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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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






Thursday, March 17, 2016

Can Cats Meow With A New York Accent Or Southern Drawl?


Cat Meowing
Andrey Kuzmin - Fotolia.com
Does your cat from North Carolina meow with a southern drawl? Or, if you're in northern New Jersey, does she sound like an in-your-face Jersey girl when she talks to you? That regional accent might be more than a figment of your imagination. A team of Swedish scientists is trying to find out whether cats have different "dialects" based on their location.

Susanne Schötz, an associate professor of phonetics at Lund University, thinks cats who live in different areas have slightly different accents. To confirm that she's not just hearing things, she and two other researchers will be listening to cats in Stockholm and Lund, two areas with different dialects, and using phonetic analysis to determine whether their meows really do sound different.

The researchers plan to study 30-50 cats and their people over the next five years. They'll listen to intonation, voice and speaking style in human speech addressed to cats and cat vocalizations addressed to humans.

Hey, Human! Are You Listening?

When adult cats talk with each other, their preferred method of communication is body language. The position of their ears and tails and the look in their eyes are worth a thousand meows. They meow when they talk to us because they realize we're not fluent in catspeak.

But when they meow to us, do we really know what they're saying?

Schötz also plans to record the vocalizations of cats in different situations to find out.

"We know cats vary the melody of their sounds extensively, but we don't know how to interpret this variation," she says. She hopes to discover how cats sound when they want to go out, are feeling friendly and greeting people, and when they're hungry, annoyed or angry.

She also wants to learn how they react to different human voices, speaking styles and intonation patterns. For instance, she wants to know if cats like hearing high-pitched "pet-directed" speech or if they would rather be spoken to as human adults.

"We still have much to learn about how cats perceive human speech,” Schötz says.

Meowsic To Our Ears
Schötz is calling her study Meowsic (Melody in Human-Cat Communication), and she believes it could have a "profound impact" on how humans communicate with cats at home and at vet clinics and shelters.

Five years is a long time to wait, but it will be fun to see how the study turns out. In the meantime, I'll continue talking to my cats the way I talk to people, since they're used to that. And I guess they'll continue taking to me the way they talk to other cats, with body language and looks in their eyes. If they flatten their ears, I'll know I'm in deep trouble!

Body Language and Emotions of Cats book
Today's Recommendation
This is my all-time favorite
cat behavior book.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Finally -- The Truth About FIV

white outside cat with gray patches
© TMakotra - Fotolia.com
Finally. It's official. Cats who have FIV can live with cats who don't and won't transmit the disease.

Veterinarian Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, studied more than 100 cats who were in rescue group shelters. The cats were not in cages but lived together in a group home setting. Her research was published in a recent issue of Veterinary Journal.

Litster initially tested 138 cohabiting cats with Rescue Group One. At the time, eight of the cats tested positive for FIV. The others were all negative. When she did a  second test 28 months later, the 45 negative cats who were still there were still negative. She got the same results 38 months after the first tests. By then, all but four of the negative cats and seven of the eight positive cats had been adopted.

"These results show a lack of evidence of FIV transmission, despite years of exposure to naturally-infected, FIV-positive cats in a mixed household," she wrote.

Now if veterinarians will just read the study and believe it.

FIV Should Not Be A Death Sentence 

Every year, thousands of cats die in "shelters" because they test positive for FIV. Thousands more are forced to live strictly indoors, separated from the other cats in their household because of a positive test result.


But the tests done in vets' offices often return false positives. And FIV is pretty much a non-issue anyway. It's transmitted from cat to cat only by repeated deep bite wounds. So a positive cat who doesn't fight can share food and water bowls and litter boxes with a negative cat and groom him and cuddle with him and never make his buddy sick.

The study confirms what many of us have known all along. What some of us didn't know, though, was that mother cats don't pass FIV on to their kittens. Litster also tested five positive mother cats at a second rescue. None of their 19 kittens tested positive for FIV.

FIV Is Not Feline AIDS 

Gray Cat Sleeping Outside
My FIV cat, Hoss
One of the cruelest myths about FIV is that it's Feline AIDS. Like human HIV, it's a lentivirus, but that's about where the similarity ends. It progresses very slowly. And while your FIV cat may someday develop AIDS symptoms, he's likely to die of old age long before those symptoms even begin to occur.

In the meantime, living with an FIV cat is pretty much like living with any other cat. Mine lived into his 20s! He was my close friend and spirit guide, and I still miss him. 






Liquid Immuno
Today's Recommendation
Liquid Immuno is a great
supplement for FIV cats.