Wednesday, September 21, 2011

smart parasite!

A new study shows that a common parasitic organism, Toxoplasma gondii, makes rats have a pretty weird sensory response when it comes to cats - instead of the typical fear response, they have the same attraction to the cats as they normally would to a sexually responsive female rat.

So the infected rat approaches the cat, gets eaten, and then the parasite infects the cat. Diabolical biological ingenuity! (Say that ten times quickly.) Not that I endorse infected cats, but I always get excited when biology is ten steps ahead of scientists. It gives me hope for Mother Nature making a comeback someday.

For the entire NYT article, click here.

Some theories on Willow's journey - NYT article

By Car or by Paw? Trying to Retrace a Cat’s Travels


Maybe she came on foot, charming strangers along the nation’s plains like a character out of Mark Twain.
Perhaps she hitched a ride, with or without permission, from a kindly driver going east from the Rocky Mountains.
Or maybe she was so irresistible to a New York family on a ski vacation that they simply had to sneak her back home once the trip was up.
However she arrived, Willow, a calico cat with a rich speckled coat and eyes that burn green, turned up about 1,800 miles from the Boulder, Colo., home from which she had escaped nearly five years before. Someone turned the cat in to Animal Care and Control of New York City last week, saying she was found on a nondescript block of East 20th Street. At the shelter, a microchip implanted between her shoulder blades when she was a kitten led to her address in Colorado and her identity.
Her old family is overjoyed. Animal experts are curious.
“How can a cat get from Colorado to New York?” said Peter L. Borchelt, an animal behavior consultant in Brooklyn. “Count the ways.”
Doctors, trainers and officials from Animal Care and Control have settled on three hypotheses, ranging from plausible to semimiraculous, to explain the cat’s journey.
The most cinematic option holds that Willow made the cross-country trip on her own. The five-year span allowed plenty of time for Willow to have traveled on foot, Dr. Paul Maza, veterinary consultant for the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, said.
“Cats are very adaptable,” Dr. Maza said. “It could have survived by catching rodents along the way, or getting into garbage. If it’s friendly, it could mooch food off of people.”
The problem with this explanation, Dr. Maza said, is motive. He said he had encountered occasional cases of cats traveling long distances, governed by instinct, to return home. But why, he wondered, would a cat choose to venture so far without a destination?
Dr. Borchelt presented another impediment to this theory: the Mississippi River.
“It’s going to have a hard time getting across there,” he said. “It’s also going to have a hard time not getting eaten by wolves or hit by a car.”
Julie Bank, executive director of Animal Care and Control, suggested the cat might have burrowed inside a vehicle bound for Manhattan.
“That’s very possible,” said Dr. Jay Kuhlman, of the Gramercy Park Animal Hospital. “A cat’s agile enough to get into the back of a truck and hitchhike.”
The only obstacle to this narrative, he added, would be extreme weather conditions during the drive.
Dr. Maza said train travel was also a possibility, although this premise might have required either a breach of protocol or a travel-savvy kitten.
Cliff Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak, said any stray animals found on trains were promptly turned over to Amtrak police, who are instructed to contact local animal control centers. Willow could not have ridden Amtrak to Manhattan, Mr. Cole concluded, “unless she knew which stop to get off.”
A more likely sequence of events, many agreed, would be that a person found Willow in Colorado, then moved with her to the Northeast and lost her.
“Somebody going from Colorado to New York?” Dr. Borchelt mused. “That happens all the time.”
About five times a day, actually. On average, according to the Department of City Planning, 1,715 Coloradans per year moved to New York City from 2007 to 2009.
Since being identified, Willow has stayed at the city’s Manhattan shelter in East Harlem. She was expected to be transported to a “foster family,” the home of a volunteer, on Thursday, and remain there for two weeks, Ms. Bank said, while the agency ensures she did not contract any infectious diseases since leaving home.
Because Willow appeared clean and well fed — a little chunky, in fact — when she was found, experts said it was unlikely she had spent much time fending for herself on New York’s streets.
But Dr. Kuhlman warned against underestimating the guile of a cat in the city. Years ago, he said, a client’s domestic shorthair disappeared in the West Village and turned up, pregnant, on the Upper West Side.
“I don’t know how she made it across 42nd Street,” he said.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cats love free speech

I never like talk about cat abuse, but what I hate even more is people getting their undies in a bunch over something so clearly hilarious.

