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Felines make headlines in health care, on police beat

Posted: Friday, June 06, 2008

Cats have been hitting the headlines, big time. Here is a roundup of the latest news.

CARDIO CATS

Cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke, researchers at the University of Minnesota say.

A study of cat owners, dog owners and people who do not have pets revealed striking contrasts. Those without cats were found to be 30 to 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease. Dog owners had the same rate as nonowners.

The research, reported in February at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans, was based on studies of 4,435 people.

The strong correlation between cats and health came as a surprise.

"We don't understand this completely, but it's probably not a coincidence," said Dr. Adnan Qureshi, a stroke expert from the university.

Asked if he had a cat at home, the doctor replied, "No, but now I'm thinking about getting one."

Previous research has shown that pets (both dogs and cats) improve human health by reducing stress, and that cat owners as a group have lower blood pressure than people who have dogs or other pets.

THE ULTRASONIC PURR

Purring cats can strengthen the bones of humans, according to biologists at the University of California, Davis.

Cats purr at sound frequencies in the same range as ultrasound treatments prescribed by physicians to improve patients' bone density and to help heal broken bones. In studies of bedridden patients and the frail elderly, two 20-minute visits a week with purring therapy cats proved effective in maintaining bone density.

Earlier studies showed that patients with dementia became less agitated and more lucid during regular visits from therapy cats.

LAPD MEW

Feral cats are ratting on the bad guys in L.A. The Los Angeles Police Department, which called in the cats, says they put an immediate stop to rodents' chewing into equipment and racing over desks.

Recruited from local animal shelters, the candidates first had to pass a temperament test: no pussycats wanted. Only unsocialized, feral cats were chosen. It was a break for the ferals, who in most shelters are routinely euthanized as unadoptable.

Shelter staff worked with a local animal-welfare group, Voice for the Animals, to select six cats for each rodent-plagued site. After being neutered and given their shots, each group was housed in holding cages to become acclimated to their new home turf. Then they were turned loose and went to work.

The cats don't solve the rodent problem by picking off the perpetrators one by one. "The cats simply leave there scent," according to Carla Hall, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The cats just go about their business of being cats: eating, sleeping, walking their turf, grooming in the sun and sometimes toasting their toes on the warm hood of parked police cruisers.

They receive food, water, shelter - and appreciation.

"Once we got the cats, problem solved," said Kirk Albanese, a captain at the Wilshire station when the cats were introduced. "I think it's a very humane way to deal with a very stubborn problem."

"No one was more skeptical about it than I was," said Thom Brennan, commanding officer of facilities management for the LAPD. "It sounds like too easy a fix. But everywhere it's been done, it's worked."

First introduced six years ago, the working cats are now a fixture at several police precincts and plans call for placing them at other trouble sites.

• Linda Daniel has spent her life in the company of cats, most of whom simply showed up at her door. She's a believer in spaying and neutering to reduce the number of homeless cats. She can be contacted at lindadaniel@gci.net.



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