News Stories Biased Against the Cat

It is a subtle matter, almost imperceptible but it is there. Headlines to online new articles can be biased against the cat. That is unfair on the domestic cat. The domestic cat gets a rough deal from the press actually. Not all stories are bad for the image of the domestic cat, obviously, but a good number are and it concerns me because it gives cat haters a reason to harm cats. Also ‘cat ladies’ get a bad press too.

In this recent news story one of the ‘usual suspects’ the protozoan T.gondii or Toxoplasma gondii rears its ugly head again (‘Cat lady’-suicide connection real; T. gondii parasite blamed). Updatee: this story is getting out of hand. Here is a worse example: Is Your Cat Hosting a Human Suicide Parasite.

The domestic cat can carry this parasite without showing symptoms (asymptomatic). In fact the cat is the primary host and the only animal to pass on the infectious stage of this parasite through their feces. A Czech scientist made some outrageous claims about it and how it affects our brains and makes us slightly mad.

Now a recent article in the Examiner written by Bruce Baker implies in his headline that it can cause the older cat lady to commit suicide. He does go on, towards the end of his story, to explain that the cause of the slightly higher level than normal suicides by ladies keeping cats (1.5 times the average) could be due to other factors but it is at the end of the article and people who surf the web skim the first lines of an article and move on.

Cat ladies

Example of new story that harms the cat and cat ladies. A hard copy newspaper headline attacking cat ladies. Photo Jason Swaby.

We have an obligation to use our words carefully. The claim that cat ladies, ‘later in life’, are at risk comes from a large scale Danish study. I have not seen the study.

The truth is that ‘half the human population shows seriological evidence (essentially blood serum) of having been exposed in the past.‘ The antibodies of men and women prevent an infection. People who are immunocompromised are at risk. (Quote from Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook).

However the following factors must have been referred to in the study but are not mentioned in the  Examiner news story:

  • The large majority of people who infected receive the infection by eating raw or uncooked meat and/or unpasteurised dairy products;
  • There must be a host of other reasons why older cat ladies have a slightly higher risk of committing suicide than the general population. One of which must be loneliness if they are more likely to live alone.

If the headline was more balanced it might read: ‘Senior Cat Ladies at Higher Risk of Suicide’

That is a quickly thought out example. There are many more. In my opinion the mention of Toxoplasma gondii is an example of scare mongering. There are already many articles on the internet about this parasite a lot of which are about pregnant mothers who should relinquish their cat because the infection can damage the unborn baby. The best experts on this disease say you do not have to give up your cat if you are pregnant.

There is a need to ensure that articles about the domestic cat are balanced and sensible. Writers sometimes tend to show their bias against the cat albeit in subtle ways. I am not saying that Bruce Baker is biased against the cat just that the article can unfairly help to damage the image of the cat.

There are many people who will jump on this article and use it to put out propaganda that is against the cat and which might lead to cat abuse. These stories spread on the internet. Here is another example.

Original article.

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News Stories Biased Against the Cat — 4 Comments

  1. Its an outrageous article that has been published all over the World and have read the article in Mumbai.I am a non-smoker but could contract the disease by just cycling on Mumbai’s traffic congested roads inhaling the automobile fumes as could other commuters in other parts of the World in their city’s.I personally feel that the cat has been receiving a lot of bad press long before the invention of the official media.There could be various reasons for elderly or lonely women committing suicide other than being owners of cats.Agreed, the cat is a carrier of this parasite but definitely not the reason for its owners committing suicide.In human living there are numerous occurences in daily living that affects directly or indirectly the quality of life and hence just one reason can’t be blamed for a good or bad syndrome.

    • Absolutely, Rudolph and in fact, the cat probably prolongs the lives of millions of older ladies! They actually achieve the opposite to what the article suggests.

  2. I first saw this on our local Cats Protection facebook page and it made me so annoyed I had to comment.
    It seems cats get blamed for everything by people who simply hate them and want everyone else to hate them too.
    I said in my comment that at least it’s a change from cats getting blamed for decimating wild birds, another fallacy to try to get others to hate cats too. It’s untrue anyway, whilst cats may catch some birds it’s Natures way of survival of the fittest. It’s the ever breeding human race who have taken birds habitat away and who use pesticides and pollute the air etc. A feral cat is blamed for killing a bird for food to survive, yet a ‘sportsman’ is allowed to blast birds from the sky for fun!
    Also, maybe senior cat ladies (and men too) are more at risk of suicide as they care so much about others and animals and the environment, sometimes the horrors of this world really get to caring people and they can’t take any more.
    I know sometimes I feel that way, that my heart can’t hold any more sadness and pain, that this world isn’t the place I want to be, that I don’t belong here where there is so much selfishness and greed and cruelty.
    I can well imagine a person tipped over the edge with those thoughts and unable to take it any more.
    In my opinion people don’t commit suicide because of some cat parasite in their brain, they do it because they care so much that they feel they can’t go on living.

    • Yes, Ruth, you make a point I failed to make. People who care for cats are sensitive to the plight of animals. This makes life more difficult for them. And women who like cats are often intelligent people. This means they think and are concerned. When you have these qualities life is more difficult because all around you there is something that hurts you emotionally. This may have an impact on suicide rates. If you are a basic, unthinking alpha male businessman you are fine in this world. It is made for you and by you.


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