likes go to his head, though, as Hyslop showed in a second picture of him lounging on his back in the sun. What else will make you smile? These hilarious cat memes you’ll laugh at every time.

Parrots put in time-out for cursing

Five African grey parrots—Billy, Eric, Tyson, Jade, and Elsie—recently had to be separated for “encouraging each other to swear” at patrons at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Center in the U.K. “We are quite used to parrots swearing, but we’ve never had five at the same time, and for some reason these five relish it,” Steve Nichols, the zoo’s chief executive, told the AP. People were mainly entertained by the potty-mouthed parrots. “When a parrot tells you to ‘f— off,’ it amuses people very highly; it’s brought a big smile to a really hard year,” he said. But for the sake of children, the zoo decided it was best to put the birds in separate enclosures until they can behave. Fun fact: Former U.S. president Andrew Jackson kept an obscene parrot as a pet!

Close-Up Of Pigeon Perching OutdoorsLuis Emilio Villegas Amador/EyeEm/Getty Images

Spy pigeon exonerated, set free

A Pakistani pigeon was arrested by Indian law enforcement on suspicion of being a spy. The bird flew over the contentious border and was apprehended due to a suspicious ring around its ankle printed with numbers. The numbers were actually the cell phone number of the pigeon’s owner. After a thorough investigation, the pigeon was deemed not a threat to national security and was set free. “It was just an innocent bird,” police told Reuters. But before you laugh it off, you should know that this wasn’t the first case of avian espionage in the area: In 2016, a pigeon was taken into Indian custody after it was found with a note threatening Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While we’re on the topic (sort of), check out the 9 ways you didn’t realize the government could be spying on you.

The cutest coronavirus rule enforcers ever

There’s not much that’s funny about the coronavirus pandemic and all the new rules surrounding it these days, but dogs in Finland are providing airline passengers with a dose of humor and entertainment—all while checking on their health. The dogs are trained to sniff out the coronavirus and alert their handler when a person has it. They’re remarkably accurate, and it only takes them a few seconds to smell the virus, said Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animal medicine. Hey, if we have to get screened everywhere we go, then we definitely vote for screening by pupper; it’s way more fun than a temperature gun. Here are the signs you may have already had COVID-19.

Cat vs. Monk: Who will break first?

A Thai Buddhist monk was just trying to say the (five-hour-long) prayer for New Year’s when one of the temple cats decided it needed attention right then. The orange kitty crawled all over the monk as he tried desperately not to lose concentration, delighting viewers all over the world watching this interaction stream on Facebook. The cat would not be ignored and climbed up the monk’s robe, kneaded his shoulder, and then blocked his scripture book so he would have no choice. Finally, the monk relented and gave it some pets and scritches. Respect for all living beings is a key tenet of Buddhism, and the monk later said he has a soft spot for the “fat and pampered” temple cats. These are the 17 things your cat really wants from you.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest bear of all?

Fat Bear Week, hosted every year by the Katmai Conservancy, allows the public to vote for which Alaskan bear will be the chunkiest before going into hibernation. After making a donation to a charity, people got to vote for one of the “Lardaceous Leviathan Levels Chunky Challengers.” On “Fat Bear Tuesday” (this year, it was October 6), the adipose award went to Bear 747, affectionately nicknamed Jumbo Jet. The brown bear weighs at least 1,400 pounds—something that will help him make it comfortably through the cold winter. Check out this heartwarming story of how one bear befriended a backpacker.

Toad steals shoe, woman’s heart

Jabba the toad first claimed Sita Hood’s old running shoe as her home last year, catching flies by day and lounging in comfort by night. At first, Hood thought it was a fluke and assumed the toad would hop away over the next day or two. Jabba ended up staying the entire summer before going somewhere else to hibernate. It was a cute story, but Hood was in for a big surprise when Jabba returned the following spring and jumped back into her old shoe. Hood says it’s no longer her shoe anymore but Jabba’s home. She even made a sign for the amphibian so people wouldn’t accidentally dump her out. “Donating my shoe was no big deal,” Hood told the Dodo. “If it afforded her comfort or protection, why not?” These 13 unlikely animal adoptions will melt your heart.

Portrait of cute weimaraner dog breed at the park.romaset/Getty Images

Dog makes the most memorable moment at a wedding

Weddings are about love, sure, but after that, they’re all about commemorating the event through pictures that will encapsulate the couple’s special day. Freya decided to do just that when her human parents brought her to their wedding. She was an adorable usher, but then, in the middle of the ceremony, nature called and she did what dogs do: She pooped on the lawn. The photographer accidentally captured the event mid-squat, as Freya was framed by the bridal party. People thought it was hilarious and gave her a round of applause when she finished her business. While what Freya did was a little rude, you should avoid these 15 rude habits of dog owners.

Octopus In ActionNikos Stavrinidis/500px/Getty Images

Octopus shakes rescuer’s hand

An Egyptian couple found an octopus stranded on a beach and decided to move it back to deeper waters. It looked near death, and they were worried about their new friend, so they went back to check on it the next day, only to discover it was alive and well. Perhaps the octopus had been looking for them, too, because for the next hour, it followed them along the beach, occasionally reaching out a tentacle to “shake hands” (or high-one?). After appropriately thanking its rescuers, it headed back out to sea. Do you know these 27 “facts” about animals that are actually all wrong?

Giant rat wins medal of honor

When British charity PDSA announced the winner of the Gold Medal, its top civilian award, people were surprised—mostly because the winner wasn’t a person at all, but a giant African pouched rat. Magawa was awarded the high honor for his diligent work searching out unexploded land mines in Cambodia. The nearly three-pound rat was presented with a tiny gold medal and commended for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion” after discovering 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordinance in the past seven years, according to the charity. They also noted that when Magawa’s not saving lives, he enjoys snacking on peanuts and bananas and napping. Same, Magawa, same.

