Saturday 19 September 2020

It's time to stop calling our companion animals "pets"

I have always thought that describing companion animals as "pets" is inappropriate or to put it another way, we can do better. I subscribe to the attitude of PETA in this respect. It's interesting and ironic that the word "pet" is in their acronym which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This is why they have asked the public to pronounce the acronym as if they are saying "Peter". It's a slight embarrassment to the organisation, but back to the point of this article.

Discussing the topic: Are humans more valuable than animals? And: the pros and cons of using the word "pet".

The point is that the use of language effects the behaviour of humans. It works backwards. Humans create the language and if that language is imperfect it can have an impact upon the behaviour of humans. Or it perpetuates bad behaviour. Use of the word "pet" encourages the notion that people own sentient beings and can do what they like with those animals. Clearly, the vast majority of people treat their companion animals nicely but there will always be a significant minority who don't. Changing the use of language may have a beneficial impact upon these people and upon society in general which may in turn improve companion animal welfare. The law supports the notion that people own animals as they are considered "chattels" under the law in the UK. The law needs upgrading.

In the video we see Piers Morgan barely giving the lady from PETA a chance to respond to his questions. He bullies and dominates and she handles it very well. It is very hard to deny that she has good sense. It is hard to argue against PETA's argument. It doesn't matter whether you're right-wing or left-wing or down the middle. Piers Morgan is clearly a right-wing personality or at least he behaves like that. Right-wing people are more prone to regard pets as an object to be owned. That is the stereotypical argument.

They also discuss other sayings like "let the cat out of the bag". This is a very old fashion saying which goes back to times when farmers were selling pigs in a bag. Rather than put a young pig in a bag they put a cat instead because the cat had a lower or nil value and if the cat escaped the fraud was exposed hence the phrase "let the cat out of the bag", which means that a lie or fraud has been exposed. PETA don't like the phrase because it denigrates the domestic cat. It's a phrase from past times which should be pensioned off to put it politely.

As a society, we owe it to ourselves to do all we can to improve animal welfare. It reflects on us. Small changes to language may help us achieve that objective. Piers Morgan should do better as an interviewer! Although, I do like him.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

How much blood is in a cat's body?

I'm referring to the domestic cat. The domestic cat has about half a pint of blood inside the body that passes around their body once every 11 seconds. This is about 250+ milliliters (8.5 oz). The cat's heart beats at 110 bpm to 140 bpm. This is about twice the human heart rate. 

Photo: Pixabay

The cat's circulatory system comprises the heart, a network of arteries and veins, the spleen and a reservoir of blood. The blood goes from the heart to the lungs changing colour from blue to crimson. Iron atoms in the haemoglobin molecules of red blood cells discharge carbon dioxide and latch onto oxygen molecules which have been inhaled by the cat.

Red blood cells have a lifespan of about 2 to 6 weeks. They are produced in bone marrow on a hormonal signal. There are 270 million haemoglobin molecules in every red blood cell. Each molecule of haemoglobin contains four atoms of iron. Each molecule of haemoglobin can transport over 1 billion molecules of oxygen.

See a page on cat anatomy.

Ailurophobia means a fear of cats

Ailurophobia has different degrees of severity. Some people simply can't be in the same room as a cat while others can tolerate them but can't touch them. Others might have a specific cat fear such as jumping up onto their lap. These are phobic reactions. Superstitions about cats particularly black cats still exist even though we are hundreds of years beyond that era in humankind's history, the Middle Ages, when cats were persecuted and they were believed to be the familiars of witches. Go to Africa and you will see a lot of cat superstitions.

Love Island lads are terrified of a cat! Screenshot from the TV program.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) suffered from extreme ailurophobia. Julius Caesar also feared cats as did Henry III and Napoleon Bonaparte. He became frantic in the presence of a cat. One night he was heard screaming with a sword in his hand. He was in a state of acute panic as a cat was hiding behind a tapestry.

This sort of acute, intense ailurophobia is rare. It may start as a childhood trauma. One simple reason might be that a young child grabbed a cat roughly and inappropriately and the cat struck back biting and scratching leaving the child traumatised for life suffering from an intense fear of domestic cats. A traumatic memory can evolve into full-blown ailurophobia.

