Thursday 10 September 2020

Autistic children bond better with cats because cats don't stare

I don't have access to the full study so I can only make a quick note on this. I'm told that autistic children tend to avoid eye contact. They don't do this on purpose but they miss the significance of it in a social context.

Kitten Stare. Super Cute. Photo Belal Khan on Flickr. Some cats do stare!

A recent study decided that the gaze of domestic cats is less intrusive than that of dogs (and humans?). This may be a reason why some autistic children develop stronger relationships with domestic cat companions compared to dogs. Dogs tend to hold long gazes whereas cats don't like to stare because it indicates a threat.

This may make autistic children more comfortable in their presence. The thought comes from Marine Grandgeorge at the University of Rennes in France.

This is hot off this press so to speak and other websites will publish this information in the future at which point I will be able to add to the article with some more details.

Comment: I'm not sure of the significance of the idea. Perhaps it helps to understand the reasons behind the inability or lack of desire of autistic children to hold eye contact.

Don't stare at your cat! True or False?

Early Chinese study in Wuhan found 15% of tested cats had been exposed to Covid-19

NEWS AND ANALYSIS: An early study on domestic, abandoned, hospitalised and shelter cats in Wuhan by scientists from the Huazhong Agricultural University found that 15% of the cats had antibodies to Covid-19. This means that they had been exposed to the virus because their bodies had created antibodies to defend them. 11 of the cats had neutralising antibodies meaning that they had blocked the infection.

Wuhan during the early stages of the pandemic indicating that residents had abandoned homes and pets

None of the cats tested positive for the virus but they had been exposed to it which is why they had created antibodies. The sample of 102 cats included 41 from five hospitals, three from animal shelters and 45 abandoned cats. 15 of the cats were from families i.e. they were domestic cats in a home.

Three of the cats with the highest levels of antibodies were owned cats. The researchers decided that some of the cats had been affected by other cats from those that had been abandoned or were in pet hospitals. Owned cats had got the disease from their owners it is suggested. None of the cats displayed obvious symptoms and none of them died.

They concluded that these cats got the infection from an environment that had been "polluted" with the Covid-19 virus.

The research is not that significant in my opinion. We know that domestic cats can get the virus from humans but we don't know whether domestic and feral cats are a danger to people in terms of their ability to spread the disease back to people. They say that precautions should be taken. The only interesting aspect of this study is the percentage of cats that had caught or been exposed to the virus which is much higher than previously thought.

Source: Hindustan Times online via a wire feed.

Veterinarians have decided to spay or neuter rather than consider the more delicate tubal ligation (females) or vasectomy (males)

When it comes to preventing the reproduction of unwanted cats, it is universally accepted that the two operations to choose are the spaying (ovariohysterectomyand neutering (orchidectomy) operations. For the female cat the spaying operation is pretty invasive. It is the removal of her entire reproductive system and it looks quite brutal to be honest. An alternative would be to prevent the eggs from the ovaries going down the fallopian tubes with an operation called a tubal ligation; far less invasive but hardly ever considered.

Female cat in Syria about to undergo the spaying operation. Picture in the public domain.

For male cats, the standard operation is to remove the testes which can be done very quickly with little problems. However some cat owners don't like the thought of this! An alternative would be to allow a domestic cat to keep their balls and to prevent the sperm going down the tube and joining with semen to fertilise the female's egg (vasectomy).

Some male cats might be well-behaved and don't need their behaviour altered by the removal of their testes. Some female cats might be healthy and don't need the added benefits of a full spraying operation which brings health benefits such as the removal of certain cancers and pyometra - an infection of the uterus. It also stops the female cat going into heat. This is a behavioural benefit to many.

The issue that I'd like to discuss is whether in some instances a cat owner wants his or her cat to retain their normal and natural behaviours and simply wants to prevent them reproducing and creating babies. This option is not on the table. Veterinarians don't want to do the lesser operations. One reason possibly is because they are not trained to do tubal ligations and vasectomies according to one report that I read. Secondly, a tubal ligation is a more delicate operation which may put some veterinarians off doing it.

The bottom line is that veterinarians, probably most veterinarians, believe that the added benefits in terms of behaviour and health from the spraying operation pretty well precludes any alternatives and therefore they have shut them out as an option. With respect to the male cats, once again they probably consider the behavioural benefits of removing the cat's balls as being overwhelming and therefore there is no point offering an alternative which is the vasectomy. To do something else would be unethical is what some vets believe. I am not sure they are correct.

