It’s estimated that between a third and two thirds of pet cats are overweight, depending on the assessment method used. Cats suffer from obesity and diabetes mellitus in ways that are very similar to the obesity and type 2 diabetes found in humans. But can these similarities tell us anything useful about how to tackle these problems in cats or in humans?
Ahead of One Health Day tomorrow (3rd November 2018), Robert Taylor, CABI’s Editorial Director, explores the relationships between human, animal, environmental and plant health…
The ‘One health’ initiative launched in 2007 was designed primarily to break down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, particularly for dealing with zoonotic diseases. The link between BSE and nvCJD, as well as the threat of new diseases like SARS and threat of old diseases like avian influenza made for a strong case that the health of humans and animals are inter-linked. Since then, ‘One health’ has been expanded to include environmental health as there are many examples of how human activity can harm the health of the environment, and how in turn, a polluted environment adversely affects human health.
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016
The term ‘One health’ was created to emphasise the fact that health of humans and animals were inter-linked and that the control of zoonotic diseases is best achieved by breaking down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, developing an holistic approach. The disaster of BSE and the emergence of a new human disease, variant-CJD, and the risk of another pandemic of avian influenza, strengthened the case for One-health, and it has been adopted by the WHO, OIE, and many other relevant organizations.
Within the area of One-health, interest has been growing on the modern phenomenon of companion animals. In many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, pets – mainly dogs and cats, are kept as companions, and are treated as one of the family. They are pampered and treated to expensive veterinary treatments when they become ill, whereas in earlier times, a sick pet would be destroyed and replaced. This attitude to animals is particularly well established in the UK, a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 12 million (46%) households incorporating about 65 million companion animals, and where it is not unusual to see a sign on the door of a pub saying “No children, dogs welcomed”.
The beneficial health effects that animals can have on people has been recognised with such schemes as riding for the disabled and therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. The term ‘human animal bond’ was coined to describe this mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both.
Idolised in Ancient Egypt, then vilified in Medieval
Europe, the domestication of cats has taken them on an interesting route from
uninvited guests chasing mice in our grain stores to the moggies we cuddle
today. At John Bradshaw’s talk at Blackwell’s
in Oxford last month, evidence of their interesting history was just around the
corner at the Pitt Rivers Museum, where mummified cats are
part of its unusual collection. Dogs, on the other hand, have a long history of
being companions to humans, bred into many shapes and sizes to make them capable
of a number of tasks that have played a key role both in human and canine
“Can we have a pet for Christmas?” is something I hear a lot each December. The answer, much to my children’s disappointment, is always no.
In addition to the fact that we are often told that Christmas is not the best time to introduce a new animal into a household [e.g. see PetRescue.Com article: No Christmas Puppies, Please!], I can’t think of any pet that is both practical and fulfils the necessary fluffy/cute criteria that my kids are requesting. (Apparently the stick insects that we have are not ‘proper’ pets!).
After listening to experts talk at CABI’s Human-Animal Bond Symposium last month, I can appreciate the benefits that introducing something cuddly into the family could bring. Professor Alan Beck, of Purdue University, described some of the ways that pets can benefit human health and welfare. For example, dog ownership generally results in increased exercise and greater social contact through talking with other dog owners; people with dogs or cats have been found to have lower blood pressure, heart rates and reduced cholesterol than those without; and even staring at a fish tank can provide enough of a distraction from our worries to induce a relaxation response. Animals can also help teach children about responsibility and compassion.
As you may have read in a previous blog by Dr John Bradshaw, cats do not tend to have an all-consuming relationship with their owner the way a dog can, however the cat-owner bond is nevertheless important.
Speaking with Dr Bradshaw at CABI’s Human-Animal Bond symposium at the London Vet Show last week, Dr Sandra McCune informed the capacity audience of the positive benefits that a strong bond can bring to both the owner and the cat.
Dr McCune, from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, said that studies suggest that owning a cat can bring numerous human health benefits including lowering stress levels, helping to fight depression and lowering the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
In return, a good bond between owner and pet is also beneficial for the cat and is more likely to result in better veterinary care. For example, when the bond is strong, owners more often notice changes in the behaviour of their cat which can be an important indication of disease. Owners are also more able to help reduce the fear and stress associated with veterinary treatments and recovery when the relationship is strong.