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Monday, July 15, 2013

Bad Science

A message from TBT about bad science scaring people about cats...

We are used to SOME people trying to blame cats for "killing all the birds and rodents" as if cats were the major cause of death of birds and rodents.  They see one neighbor's cat catch a bird or mouse and they assume cats kill them all.  Right, as if most of the predators in the world don't eat birds and mice.  Like there are not owls, hawks, dogs, snakes, minks, weasels, etc, etc, etc who must eat several birds and mice daily to survive .

In my experience, where there are households with cats, those people also have birdfeeders, built nesting sites, and otherwise support birds.  When I moved here there were few birds; a couple of cardinals, a few sparrows, and a rare house finch.

After 26 years of arranging the yard to support birds (among other animals), and having cats who hunt, there are typically a dozen cardinals, a dozen house finches, many titmouses, juncos, nuthatches, goldfinches, mourning doves, robins, woodpeckers, etc THESE days.  They were NOT all here before. 

The cats get several per year for sure.  But the total bird population is higher than it was before I and the cats arrived.  They are better off now even with the cats around picking off the weakest of them.  So don't EVEN get me started on the benefits of the survival of the fittest birds...

Tell me how we are harming them overall...

Now I read that cats are destroying humanity by spreading Toxoplasma gondii.  OK, it reproduces in cats.  But it lives in the everyday dirt! 

" From Wikipedia:
Toxoplasma gondii (tŏk'sə-plāz'mə gŏn'dē-ī') is an obligate, intracellular, parasitic protozoan that causes the disease toxoplasmosis.
Found worldwide, T. gondii is capable of infecting virtually all warm-blooded animals.  In humans, it is one of the most common parasites; serological studies estimate that up to a third of the global population has been exposed to and may be chronically infected with T. gondii, although infection rates differ significantly from country to country. Although mild, flu-like symptoms occasionally occur during the first few weeks following exposure, infection with T. gondii generally produces no symptoms in healthy human adults [bold mine].  However, in infants, HIV/AIDS patients, and others with weakened immunity, infection can cause serious and occasionally fatal illness (toxoplasmosis)".

So don't let the infants play around in the litter box.  I HOPE no one needed to have told that...  (LOL!)

And so it's about as serious as "the common cold".  People do die from that...

Lets get rid of rats and mice first.  I don't know anyone who has free-running outdoor pet rats...

And before anyone goes on a crusade against cats, let's remember the Bubonic Plague in Europe.  The Europeans in medieval times had gone witch-hunting.  They killed 100's of thousands (mostly women but also many men) as witches out of utterly stupid superstition.  They also killed untold many of the "witches" familiars - cats.  With the cat population seriously reduced in Europe, there was nothing to stop the spread of the invading rats from Asia who carried the Plague parasites. 

So a third to half of all European died because they were afraid of witches who weren't witches and killed their pet cats who were keeping the rat population under control.  Way to go you idiots, :applause, applause:

You want another plague? Kill the cats again...

Now, I only told you that to tell you this:  

T. gondii is widespread outside.  Its in the soil.  It is everywhere.  Its not just from cats.  My cats don't poop outside and I'm sure T. gondii is in every cubic inch of soil.  Its always been there, we just realized it recently.

Human infection by T. gondii DROPPED to 9% from 14% from 1999 to 2004.  Yet there are more cats.  Does it make sense to blame cats then?  It makes more sense to me to interpret this as that cats are REDUCING the rodent population that carries T. gondii.

In the article, Spokesperson for American Veteranarian Medical Association, Kimberly May, said that "cats are scapegoats".

It might even be less serious than feared.  Dr Torrey, of John Hopkins Medical University, suggested that the idea of serious human problems from T. gondii is "tenuous".

And from that, you come to the conclusion that cats are "dangerous"?   Carl Sagan once pointed out a wonderful but typical logical fallacy years ago.  When we look at Venus, we cant see anything.  Why?  Its covered by clouds.  What makes clouds?  Water vapor, so Venus is a hot wet world.  Well, what is a hot wet world like?  It is swampy.  What grows in swamps?  Ferns.  What eats ferns?  Dinosaurs.  So Venus must have dinosaurs.

Observation:  We can't see ANYTHING on Venus.  Conclusion:  There must be dinosaurs.

So if the number of cats is increasing and the infection rate from T. gondii is decreasing, this is a problem of MORE cats?  Go re-read that and think about it.  And remember the Europeans dying in medieval times from plague because they killed most of the cats...

Bubonic plague is not extinct:  From Wikipedia:  In 1994, a plague outbreak in 5 Indian States caused an estimated 700 infections (including 52 deaths) and triggered a large migration of Indians within India as they tried to avoid the plague.  In 1994 and 2010 cases were reported in Peru. In 2010 a case was reported in Oregon, United States.  In 2012, cases were reported in Oregon and Colorado, including a 7-year-old girl who contracted Bubonic plague while camping in southwest Colorado.  In September 2012 a herdsman in China was reported to have died of the disease after finding a dead marmot and eating it.  

The Plague is not a serious problem because natural rat predators (like cats) keep the population under control (too thin to spread the disease).  But it could become one again.

My evaluation of the specific "cats are making us sick" and the general "cats are killing the birds"  is that the proponents of those arguments need to take a basic college course in logic and another in history.