It's been a wonderful year for animals. Canine actor Uggie (of The Artist fame) became the first dog to put its paw prints in cement on the Hollywood hall of fame. Marine biologists learnt whales may be able to mimic human voices.

2012 has seen unlikely animal friends, real-life cat burglars, jumping goats and photobombing huskies. We met the most adorably grumpy cat and saw dogs that could drive cars (yes, really).

The year got off to an adorable start with a collective aaaaahhh as baby polar bears were photographed coming out of hibernation in Churchill, Canada.

These images show the intimate relationship between polar mothers and their young as they emerge from their winter snow dens. Take a look at the stunning pictures by photographer Steve Bloom (article continues below.)

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This year was the year in which we discovered how amazingly cute sloths were, with the hit documentary about a sanctuary of charismatically sleepy sloths crawling over to UK screens. The documentary maker of 'Meet the Sloths' Lucy Cooke, described the creatures as "cute crack." We can't help but agree.


Sloths: the equivalent of "cute crack"

Uggie deserves a special shout out for his services to canine kind. The doggy actor has hung up his leash in showbusiness, but what a year to go out on.

The star of the Golden Collar awards, which rewards Hollywood hounds, Uggie also brought home the bacon at the Pawscar Awards, for animal actors. Big shout out to Uggie's "Artist" stand-ins too. His brother Dash and another Jack Russell named Dude accompanied the celeb canine to many of his high-profile outings.

The Jack Russell put his pawprints outside famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as Councilman Tom LaBonge declared it "Uggie Day" in June. And let's not forget the panache with which he wears his impressive collection of bow ties.

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  • Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' puts his paw into cement as he is honored with a hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' is honored at his hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' puts his feet in cement as he is honored with a hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' holds up his paw after pressing it into cement as he is honored with a hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A videographer gets a shot of Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' as he arrives on the red carpet for his hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Uggie, the dog who starred in the Academy Award-winning film 'The Artist,' poses on the red carpet at his hand and paw print ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, June 25, 2012. The ceremony marked Uggie's retirement from acting. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Uggie, the dog from the film "The Artist"

    Uggie, the dog from the film 'The Artist' and his understudy Dash (R) ham it up for photographers as they arrives for the first annual Golden Collar Awards, February 13, 2012 at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, California. The Golden Collar Awards celebrates "Best Achievement in Acting" by Hollywood's canine actors in five different categories. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie, the dog from the film "The Artist"

    Uggie, the dog from the film 'The Artist' and his understudy Dash (R) ham it up for photographers as they arrives for the first annual Golden Collar Awards, February 13, 2012 at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, California. The Golden Collar Awards celebrates "Best Achievement in Acting" by Hollywood's canine actors in five different categories. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Owner Omar von Muller with his dog Uggie

    Owner Omar von Muller with his dog Uggie, from the film, 'The Artist,' accept the award for Best Dog in a Theatrical Film at the first annual Golden Collar Awards, February 13, 2012 at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, California. The Golden Collar Awards celebrates ěBest Achievement in Actingî by Hollywoodís animal actors in film and television. Awards are presented in five canines categories. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie, the dog from the film "The Artist"

    Uggie, the dog from the film 'The Artist', arrives at the first annual Golden Collar Awards, February 13, 2012 at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, California. The Golden Collar Awards celebrates "Best Achievement in Acting" by Hollywood's canine actors in five different categories. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie, the dog from the film "The Artist"