Close-Up Portrait Of Black CatGabriel Vergani/EyeEm/Getty Images

Cat breaks the Internet with an epic game of hide-and-seek

Jet-black cat Chiquinho has a superpower: hiding in plain sight. And people love playing hide-and-seek with him. When his mom, Alessandra Ribeiro, posted a picture of her kitchen on social media, asking people if they could spot the cat, the whole Internet went crazy trying to find him. Need a hint? He’s actually fully visible in the photo—not hiding in or under anything. “He loves being sneaky,” Ribeiro said. “We are sometimes surprised by the places he hides.” Learn the 15 signs your cat is secretly mad at you.

Chipmunk gets student a free pass out of class

Just before logging onto a Zoom class, Mackenzie Leedy spotted a chipmunk swimming in his pool. But it didn’t look like the little guy was freestyling for fun, and Leedy saw that he was starting to sink. Calling him “buddy,” he rescued him with a pool skimmer. But Buddy wasn’t out of the woods (er, pool area) yet and was shaking uncontrollably, rolled over on his back. Leedy wrapped him up in a towel and brought him walnuts. After showing Buddy to the class, his teacher took pity on him and let him go early to care for the chipmunk. Finally, the sun came out, and after eating a few nuts, the little guy was back on his way. “Every time I see a chipmunk, I kinda hope it’s him,” Leedy told the Dodo.

Dog proves that sometimes you just gotta be you

There’s always one person in every group picture who has to do their own thing, and the same is true for Shiba Inu siblings Hina, Sasha, Kikko, and Momo. Their human mom, Yoko Kikuchi, loves to take pictures of all four dogs lined up, but in every portrait, it seems like Hina is pulling a face or doing some pose that is completely opposite from her siblings. She’s definitely the spirit animal for some people we know. Love your doggo? Make sure you know the 15 things you do that your dog actually hates.

Monkeying around with a cell phone

Zackrydz Rodzi, a 20-year-old Malaysian man, plugged in his phone before going to sleep only to find the device missing the next morning. There were no signs of a break-in, and he had no idea who could have taken it. After his father mentioned that he had seen a monkey hanging around nearby, Rodzi searched the forest behind his house and found the phone buried in some mud. His uncle joked that maybe the monkey just wanted to take some selfies, so Rodzi checked the photo gallery. “I was shocked. The suspect’s face was plastered on the screen. It was hilarious,” he told the AP. No word on whether the ape mastered the “fish lips” pout or how to work his angles.

Peek a Boo_Rat SnakeMadans Click/Getty Images

Snake wins at tag

Opening the front door of her Mississippi home, Christina Mitchell was surprised by a thump and something landing on her head. That something turned out to be a 10-inch rat snake that had dived off a plant over the door frame and tagged her “it.” Unlike most people, Mitchell didn’t panic and instead simply ushered the snake back outside. “He tried to bite at my broom whenever I put him outside. He probably thought that was really rude. We kind of had a stare-down,” she told the Enterprise-Journal. Is she up for round two of snakey tag? Absolutely. “I actually really like snakes. I think they’re fascinating,” she said. “I’ll just open my door really slowly from now on.” Can you spot the camouflaged snakes in these 10 pictures?

Doggo with posh standards invites himself to dinner

Who doesn’t prefer a relaxed dining experience? Murphy, a dog who belongs to Audrey Waito, certainly does. Waito posted a TikTok video of Murphy very carefully carrying his dinner bowl from the kitchen to the living room and jumping up on the couch—without spilling a single kibble—then settling in to veg out and snack. Waito says that Murphy got the idea from watching her and her daughter eat on the couch and decided that if they got to be comfy while eating, then so did he. Now it’s a tradition to eat together as a family.

Lions earn their keep selling their poop

Excrement from lions, tigers, and other big cats makes for an excellent pest deterrent—according to a German circus that is now selling jars of feline feces for 5 euros each. The circus can’t currently operate due to the pandemic, so they opened the pop-up poop shop as a way to keep their 26 lions and tigers fed and sheltered. Lion tamer Martin Lacey says happy customers have reported that it not only keeps small animals away from gardens and electrical cables, but it also works well for human pests. “Put some in the garden, and the neighbors will go away,” he jokingly told Reuters. Here are some other ways coronavirus is affecting the world’s endangered animals.

Orange, red and black rooster of colors, breed of natural form and at liberty in the field. island of Terceira, Azores, Portugal.Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

Diva rooster moves in, now runs home

It’s not uncommon to hear about wildlife wandering onto someone’s property. But a rooster? Strutting in through the front door? Yet, that’s exactly what Ronnie did at the Sanders family home. Once inside, he decided he was there to stay and was going to rule the roost—usually from his perch on the ceiling fan. “I instantly fell in love with him,” dad Chaz told the Dodo. “He follows us around like a dog and loves attention. He basically took over and now does whatever he wants.” And, yes, that includes waking up the whole house at dawn every day.

Who’s your new buddy? Oh, wait…

In a charming-turned-alarming video posted on social media, Zabelê, a Blue Heeler, brings a new friend over to play. From a distance, it appears to be a black Lab, but as the pair approaches, it becomes clear it is a jaguar. The two have actually been friends for a while, with Zabelê acting as a nanny of sorts to Luna, starting when she was a tiny kitten brought to the Instituto Onça-Pintada Reserve in Brazil, explains biologist Leandro Silveira. The pair bonded, and the doggo takes care of the jaguar—now much larger than herself—as if she were her own baby. Here’s how one dog saved a human relationship.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.