And what about the complications and chance of the operation going wrong? These are factors in deciding which option to take. Perhaps a tubal ligation carries less complications. In which case it may be a better operation for certain patients.

I think veterinarians should provide options and allow the customer to help decide. After all the cat belongs to the customer. The customer should be thinking overwhelmingly about their cat's welfare. If they are prepared to deal with the natural behaviours of a male cat who has retained his testes then they have the right to make a decision which achieves that objective. Veterinarians are shortchanging the public it seems to me. The alternatives to spaying and neutering achieve the basic goal: no unwanted cats. The finer issues should be down to choice but at the present that choice is not on the table.

If ancient Egyptian mummies were prepared for the immortal afterlife why are we digging them up?

It is uncivilised, disrespectful and unethical for archaeologists to dig up the mummified remains of people and their pets from ancient Egyptian sandy graves. They excitedly and eagerly want to discover another ancient coffin to inspect while apparently brushing aside the ethical issues. And this applies to domestic cats and dogs as well. Indeed any other animal, and many species of animal were buried with their owners.

2,500 year old coffins exhumed in Egypt recently. Credits: Xinhua/REX

As I understand it, they were buried in mummified form with their owners to accompany their owners to the afterlife. The afterlife was for eternity. They became immortal and this applies both to their owners and their pets.

What interests me, and indeed what upsets me to a certain extent, is that the intention of the people who buried these bodies was to allow them to travel to the afterlife and live there for eternity. If they are dug up and desecrated like this does it not stop their journey into eternity? Does it stop them being immortal in the eyes of the people who buried them?

Cat mumies - Photo: Getty Images.

I know this is about beliefs rather than facts because we cannot talk about the afterlife and immortality in a factual sense but beliefs are important. We have to respect the beliefs of the people who buried the pets and their owners. In many countries in the world people cannot exhume the remains of the deceased without obtaining permission from the local authorities beforehand.

Why should it be any different with respect to 2,500-year-old remains? Perhaps the archaeologists obtained a licence from the Egyptian authorities but those licences would have been granted come what may. There will be no, in my view, discussion about the ethics of digging up human and pet remains and whether it was uncivilised or not. The commercial aspects and the archaeological interest rides roughshod over the intentions, views and attitudes of the ancient Egyptians who buried them.

Associated: What was the penalty for killing a cat in Ancient Egypt?

The end of a cat's nose should be dry under normal conditions

The end of a cat's nose should be dry under normal conditions and good health in my considered viewpoint subject to condensation (see below). Over the years, there has been quite a lot of discussion about the end of a domestic cat's nose and whether it should be dry or wet or damp or whatever else it should be. I think people are getting confused about it.


It depends upon the external conditions. If you take an indoor cat who is healthy and on the assumption that the ambient temperature in the home is comfortable for human and cat then the end of that cat's nose should be dry. If that cat then goes outside into cold winter weather the end of her nose may become damp because of condensation from her damp breath forming on the end of her nose.


Temporarily her nose will be damp but this is due to physics. It has nothing to do with her health. If she is unhealthy with a cold then she may have a runny nose so the end of her nose will be damp. If she is a little confused or stressed she may engage in what is called "displacement activity". This may entail her licking the end of her nose repeatedly. This would make her nose damp.

Dr Yuki Hattori, a well-known Japanese veterinarian, in his book What Cats Want states incorrectly in my view that the end of a cat's nose should be damp. I genuinely believe that he is confused about this. He argues that it is damp so the cat can smell scent molecules more effectively. That I just cannot believe. Yes, certainly if scent molecules are damp they can be smelled more effectively but this is not a reason why the end of a cat's nose should be damp.

My cat's nose is dry. I've just touched it. He's inside with me in dry, warm conditions. His nose reflects those ambient conditions. I would challenge anybody who reads this (and they will be very few people who do!) to carry out their own test and touch the end of their cat's nose. You can then tell me in a comment whether it is dry or wet or something in between such is damp.

To reiterate, the dampness or dryness of the end of your cat's nose depends upon a range of circumstances and conditions one of which is the ambient air temperature. You cannot discuss the end of your cat's nose in isolation of ambient air temperature and a cat's health. But the default situation should be a dry nose leather in my view. The phrase "nose leather" is a cat fancy term meaning the end of the cat's nose which looks a bit like leather. As the flat bit out ofwhich two nostrils protrude.

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