    Uggie, the dog from the film 'The Artist', arrives at the first annual Golden Collar Awards, February 13, 2012 at the Century Plaza Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles, California. The Golden Collar Awards celebrates "Best Achievement in Acting" by Hollywood's canine actors in five different categories. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Inaugural Presentation Of The LA City Council's "Made In Hollywood" Commendation Presented To "The Artist"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Director Michel Hazanavicius, actors Jean Dujardin, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Uggie the dog attend the Inaugural presentation of the Los Angeles City Council's 'Made in Hollywood' commendation presented to the cast of 'The Artist' at Red Studios on January 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Inaugural Presentation Of The LA City Council's "Made In Hollywood" Commendation Presented To "The Artist"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Uggie the dog and actress Missi Pyle attend the Inaugural presentation of the Los Angeles City Council's 'Made in Hollywood' commendation presented to the cast of 'The Artist' at Red Studios on January 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Inaugural Presentation Of The LA City Council's "Made In Hollywood" Commendation Presented To "The Artist"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Actors Jean Dujardin, Uggie the dog and Penelope Ann Miller attend the Inaugural presentation of the Los Angeles City Council's 'Made in Hollywood' commendation presented to the cast of 'The Artist' at Red Studios on January 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Inaugural Presentation Of The LA City Council's "Made In Hollywood" Commendation Presented To "The Artist"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Actors Jean Dujardin, Uggie the dog and Penelope Ann Miller attend the Inaugural presentation of the Los Angeles City Council's 'Made in Hollywood' commendation presented to the cast of 'The Artist' at Red Studios on January 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Inaugural Presentation Of The LA City Council's "Made In Hollywood" Commendation Presented To "The Artist"

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Actor Jean Dujardin and Uggie the dog attend the Inaugural presentation of the Los Angeles City Council's 'Made in Hollywood' commendation presented to the cast of 'The Artist' at Red Studios on January 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Uggie the dog sits up at a ceremony honoring "The Artist"

    Uggie the dog sits up at a ceremony honoring the cast and crew of 'The Artist' with the "Made In Hollywood" honor, January 31, 2012 at RED Studios in Hollywood, California. Parts of 'The Artist' were filmed at RED Studios. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie the dog sits to the side

    Uggie the dog sits to the side as director Michel Hazanavicius (L) and actors Jean Dujardin (C) and Missi Pyle (R) attend a ceremony honoring the cast and crew of 'The Artist' with the "Made In Hollywood" honor, January 31, 2012 at RED Studios in Hollywood, California. Parts of 'The Artist' were filmed at RED Studios. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie the dog yawns as he sits in front of Jean Dujardin

    Uggie the dog yawns as he sits in front of actor Jean Dujardin at a ceremony honoring the cast and crew of 'The Artist' with the "Made In Hollywood" honor, January 31, 2012 at RED Studios in Hollywood, California. Parts of 'The Artist' were filmed at RED Studios. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Actor Jean Dujardin (R) gets a kiss from Uggie

    Actor Jean Dujardin (R) gets a kiss from Uggie the dog, held by actress Missi Pyle, at a ceremony honoring the cast and crew of 'The Artist' with the "Made In Hollywood" honor, January 31, 2012 at RED Studios in Hollywood, California. Parts of 'The Artist' were filmed at RED Studios. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building with his trainer Omar von Muller on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • Uggie Visits The Empire State Building

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 24: Uggie, a Jack Russell Terrier, visits The Empire State Building on January 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)

  • The Weinstein Company's 2012 Golden Globe Awards After Party - Arrivals

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Uggie from The Artist arrives at The Weinstein Company's 2012 Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • The Weinstein Company's 2012 Golden Globe Awards After Party - Arrivals

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Actor James Cromwell and Uggie arrive at The Weinstein Company's 2012 Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Producer Thomas Langmann, actress Missi Pyle, Uggie the Dog, actor Jean Dujardin, and director Michel Hazanaviciu pose in the press room with the Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy award for 'The Artist' at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Uggie the Dog from 'The Artist' poses in the press room at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Uggie the Dog from 'The Artist' poses in the press room at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Uggie the Dog from 'The Artist' poses in the press room at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Uggie the Dog from 'The Artist' arrives at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • Screening Of The Weinstein Company's "The Artist" - Red Carpet

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Uggie the dog arrives to a special screening of The Weinstein Company's 'The Artist' at AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater on November 21, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Uggie At AFI Fest