There is an old wives tales about domestic cats suffocating babies. They have of course been entirely disproved but they are persistent and no doubt some people believe them. The mother who believes this may have a form of ailurophobia as a consequence.

Apparently, studies have revealed that women are more likely to suffer from ailurophobia than men. Dr Desmond Morris the renowned zoology and author says that some experts believe that there may be a sexual element to women having a fear of cats. Cats are sometimes seen as a symbol of sexuality. Perhaps these women have suppressed their sexuality.

The way to cure ailurophobia is to gradually desensitise the person concerned. You introduce the person to the domestic cat step-by-step. At first something remotely connected to a cat is presented to the person. This may be a picture of a kitten or a plush cat toy. From there you can build up to putting a kitten in a cage or carrier and the carrier is placed in the same room as the person. You then gradually move the kitten in the carrier closer to the person and in this way step-by-step you desensitise the person until she can hold a cat without fear. It may take several months. The most intense forms of ailurophobia can be cured this way.

We don't know how many people suffering from ailurophobia seek treatment like this. Many will suffer all their lives believing that there is no cure. There is a cure and there is a reason for it. The reason is irrational because there is no rational reason to fear domestic cats except that you might be scratched or bitten :)  !

An ailurophile is someone who loves cats.

Eleven percent of UK's domestic cats have never been to a veterinarian

An online survey by the pet food manufacturer Royal Canin found that out of 2,000 participants, 11% of them had never taken their cat to a veterinarian and 43% had not seen a veterinarian within the last year. This implies that 11% of cats are neither spayed nor neutered and are therefore intact and can breed. A source of unwanted cats.

Cool vet deals with angry caracal. Screenshot.

The main reason given is that their cat looked healthy and therefore did not need to go to a veterinarian. The counterargument is that cats hide pain and discomfort very well and therefore the criteria that your cat looks well is not a good one. Cats should be taken to a vet for a checkup to catch diseases at an early stage. Cats might hide their illness so well that it is only picked up at a late stage when treatment is less effective.

A second barrier is the cost of veterinary treatment. Surprisingly, out of the 2,000 participants about 50% had pet insurance but even then the cost of veterinary treatment prevented them taking their cat to a vet. Perhaps this means that their insurance did not cover the reason why their cat needed to see a veterinarian.

Another barrier is the stress of taking an animal companion to veterinarian. It is simply an uncomfortable activity to be avoided. Thirteen percent felt this way. If they were unable to take their cat to a veterinarian, 40% said that they would arrange for a home visit while 29% said that they would search for information online as an alternative and 26% would ask friends and family for advice.

Despite what is described as an obesity epidemic amongst the domestic cat population, only 11% of cat owners in the UK thought that there cat was overweight. It is felt that almost 40% of cats in the UK are overweight. Overweight cats are at an increased risk of developing serious diseases and shortened lifespan. Dogs are taken to vets more often than cats (my comment).

Pet insurance for cats in apartments with dangerous cladding

I'm just thinking about the difficulties that cat owners might have in obtaining insurance for their cat if they live in apartment blocks with dangerous cladding. This is a UK specific problem but you may have heard about the Grenfell fire which was devastating (see photo below). It was caused by highly inflammable cladding which wrapped around the block turning the tower into an inferno and killing 72 people who were told to stay inside by the fire service. But that's another point.

Photo on Wikipedia and by Natalie Oxford -

Thousands of people have now been condemned to lives of fear after the government missed its target of replacing flammable cladding on high-rise buildings.

Replacements of cladding has only taken place in 155 tower blocks out of 455 high-rises. Residents of these blocks are facing buildings insurance premium hikes of almost 400%.

They can't sell their properties because buyers can't get a mortgage on them. The banks have simply washed their hands of them in terms of lending money against the buildings. In some of these blocks there will be people living with domestic cats. How does this chaos affect them if they want to take out pet health insurance?

I don't know the answer and I can't find the answer but I suspect that they will not be able to obtain insurance for their pet. Think about it: a fire takes place and they rush to abandon their apartment, leaving their cat behind. The cat is injured or killed. That is the potential scenario and I'd be very surprised if companies providing pet insurance would cover that scenario knowing that the cladding surrounding the building is flammable.

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