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Medicine Science

Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health 406

Posted by kdawson
from the correlation-is-not-causality dept.
Ant tips us to a story making the rounds lately, based on reporting a couple of weeks old, that owning a cat could cut your heart attack risk by one third. No such effect was seen from dog ownership, but the researchers say that could be because there weren't enough dog owners in the study population to provide meaningful statistics. The study: "...analyzed data on 4,435 Americans, aged 30 to 75, who took part in the federal government's second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, which ran from 1976-1980. According to the data in the survey, 2,435 of the participants either owned a cat or had owned a cat in the past, while the remaining 2,000 had never done so. [The] team then tracked rates of death from all causes, including heart and stroke. Cat owners 'appeared to have a lower rate of dying from heart attacks' over 10 years of follow-up compared to feline-free folk..."
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Cat Ownership Correlated With Heart Health

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  • by Mutant321 (1112151) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:23AM (#22699122) Homepage
    The study doesn't make any assertions about a mechanism that might cause cats to have a direct influence on human health. It merely points out that there is a statistically significant correlation. This could be a bizarre coincidence, or it might be something that we had no idea about before. Either way, it's warrants further investigation.
  • Re:Ownership?? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Corf (145778) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:15AM (#22699576) Journal
    Sure would be swell, wouldn't it? Except that legally, in the US, humans DO own pets... so the terminology becomes more practical. Here's the AKC's take on the subject. [akc.org] They support use of the word "owner." Pets do have financial as well as emotional value, and terminology must reflect that to effectively preserve both. Summed up at the bottom of the page:

    The AKC believes that the term guardian may in fact reduce the legal status and value of dogs as property and thereby restrict the rights of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for dogs.
  • Re:My cats (Score:3, Informative)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:22AM (#22699698)
    One solution might be to get both a cat and a dog.

    Contrary to some people's beliefs, cats and dogs will get along very nicely once they get to know each other. The easiest way to achieve this is to let them grow up together from a very young age.
  • by mysticgoat (582871) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:38AM (#22699898) Homepage Journal

    Correlation does not mean causation.

    Right.

    Yet in TFA's case, there were also these statements:

    1. The stress-cardiovascular disease link is well-documented in scientific literature, and the affection and pleasure pets give humans is a known stress-buster.
    2. "We certainly expected an effect, because we thought that there was a biologically plausible mechanism at work. But the magnitude of the effect was hard to predict."
    3. She pointed to multiple studies that have found that animal companions "have a calming effect in regard to mental stressors."

    So after RTFA, there is ample cause to believe that the statistics were analyzed within the context of a hypothesis that the reporter did not explicitly state.

    Finding a strong correlation that must exist if the hypothesis is true generally increases confidence in the hypothesis.

    Why wasn't the hypothesis reported in the story? More than likely, because it was framed as a null hypothesis [wikipedia.org], and those can be hard to dummy down to the general public's limited understanding of the scientific method— at least within the framework of articles like TFA. These are written to report newsworthy events, not to teach high school science.

  • Legality (Score:3, Informative)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:52AM (#22700130) Homepage Journal
    Legally they are owned property. You can spout animal rights rhetoric all you want. They are animals, not people. They are property. Do they have the 'right' to be treated humanely and not be abused? Damn straight. Are they our equals in the eyes of the law? No, nor should they be.

    Disclaimer= I *own* and have *owned* numerous pets. They've all been treated very well, loved and cared for and fed. They have also all been my *property*.
  • Re:Ownership?? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yosho (135835) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:00AM (#22700246) Homepage
    And yet you say "I have three cats", and not "three cats live with me" or something of the sort.

    So? Nobody has any issue with somebody who says "I have three children," so I don't see how there's a problem when that phrase is applied to cats as well.
  • by keineobachtubersie (1244154) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:40AM (#22700978)
    Dogs have similar effects on health.

    http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3035327 [americanheart.org] [americanheart.org]
    http://www.naturalnews.com/021483.html [naturalnews.com] [naturalnews.com]
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/33677.php [medicalnewstoday.com] [medicalnewstoday.com]
    http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets [webmd.com] [webmd.com]

    Please stop using studies like these to reinforce your prejudices.
  • Re:Cats Purr (Score:3, Informative)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:12PM (#22702528)

    There are tons of studies to back up that rather obvious claim.
    Citation?

    Every species of cat purrs, both large and small. No other animal on earth purrs.
    Google "Do lions purr?". First hits say "No." Admittedly, I'm not entirely trustful of those sites, but they give *some* reasoning. Care to back your assertions?
  • not in China (Score:4, Informative)

    by peter303 (12292) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#22703352)
    Cat cleanup [dailymail.co.uk] before Olympics. Dont click if you love cats.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:00PM (#22705856)
    Yes, it does have behavior altering symptoms that are nowhere near fully understood.

    But it's not like every single cat carries the toxoplasm, and it's probably closer to 25 percent.

    Given the number of feral, stray, neglected, adopted, un-vetted, un-bathed, and un-cared-for cats,
    that's a pretty small percentage. When I worked in animal control the toxoplasm screening wasn't
    performed on every incoming stray because a: it was unnecessary and b: it was generally negative.

    Not only that, but the infection vector to humans is through the water supply, not direct pet contact,
    in the vast majority of cases. People flush their cat litter, which any knowledgeable vet will discourage.
    The bug ends up in the water supply, and people drink it. Either that, or you're eating cat turds.

    'that varying infection rates between cultures is thought to explain cultural differences of character.'

    Yeah. And if you believe that, I just baked up some catshit cookies for you to try.

  • by Moridineas (213502) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:56PM (#22708692) Journal
    Any links showing connection between cat ownership and toxoplasmosis infection?

    Additionally, humans are often infected with toxoplasmosis from eating raw or undercooked meat. This is in fact the primary way humans get infected--wikipedia mentions this as the main reason that up to 80% of people in france have come into contact with toxoplasmosis.

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