    (Files) Picture taken on November 8, 2011 shows dog 'Uggie' on arrival for the Gala screening of 'The Artist', it is co- starring, during AFI Fest 2001 in southern California. The trick-performing terrier, who saves his master's life in the black and white film which won three Golden Globes and is hoping for Oscars glory, was nominated Wednesday for a newly-minted Golden Collar award from Dog News Daily. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AFI FEST 2011 Presented By Audi - "The Artist" Special Screening - Red Carpet

    HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Uggie the dog arrives at 'The Artist' Special Screening during AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi on November 8, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI)

  • AFI FEST 2011 Presented By Audi - "The Artist" Special Screening - Arrivals

    HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Uggie the dog arrives at 'The Artist' Special Screening during AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi on November 8, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for AFI)

In July, a good news story that warmed our hearts was the rescue of an unwanted three-week-old kitten from a recycling bin.

The female tortoiseshell kitten was thrown into a bin full of cardboard, which was then emptied into the back of a waste truck.

As the truck's crusher began operating, two bin men heard her cries and immediately stopped the mechanism.

rescued kitten

The tiny kitten was saved by workers almost at the last moment

The men, who were completing their round on Cornwall Street in Plymouth, Devon, then saw the tiny kitten fall from the crusher's blades. She was named Lucky and was unharmed in the incident.

A trio of dogs learnt how to drive in a clip released by New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in some of most smile-inducing footage ever seen.

The gist of the campaign was to show rescue dogs may have been abandoned, abused and forgotten, but they're still smart. Take a look at the video here.

dog driving car

His mother chased cars... now he drives them

Also honoured in 2012 was a family feline called Jessi-Cat, who was named as Cat of the Year by Cats Protection after helping a little boy with an anxiety disorder to utter the words "I love you".

jessicat and lorcan

Forever friends: Lorcan Dillon and Jessi-Cat

Badgers were given a reprieve late in 2012, after questions over the cost and effectiveness of a pilot cull. Rufus the hawk also had a close call, after being stolen from Wimbledon.

Harris Hawk Rufus, who deters pigeons from the All England Club, was stolen along with his cage overnight. However he was handed in to the RSPCA in Putney, south west London, two days later and is now safely back in his owners' hands.

It was a sad year for tortoise-lovers as the 100-year-old Lonesome George, believed to be the last of his subspecies, died in June.

There was an outpouring of grief and respect at the passing of giant Galapagos tortoise, who was known as one of the rarest animals in the world, and earned his moniker after failing to mate throughout his lengthy life.

RIP Lonesome George

lonesome george

RIP Lonesome George

We learnt mice were musical rodents in October as scientists claimed that mice were capable of memorising fresh serenades and singing in harmony.

The borders between animal and human kingdom edged a little closer in October too, with scientists revealing that a beluga whale tried to copy human speech.

The sounds were first identified when a diver in California came to the surface saying “who told me to get out?” mistaking the mimcry of the whale for human speech.

Although the sounds were described as "garbled human voice, or Russian, or similar to Chinese", the scientists studying the talented whale (named NOC) claimed trained him to "talk" in return for a reward. Recordings were made from both above and below the surface of the water

NOC's chattering, which began in the 1980s, reduced after about four years and stopped altogether once he was fully mature. Sadly NOC has now passed away.

October also saw this adorable shot published, the work of professional snapper Richard Austin, who set the whole thing up at Crealy Adventure Park in Devon while teaching a group of photography students.

Apparently, the fluffy rabbit and his guinea pig pals posed obligingly for just long enough to enable Richard to get his snap. Then an angry squirrel turned up and demanded they return its shopping trolley immediately. Possibly.

rabbitguineapigs

Do rabbits shop at Asda or Waitrose?

But best news of all, we learnt that looking at pictures of cute animals is good for you! According to the Wall Street Journal, researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan have found that cute photos of animals don't just make us feel better - they also help us to concentrate.

Their paper, called the 'Power of Kawaii' ('kawaii' being the Japanese word for 'cute'), reports that, through three separate experiments, people showed higher levels of concentration after looking at pictures of puppies or kittens.

Which is a really good excuse to look through these forty pictures of cute animals,

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