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.
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.