Tag: parasite

Sunday Cats: Adopt A Cat And All Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True! PLUS: Buddy Has Left The Building!

I know you’re going to read this and think, “Okay, what have these two wiseasses come up with this time?” but I swear we didn’t make this one up!

It even appears to be a legitimate research paper, despite first attracting media attention on April Fool’s Day. (The paper itself was accepted in late 2021 and published in the journal PeerJ on March 25.)

To put it simply, adopting a cat will make all your wildest dreams come true. Buddy was right!

Cat servants are rated more attractive than people who don’t share their homes with cats, rate higher on traditional measurements of attractiveness like facial symmetry, and even weigh less (women) or, if they’re men, have higher levels of testosterone.

That’s according to a multinational research team led by Javier Borráz-León of Finland’s University of Turku.

How is this possible?

The team — which also consists of scientists from Latvia, Estonia and Mexico — believes it’s because of the infamous toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects cat droppings and can pass to humans and other animals.

T gondii nudges its hosts toward behavior that propagates the parasite itself.

“First, we found that infected men had lower facial fluctuating asymmetry whereas infected women had lower body mass, lower body mass index, a tendency for lower facial fluctuating asymmetry, higher self-perceived attractiveness, and a higher number of sexual partners than non-infected ones,” the study authors wrote. “Then, we found that infected men and women were rated as more attractive and healthier than non-infected ones.”

There’s precedent for this. Earlier studies have found that while most parasites make their hosts less likely to reproduce because they cause detectable negative health defects, toxoplasma gondii does the opposite. Male rats who are infected by t. gondii are more attractive to potential sexual partners in an example of a parasite that “can indeed manipulate host sexual signaling to their own advantage.”

That’s not to say you’d want to go and get yourself infected. Toxoplasma gondii can cause negative health effects, most famously in pregnant women, and may be responsible for agitating certain mental health issues. Some scientists have said fears about the parasite are overblown, and cats aren’t actually the primary culprits: People are more likely to become infected by drinking water from unsanitary sources, eating undercooked meat or shellfish, or eating unwashed vegetables and fruits from contaminated soil.

Still, it’s possible to get the parasite from being careless around cat litter, especially if your cat spends time outdoors. It’s another good reason to keep your kitties inside.

Buddy has left the building

After surviving a brutal and intentional attack when two teenagers sicced their pitbulls on him, Buddy the Philadelphia Cat has been upgraded to stable condition and he’s off to a foster home!

The little guy made headlines and captured hearts around the world with his ordeal, his bravery and the strength he showed as he clung to life in those first few days, when veterinarians feared he could succumb to his many wounds.

But late this week, Buddy was able to stand up for the first time since the attack, and he had a big appetite after so many days spent incapacitated and on pain medication.

The little fighter still needs time to recover before the Pennsylvania SPCA finds a good home for him. From what we hear, there are no shortage of applications from people who would love to give him the best life possible. For the time being, he’s staying with one of the veterinarians who cared for him during those fraught early days, so it’s good to know the good boy will have a familiar face around.

Why Do Americans Love Shooting Cats?

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people in this country?

American cruelty to cats is even more upsetting within the context of human behavior elsewhere. In Turkey, where it’s practically a national pastime to care for felines, people build shelters for strays, welcome them into their shops with food and affection, and kitties are so trusting of humans that mother cats have on several instances brought their kittens into human hospitals and clinics for help.

Then we have ‘Merica, where apparently it’s a sport for people to sit on their front porches drinking beer and shooting stray cats with pellet guns.

Like, for instance, in Long Island this past weekend, where some stain on the human race shot a ginger tabby named Abraham and left him with a pellet lodged in his spine. Or in northern California, where a couple brought their cat to the vet because they thought he’d been attacked by a coyote, only for x-rays to show the little one had been shot several times by someone with a pellet gun. Or Augusta, South Carolina, where a cat was shot with what appears to be a bullet from a 9mm handgun. Or tiny Brookville, Pa., where a man shot his neighbor’s cat for the unthinkable crime of exploring his porch.

hipster with tattoos stroking cute cats on stony fence
Credit: Dmitriy Ganin/Pexels

I have Google News alerts set up for cat-related stuff to mention here on PITB, and a lot of it is great: Compassionate rescues, feline hi-jinx, heroic cats saving kids.

But those stories are always sandwiched in between articles about people shooting cats. Constantly, incessantly, apparently without a thought about the suffering they’re causing sentient animals who have feelings just like we do and experience pain, anxiety and fear the same as us. That’s not conjecture, contrary to what some people might believe, but objective scientific fact as proven experimentally many times over in recent years.

When Americans aren’t shooting cats they’re stealing them, mutilating them and killing them, like the recent nightmare case out of Tennessee: A woman left her cat in the care of a friend while she was traveling, and the friend allowed the cat to roam outside. Another woman saw the cat wandering, didn’t like what she saw and stole the kitty, eventually giving it away to 19-year-old Deamion Robert Davis via Craigslist. Davis now faces charges of animal cruelty for allegedly binding the cat’s paws and stabbing it to death with a screw driver, according to police. Detectives said they traced the killing to Davis by lifting fingerprints from the tape Davis allegedly used to bind the cat.

So because some busybody saw a pet cat on the street and decided a random, sketchy 19-year-old who responded to a Craigslist ad would provide a better home, a woman’s cat was brutally killed.

Meanwhile hatred for cats continues to be driven by bad science, like this meta-analysis of 202 toxoplasma gondii studies by researchers who need to be reminded that correlation does not imply causation. The research team looked at data on toxoplasma infections recorded in wild animals, then with no evidence whatsoever framed their study around the suggestion that cats “may” be and “probably” are transmitting the parasite to wild animals because the rates of infection are higher in urban areas.

Never mind that humans are much more likely to be infected by eating under-cooked food, certain meats, touching contaminated soil, or using utensils that were used to cut contaminated meat and shellfish. The study ignored that fact and posited — again without evidence — that cats are the primary vector for other animals and humans.

It would be nice if people in the scientific community took responsibility for the fact that their research influences the behavior of others, and blaming cats for everything from bird extinctions to parasite infections drives people to do cruel things like cull cats or poison their food. If they’re going to publish studies drawing a link between cats and extinctions or diseases, scientists have a responsibility to make sure there’s a connection more substantial than “we think, therefore we publish.”

That will conclude this rant on human cruelty to animals.