Tag Archives: Cats And Human Health

Can Cats Cause Road Rage?

Could this long-haired cat cause road rage?
© CALLALLOO CANDCY – Fotolia.com

And now, from the What Will They Blame On Cats Next department, comes this news: Cats can cause road rage.

I can think of a couple of reasons why cats would infuriate their people. Not using the litter box comes to mind. But the scientists who came up with the road rage theory would say it’s using the litter box, not failing to use it, that could cause sudden angry outbursts.

Blame It On Toxoplasmosis

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Chicago looked at 358 people and found that those who had been exposed to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii showed impulsive anger twice as much as those who hadn’t been exposed.

The researchers, led by University of Chicago professor Emil F. Coccaro, MD, were hoping to pioneer in the diagnosis and management of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which can show itself as road rage and is believed to affect about 16 million people in the United States.

“Our work suggests that latent infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior,” Coccaro said in a statement about the study. “However, we do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone that tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues.”

But Don’t Blame The Cat

The most common causes of toxoplasmosis in people are handling raw meat or eating undercooked meat, especially venison, lamb and pork. Drinking contaminated water can also cause toxoplasmosis, and so can just digging in the soil of a flowerbed. 
Cats can ingest the toxoplasma gondii parasite by eating infected rodents. They then shed the oocysts (eggs) in their feces. An infected cat will shed the eggs for just two weeks or less. And according to the International Cat Care website, it’s rare for cats to shed more oocysts after their first infection.

But it’s also “rare to find cats shedding oocysts in their feces” at all, the website continues. “For example one study of more than 206 cats showed nearly 25 percent had been infected with T gondii, but none of them were shedding oocysts in their feces.”

Prevention Is Just A Scoop Away

You scoop your cat’s box every day, don’t you? If you do, that makes your chances of getting toxoplasmosis from your cat slim to none. That’s because it takes 24 hours for the oocysts to become infectious.  If you’re really concerned, wear gloves when you scoop. 
And if you’re prone to road rage, don’t blame your cat. More likely, it’s that long commute and rude drivers that are infuriating you, with good reason. 

Speak Out For Cats

Coccaro’s study got lots on attention online. And all the headlines just had to say something about cats causing road rage. Since I live with cats, drive a lot and have had a few moments of road rage myself, they certainly got my attention.
But reporting like this is damaging to cats. It just fuels the myths that make people dislike and mistrust them. So I commented on every article, and I hope you’ll do the same if you come across one. We need to speak out on behalf of our feline friends and family members if we’re going to keep cat ladies from going to the dogs.

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Today’s Recommendation
The Vapor Vault is a good way to store
used litter until you’re ready to put
it in the trash.

Cats And Dogs Can Save Billions In Healthcare Costs

Long-haired calico cat
wildshots4u – Fotolia.com

 Are you seeing your doctor less often than your friends are? Thank your cat! New research by a team from George Mason University in Northern Virginia shows that people who live with companion animals go to the doctor less frequently than people who have no animal family members, saving more than $11 billion in healthcare costs.

The study was done for the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative.

Researchers compiled data from other studies to come up with their results.

Dog walkers represented the largest cost savings because people who walk their dogs at least five times a week are less likely to be obese than people who get less exercise. The researchers say they save about $419 million in related healthcare costs.

But cats figure into the cost savings, too. Several studies have shown that living with cats and dogs can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. They can also relieve depression.

Interestingly, any kind of “pet,” including fish, can also reduce stress and relieve depression.

The researchers also site studies that show young children who live with cats or dogs are less likely to develop allergies as adults and one that suggests perinatal exposure to animal companions likely reduces the risk of children developing allergies in the very early years.

In looking at the economic benefits of living with an animal companion, the researchers considered just the number of physician office visits and the cost of treatment for obesity. Those two areas alone, added up to almost $11.8 billion a year in healthcare savings.

“As this research area attracts more attention and studies are initiated with specific economic variables included to capture potential health care costs savings,” the researchers say, “we will gain a much deeper understanding of the greater total economic value of the human-animal bond.”

Maybe. And it’s an interesting concept. But it’s hard to put a price on friendship, and most of us will most likely continue sharing our lives with cats because we love their companionship, not because we want to save our insurance companies money on doctor visits. 

99 Lives Sheds Light On Cat & Human Health

Long Haired Calico Cat
© wildshots4u – Fotolia.com
of humans and hundreds of dogs have had full genome sequencing for
their health care. But until University of Missouri researcher Leslie Lyons started the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative, there had been just one cat.

Lyons aims to sequence
99 cats, hoping to learn the genetic causes for obesity, diabetes,
asthma, urinary tract infections, cancers, heart disease and more.

But the research could also benefit human health. So far, her researchers have discovered mutations in genes that cause recessive progressive retinal atrophy in Persian cats. They also found the mutation that caused retinitis pigmentosa in a Bengal. The mutations correlate
to retinitis pigmentosa and Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis in humans.
Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis is one of the most common causes of
blindness in children and affects two or three of every 100,000

The discovery could help researchers develop
models to better understand the disease pathways associated with the
human eye diseases and develop diagnostic and screening tests that will
improve treatment.

The 99 Lives Cat Genome Initiative is a project of the University of Missouri, the University of California, Davis
and industrial partners. Any cat can participate and help science leap
forward by donating a few drops of blood.  If your cat wants to help out
(mine all said they’re too busy for a visit to the vet), you’ll find
more information on the 99 Lives website.

Cats Can’t Spread Eubola

Gray Cat in the Grass
© Marilyn Gould

In case you’ve been worrying about this, you won’t get Ebola from your cat.

“At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick
with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or animals,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

During an Ebola outbreak in Gabon in 2001-2002, researchers tested the
blood of more than 200 dogs and found Ebola antibodies in some of them.
But none of the dogs ever showed symptoms of Ebola or got sick.
Researchers speculate the antibodies developed after the dogs ate the
remains of dead animals who had been infected. Both fruit bats and
primates are susceptible to Ebola.

In the US, the CDC says, the
only way a cat could contract Ebola would be to have contact with the
blood or body fluids of a person who was already sick from the disease.
And even then, the CDC adds, “at this time, there have been no reports
of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread
Ebola to people or other animals.”

Phew… that’s good news!