As the health policy debate cranks up, attention is properly paid to all the ways we can be healthier that aren’t medical and surgical treatment of illness. Most of these are well-known (cut down on the salt, get some exercise, stop smoking, and all that good stuff on the Kaiser ads). Some dangerous recreation is obviously bad for you, like trying the stuff on Jackass at home. And certain pets, including hyaenas, cobras, and turtles pose obvious and less-obvious risks; not keeping these creatures is an easy way to protect your health.
The surprise of the week is that a cat in your home increases your risk of death from a long list of really unpleasant ends that mostly involve an extended period of pain and disability (especially cancer) or hurt a lot (accidents), and by a lot (about 23%). [If the link takes you to a sign-in page, you can read the story at the “Continue Reading” link below] Dogs entail no such risk. (Hat tip: Kevin Drum though he misunderstands the findings of the research, perhaps because his cats have already given him a teeny bit of dementia.)
The policy implications of this finding, if further research supports it, are many. At the least, cats and cat supplies should be sold with clear warning labels. It might be appropriate to tax cat ownership to reflect the burden it imposes on the health care system (these cat-induced terminal ailments are not only miserable to endure but expensive to treat compared, for example, to a nice quick heart attack). Perhaps social pressure will suffice; isn’t it now as rude to subject guests (and irresponsible to subject children) to Tabby as to smoke at home with company?
Fortunately, shelters always have lots of dogs, so alerted cat owners should be able to protect themselves by a tradein program and not forego a furry comforting presence around the house.
Meow: Cat owners less likely to die from heart attacks, study says
(picked up by SacBee from Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
MST reporter: Maura Lerner
A study suggests cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people who, well, don’t own cats.
And no, dogs don’t do the same trick.
The study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that feline-less people were 30 to 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those with cats.
Yet dog owners had the same rate as non-owners. “No protective effect of dogs as domestic pets was observed,” said the study, presented Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.
Dr. Adnan Qureshi, a stroke expert at the university, said he decided to raise the question because other studies have suggested pets can help reduce stress. He and his team analyzed a group of 4,435 people who had answered questionnaires about pet ownership and other risk factors.
But the cat-dog differential came as a surprise. “We don’t understand this,” he said, but “it’s probably not a coincidence.”
Asked if he owns a cat, Qureshi replied: “No. Maybe I should get one, though.”