I don't believe that David Thorne is an actual cat abuser, so laugh away at this e-mail exchange with a tightly-wound cat lover on 27b/6. (If you're not familiar with the site, this guy contacts people via the internet - sometimes Craigslist responses, customer service complaints, etc. - and engages them in lengthy and humorous arguments.)

A sampling of Thorne's wisdom, in case you're one of those who needs a teaser:

"Opinions are like nipples, everybody has one. Some have firm points, others are barely discernible through layers, and some are displayed at every opportunity regardless of whether the audience has stated "I am interested in your nipples" or not. Cats have nineteen."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good news for cats - and humans

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic have found a way to immunize cats against FIV - feline immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS in cats. Millions of cats die from FIV/AIDS every year, to say nothing of the loss of human life from this disease. This week, researchers took a big step forward in the fight for both species. They have taken a genes from rhesus macaque monkeys that is known to block cell infection, as well as a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes -- which makes the kittens of these modified cats glow in the dark. Awesome!

Read the entire post here.

Kudos to Willow!

Lost Five Years, a Colorado Cat Finds Her Way to Manhattan
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, September 14, 2011

A calico cat named Willow, who disappeared from a home near the Rocky Mountains five years ago, was found on Wednesday on a Manhattan street and will soon be returned to her family, where two of the three children and one of the two dogs may remember her.
Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press
A man discovered Willow on East 20th Street on Wednesday and took her to a shelter.
How she got to New York, more than 1,800 miles away, and the kind of life she lived in the city are mysteries.
But thanks to a microchip that was implanted when she was a kitten, Willow will be reunited in Boulder, Colo., with her owners, the Squireses, who had long ago given up hope.
“There are tons of coyotes around here, and owls,” Jamie Squires said. “We put out the ‘lost cat’ posters and the Craigslist thing, but we actually thought she’d been eaten by coyotes.”
Ms. Squires said she and her husband, Chris, were shocked when they received a call about Willow on Wednesday from Animal Care and Control, which runs New York City’s animal rescue and shelter system. Ms. Squires said that when they saw a picture of the cat, they knew it was Willow.
Willow was found on East 20th Street by a man who took her to a shelter, and Julie Bank, executive director of Animal Care, said the microchip led to the Squires family.
“All our pets are microchipped,” Ms. Squires said. “If I could microchip my kids, I would.”
The Squires children are 17, 10 and 3, and they have a yellow Labrador named Roscoe, who knew Willow, and an English mastiff named Zoe.
Ms. Squires said Willow escaped in late 2006 or early 2007 when contractors left a door open during a home renovation.
Ms. Bank said Willow was healthy and well-mannered, and probably had not spent her life on the streets of Manhattan.
Animal Care and the Squireses were trying to arrange for transportation back to Colorado. In the interim, Willow may stay with a foster family in New York.
“The kids can’t wait to see her,” Ms. Squires said. “And we still have her little Christmas stocking.”

Mission Statement

I am a cat person. This is also an understatement. The sight of any given feline on the street makes me gush. I frequently stay home on Saturday nights to hang out with my girl, Ghostface Killah. I talk to them, and am convinced that they talk back to me. My friends call me a "cat lady," and while I think this label is deserved, the image it conjures in every mind is...inaccurate. I am a 24-year old socially functional individual with normal physical features and a stable relationship. No ammonia-soaked ragged clothing on this girl. And I do not make weepy YouTube videos about how much I want to put all the world's cats in baskets with bows, either.

My dream is this: The cat lady image must not bring to mind the old, marriage-resistant sociopath or the frizzy-haired hoarder who wades through hairballs and feces to forage for another rusty can of Fancy Feast for her babies. Here you will find cat-related news, photos, stories, and information for the NEW cat ladies (and cat guys).
Hide your passion no longer! You don't have to be deformed or poverty-stricken to love cats! Together, we can turn this prejudice around and create a friendlier perception of feline fans - no craziness required.