Saturday, November 1, 2014

For You and Your Loving Cat's Health Keep Them Inside and Don't Let Them Eat Mice

First off, contrary to some spin you will find out there, cats do show love!

Dogs (and Cats) Can Love
Neurochemical research has shown that the hormone released when people are in love is released in animals in the same intimate circumstances.

Motherly Love
Romance isn’t the end all to love. “Emotions comparable to caring and romantic love are, without a doubt, expressed between a mother and her kittens,” explains Dr. Balcombe, who is also an animal behavior research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A vivid example is the story of Scarlett, a calico cat who pulled her five kittens, one by one, from a burning building in New York in 1996. Her actions, which left Scarlett with lifelong debilitating injuries, were documented by Animal Planet, but Dr. Balcombe says such stories are not uncommon.

What Does Your Cat Think of You?
“Cats recognize we’re not cats,” he says, so the bond between you and your cat has no direct equal. Instead, Dr. Balcombe believes cats view us in various ways, depending on the circumstance. When you groom, pet or hold your cat, you may become like a mother or beloved sibling, since cats associate these activities with kittenhood and experiences shared among brothers and sisters.
Dr. Balcombe suspects cats also value companionship. “I’ve noticed that whenever I’m in a room working alone, my cats often come in to join me, attempting to get my attention,” he says. “They could go anywhere, but they seem to desire my company.” He admits that selfish reasons, such as a warm lap on a cold day, might sometimes motivate felines, but there are times when companionship alone is the only reward.

I can attest to having a cat who greets me at the door, says good morning, gets jealous of my wife, pouts and acts bad when I'm gone, and reacts to hearing my voice on the phone!

So if you love your loving cat then love it enough to keep it an inside cat and not let it eat field mice in the house. Here's a good excerpt from an article entitled, "What research says about cats: they're selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures." It's funny because, while they are spot on with this part of the article, they praise the very source above (The Atlantic) that reports science showing cats do show love.
Finally, there's the weird, unsettling connection between cats, a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, and litter boxes.

This parasite can infect pretty much any sort of animal — including humans — but it can only sexually reproduce when inside the intestines of cats. In order to get there, it's been found to alter the behavior of infected rodents, making them less fearful of predators. In other words, when T. gondii gets picked up by a mouse, it increases the chance that the mouse will get eaten by a cat, so the parasite can reproduce once again.

This may seem bizarre enough, but over the past few years, some scientists have begun to suspect that the parasites alter human behavior in a similar way. Humans often pick up T. gondii from handling cats' litter boxes (because the parasites can be found in their feces), and there's an increasing amount of evidence that the resulting long-term, latent infection can subtly change a person's personality over time.

When parasites found in cat litter infect humans, they seem to subtly change personality over time
Of course, we're not rodents, so the parasites aren't successful in getting us eaten by cats. But the actual consequences are just as troubling. People who have been infected have greater rates of neuroticism and schizophrenia, and have slower reflex times in lab experiments. As a result, it seems, they get into traffic accidents more often. There's evidence that they have higher rates of suicide. All this, it seems, are unintended results of the parasite's ability to alter a mouse's brain to increase the chance of predation.

Now, everyone who owns a cat doesn't get infected by T. gondii, and there are other ways of getting the parasite (like eating undercooked meat). And the infection itself doesn't seem to cause these behavioral changes in everyone — they just occur at slightly higher rates among the millions of people worldwide who are infected.

Still, if you needed one more reason not to house an animal that doesn't love you, manipulates your emotions to get food, and helps to eradicate endangered species, it's a pretty damn good one.

Further reading: Kathleen McAuliffe's eye-opening article in the Atlantic: How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy
Now, if you wanna go that extra mile of kindness, you can protect yourself and your cat while sparing a mouse too!

Pretty much the easiest way to trap a mouse ethically and also re-use a toilet paper roll!

When I posted this on Facebook someone replied, "My cat works fine." Well, the above named parasite is just one of many that can be passed on to humans from cats eating mice. 

See here: 

As one commenter stated, "Mice have parasites, deadly bacteria & eat things laced with toxic chemicals such as pesticides etc...not to mention they're covered in lice & mites so it's not a good idea for your furry babies to eat them. I will agree however, the the presence of a cat is a great deterrent." And as I said at the time, "Plus mice are cute! I rather capture them and have them as pets to give the cats entertainment."