As I write this, my cat is bumping her head up against my leg and purring. That doesn’t make it any easier to write what I’m about to write.
Mommy loves you, baby. Forgive me.
For those of you who think cats are the devil incarnate…let me add to your arsenal.
A new study has found an unusual link between cat bites and depression.
According to the study, published online at the journal PLOS ONE, Over the course of 10 years, 41 percent of people who presented at hospitals with cat bites were also treated for depression at some point. Women who have been bitten by a cat have a 50 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.
So I guess it’s just as you thought –- cats’ eyes glow with pure evil.
The study notes that pet ownership has numerous benefits. It lowers blood pressure better than hypertension medication, for example. It also provides much-needed companionship. In my opinion, it also gives depressed people a reason to get up and do something when they’d rather retreat to the bedroom all day. The cat won’t feed itself, unless you have a rodent problem or leave the door to your parakeet’s cage open. He won’t clean his own litter box. Trust me on this, you do not want to neglect a litter box.
Researchers found that depressed people were more likely to own cats to begin with. I’d give you my personal opinion on why this is the case, but I never set out to be a cat person. I was always a dog person who didn’t understand how anyone could think a cat was cute, or why they’d want a pet that ignores them all the time. But then Molly showed up on my doorstep 5-1/2 years ago, just a fluffy little kitten, and she stole my heart. I can’t imagine life without her, yet I never would have adopted her if I’d seen her at Pet Smart.
The real link here, though, is between cat bites and depression. Supposedly cats have some of the dirtiest mouths in the animal kingdom, and it’s no surprise why. Outdoor cats spend their days killing and eating other animals, and unlike dogs, who are happy to spend a week covered in grass clippings and bird droppings, cats are constantly cleaning themselves. My cat is an indoor cat, but she walks around in her litter box and licks the crud off her feet.
Cats carry a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. It makes sense that a good bite from Kitty could wind up making you sick.
“Infections from the parasite have been associated with self-inflicted violence as well as increased suicide rates in women. It has also been suggested that the inflammatory cytokines released during a T. gondii infection in the brain may be the cause of depression in some patients,” according to researchers.
I must admit, it’s hard for me to grasp all of this, because my cat has never bitten me hard enough to draw blood – not even when she was a playful kitten with razor sharp teeth. Molly is basically a marshmallow with eyes and teeth. I do get the occasional scratch when I’m dumb enough to use my hand to play with her instead of her laser pointer (known around here as “playing ‘Dot’”) and maybe those scratches can cause or worsen depression, too. There is such a thing as Cat Scratch Disease, not to be confused with “Cat Scratch Fever,” the raunchy song made popular by Ted Nugent.
So here are a few tips from a cat owner with depression. I apologize if this sounds like plain old common sense, but we do live in a world where the instructions on the hairdryer box warns not to use it while sitting in a bathtub full of water:
- Don’t let your cat lick you on the mouth.
- Don’t play rough with your cat using your hands.
- Change out the litter in the litter box often.
- If your cat bites you a lot and you can’t get him to stop, get a professional trainer’s help. Seriously. That’s not normal.
- Don’t ever break up a cat fight with your hands. Get a squirt bottle and fill it with water. I may get flack from animal lovers on this one, but it’s better than going to the ER.
In light of all this terrible information regarding vicious domesticated little lions, believe it or not I also have this piece of advice for you: adopt a pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog, a hamster, whatever. Having a buddy around the house means never being alone, and it gives you a sense of meaning and responsibility that, let’s face it, houseplants just don’t come with. Love on something else and it will be easier to love yourself.
Just keep antibacterial soap in the bathroom at all times.