5 Real-Life Horrors About Your Favorite Cartoon Characters

Mickey Mouse’s ears are almost certainly overflowing with mites and bloody from his own self-mutilation
5 Real-Life Horrors About Your Favorite Cartoon Characters

Most people can sit back and enjoy cartoons starring anthropomorphic animals. Not us. We’ve spent too many years digging through disgusting facts about every animal to enjoy movies (or, indeed, to enjoy plain day-to-day life).

So we keep thinking about how Finding Nemo's clownfish, in real life, flip sexes so they can mate with their children, how Simba and Nala are into incest too and how real-life Minions feed exclusively on human flesh. And about how... 

Mother Pandas Always Abandon One Baby

In Kung Fu Panda, Po is a panda raised by geese. He was adopted, and this is a nonissue. The movie actually jokes about what a nonissue it is — at one point, his dad sits him down to reveal something, and it seems like he’s about to address the obvious fact that Po’s adopted, but he talks about something else instead. Later in the series, Po’s origin becomes a whole story. His parents gave him up to protect him from some villain. 

Kung Fu Panda 3


Like in that Star Wars movie. Or in that other Star Wars movie. 

There’s a lot to be said about the changeling fantasy trope, the shallow wish fulfillment of imagining that you have a secretly great family and they deeply loved you even though they gave you up. But right now, we want to talk about actual pandas. Because pandas do give up their children — and not out of love. A mother panda in the wild typically gives birth to two offspring each time. One twin, for whatever reason, will be stronger than the other, and the mother will lavish all her attention on it and leave the other to die. It’s easy to see how animals would evolve such a practice: This is enforced survival-of-the-fittest. Still, it’s an ugly side of pandas, which zoos refuse to share with the public, since pandas are supposed to be adorable.

Though, the way some breeding centers respond to the problem is kind of adorable. They collect both twins and then continually switch them out, like they’re two child actors playing the same part, fooling the mother into thinking she’s raising one but making her raise both. 

Horrible Stuff Happens to Hippos’ Butts

Hey, y’all like the Madagascar movies, right? Those films made $2 billion. They might not be critically beloved in the way Disney movies are, but your kid’s guaranteed to like them, and the third one had better 3D than most blockbusters. 

The movies star such animals as Jada Pinkett Smith’s Gloria the Hippo, whose whole deal is she has a big ass. In the second movie, her story has her confronting some guy who likes her only for how huge she is. When these characters engage in ass play, keep in mind that hippo butts are gross. And no, we’re not talking about hippo poop — though, yes, some hippos poop so much they kill everything in the river. We’re talking parasites.

Gloria Madagascar


Like crabs, for instance

Hippos have leeches, which enter them not through the mouth like all the tapeworms you or I have in our guts but by crawling in through their anuses. The leeches reproduce in the rectum and then slip back out. The hippo whirls its tail while defecating to try (not wholly successfully) to keep the leeches from re-entering, and people observed this twirling for thousands of years before understanding the purpose. All of which is to say that you should avoid the hippo’s rear just as much as you avoid its front. Or, as Gloria’s IRL husband would probably put it, “Keep my wife’s ass out of your f—ing mouth!”

Mouse Ears Are Infested with Mites

Granted, mice aren’t generally known for being clean creatures. If anything, they have an undeserved reputation for filth — swarms of mice are vermin, but your own pet rodent can live cleanly. However, even the nicest mouse can harbor vermin of its own, in the form of mites. One species of mite, Liponyssoides sanguineu, is commonly known as the house mouse mite, and that’s not even one of the top two most common mites to infect mice. 

Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney Pictures

“Causing pruritus and ulcerative dermatitis! Ha Ha!”

The mites make the mouse itch, and mice aren’t exactly well adapted to gently scratching themselves. Instead, they shred their skin, focusing damage on their eyes and ears. In other words, Mickey Mouse’s iconic ears are bug ridden and also bloody from his own self-mutilation. Keep that in mind the next time you pop a Mickey Mouse ear hat on your head.

Turtles Are Covered in Salmonella

Yeah, turtles roll in rotten egg germs. That surprises us because while slimly, scaley and furry animals each repulse people in their own way, people think of a turtle shell as inanimate. But no: A turtle shall has nerve endings, and it’s a part of the turtle’s body, not a house it lives in. And the shell may indeed have a whole bunch of salmonella on it.

The salmonella doesn’t hurt the turtle at all. It can jump to humans, though, and it can definitely hurt you. 2017 gave us an outbreak of salmonella from pet turtles. Dozens of people had to be hospitalized. Also notable: People have died from salmonella they got off turtle shells. That essentially makes the vast ninja mastery of the Teenage Mutant Turtles the least lethal thing about them.

Ninja turtles


More people have fallen this decade to turtle salmonella than to actual ninjas. 

One Guy Clearing His Garden Killed All of Europe’s Rabbits

Now let’s examine the reverse of salmonella — a germ that’s harmless to humans but kills one specific animal. It’s the myxomatosis virus, and people have used it the past to kill rabbits, sometimes with disastrous results.

Warner Bros. 

“What’s up, doc?”
“Myxomatosis. It’s fatal.”

A couple times, the disaster was that it killed the rabbits as planned, but that bunnicide had side effects. In Australia, rabbits were an invasive species brought by trappers, and the country used myxomatosis to zap their numbers. The goal was to also starve the feral cats that fed on the rabbits, but the cats then just turned to other prey, messing with the food chain in all kinds of ways. Exact same thing happened on Macquarie Island

In Europe, however, rabbits were no invasive species, even if they were a pest to certain gardeners. So in 1952, when a French scientist infected some rabbits with the myxomatosis virus, he didn’t want to kill all rabbits. That would be mad. He just wanted to kill the rabbits on his estate. But the disease got out and spread wide. It killed 90 percent of all the wild rabbits in France. Then it found its way to England and killed 99 percent of the wild rabbits there.

Damn. Bugs and Judy Hopps, forget hunters and predators. You should be scared of bioterrorism. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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