Mews and Nips: Mainstream Press Spreads Misinformation about Toxoplasmosis and Cats
The mainstream press this past week has been abuzz with stories claiming that women who love cats are at increased risk for suicide. Never mind that the link was the very common parasite toxoplasmosis, not cats. CNN, TIME, and even NPR, which can usually be relied on for somewhat less sensationalized coverage, jumped on the bandwagon. The most offensive of the headlines was TIME’s “Are Cat Ladies More Likely To Attempt Suicide?” NPR wasn’t far behind in being ridiculous, writing on its health blog that “there’s fresh evidence that cats can be a threat to your mental health.”
The study of more than 45,000 Danish women focused on a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, and found that those infected with the parasite were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who weren’t infected. All of the news outlets jumped on cats as the culprit for this parasite – and that’s about as far removed from fact as you can get.
For starters, you are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from gardening than you are from your cat. Clearly, the so-called news outlets chose to interpret the study in ways that would garner them the highest ratings. Unfortunately, their interpretations have very little to do with the truth. Susan Logan, the editor-in-chief of Cat Fancy magazine, dispels this misinformation in her outstanding article Cats and Toxo: Good Kitty, Good Science, Bad Journalism. For more details on why the Danish study did not present a causal link between cats and increased suicide rates, please read Peter Wolf’s analysis of the study’s findings.
A more lighthearted story comes from England, where Millie the Bengal cat is believed to be the first feline security guard. MetroUK reports that Milile was hired to guard some of the UK’s best-selling toy ranges. Toy company Bandai’s warehouse was on the lookout for a new security guard when workers spotted the attentive feline roaming around the factory floor. Millie’s excellent climbing abilities and loud purr made her the prime candidate for the role, with deliveries expected to come in thick and fast over the coming weeks. Read more about Millie on MetroUK.
Did you watch My Cat From Hell last Saturday? I loved watching the transformation of Olive and Pepper’s New York City apartment into a catified feline paradise, and I was so excited to see my friend Kate Benjamin, Miss Moderncat herself, on the show! Kate provided a fascinating behind the scenes look at what went into this catification project on Moderncat. And don’t forget to tune in to Animal Planet tonight at 8pm for a new episode of My Cat From Hell!
Henri the French cat is back in a new video. This time, Henri is taken to the vet. Ennui doesn’t even begin to describe his reaction to such an indignity. Enjoy!
Have a great weekend!
Photo sources: photo of cat with woman npr.org, photo of Millie from MetroUK, photos of Pepper by Kate Benjamin
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