Sunday, April 29, 2012

Unruly Pugs May Have Mental Disorder, Cats Say

Edmonds, WA

When pugs behave badly, it's easy to blame their Humans, but sometimes such behavior may be due to a mental disorder. Mental illnesses are the leading cause of canine medical disability in pugs ages six months and older in the United States and Canada, according to the World Health Organization.

"One reason we haven't made greater progress helping pugs recover from mental disorders is that we just don’t care," said Cassandra, a 16-year-old Domestic Short Hair, who is a doctor and co-director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and a featured speaker at the Pediatric and Adult Pug Center for Academic Studies’ (PAPCAS) annual meeting in Edmonds.

Cassandra discussed her research, specifically detecting signs of mental illness in pugs and the importance of early diagnosis in her presentation on Saturday before a panel of 125 cats at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

“(Pugs) act crazy…Plus, they are really funny looking” Cassandra also said

“These pugs lick their own (genitals) and they seem to really, really enjoy it,” she said, “I think that is one place to start.” If treated, doctors usually can detect mental disorders early and ensure pugs are properly incarcerated and drugged as soon as possible.

While questionnaires currently are the best way for doctors to screen pugs for mental illness, obvious signs, like playing with dolls, converting to Kabbalah, knitting multi-colored scarves, and running around the streets in their underpants can be a more accurate indicator of illness.

“(Dogs in general) are stupid,” Cassandra said, “But that alone is not a qualifier of a mental illness. However, the simple fact that they obey humans can be enough to qualify them as severely deficient.”

Just one glance at this pug suggests a possible underlying psychosis

Cassandra said she hopes separating mentally ill pugs from pugs who are just stupid will help doctors diagnose properly and produce better outcomes for the medical community as a whole.

“Have you ever entered a room and forgot why you came in?” Cassandra continued, “That is how pugs spend their whole lives. They are clearly lost.”

Cassandra said further study is needed and that she will continue her research this fall in the Seattle area.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Depression Treatment Gives Hope To Down Pillows

Lynnwood, WA

For 3 years of her life, Fiona, a 600-Fill, Down Pillow from Eddie Bauer, didn't laugh. Diagnosed with depression at age 2, the now 5-year-old went through medication after medication.

“Some of the pills that were prescribed to me made me so tired I just laid around in bed all day long,” she said. “It got so bad I stopped washing my pillow case and I was losing feathers all over the place. That is no way to live.”

Then in January, Fiona began a relatively new drug-free treatment for depression, FDA-approved for pillows who do not respond to anti-depressants. Trans-pillow magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a non-invasive pillow treatment that activates nerve cells involved in mood control and depression.

Doctor Matty, who has been treating Fiona for 2 years, said he is amazed at her rate of recovery

"I had all the trappings of a good life,” Fiona said. “A stable job, plenty of feathers, and a boyfriend, but when you are depressed you don't appreciate that emotionally and I knew I needed more help.”

During the new treatment, the pillow is seated in a chair with a headrest. A measuring tool is used to determine exactly where the electromagnetic device should be placed.

The magnetic device delivers a pulse to the feathers for 4 seconds, stops for 26 seconds and then delivers a pulse for 4 seconds. The pillow feels only a slight vibration. Some pillows may have a tender spot on their pillow case for the first few treatments, but that usually goes away.

Up to 70% of pillows treated report full recovery, without drugs

"It was totally life-transforming," Fiona said. "I recommend it to any pillow who hasn't been able to get help from anti-depressants, who thought what they are feeling is as good as it gets."

"I saw Fiona’s life change with this," said her doctor, Matty, a 15-year-old Domestic Short Hair who specializes in depression and sleep disorders. "She literally went from lying around crumpled on the floor to doing daily yoga and pilates, and now she lets me sleep on her whenever I want.”

More recent studies, in which pillows are gradually taken off drugs while undergoing the treatments, show as many as 70 percent of the pillows recovering. “Unlike anti-depressant pills,” Matty said, “the feather-stimulation treatment is excellent in that it has no known long-term side-effects.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette
A special shout out to Fred Antonelli, who inspired this story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Study Shows Human Males Do Remember Relationships They Had With Females, Others

Edmonds, WA

In daily life, we remember faces and voices of several known individuals. Similarly, many mammals have been shown to remember voices and faces of known individuals after a number of years.

Jasmine and Ciara, both 9-year-old, Domestic Short Hairs, are field researchers from Central Washington University. They show in their recent article, published in Human Biology, for the first time Human Males (men) can and do differentiate individual females based on familiarity.

Additionally, they discovered that men can think about and even memorize the closeness of a relationship and affiliation even while viewing live sporting events on television.

The environment of the indigenous Human Male, is sometimes referred to as a “man-cave”

Until now it was unknown whether men could remember the closeness of a relationship (if at all) based on former positive or negative interactions.

In response to voices left on answering machines of formerly known Human Women, the men not only increased the number of calls or text messages sent back, but also changed the tone of their own voices dependent on whether they “hear” former friends or foes.

This suggests that men can remember specific female individuals for at least three months.

Memories previously thought buried in male brains provoke cues telling them how to respond when returning a call or text

The ability to change voice characteristics is especially interesting: In the case they hear a "friendly" individual they respond with a "friendly" call or text, asking “hey, what’s up?” Whereas when listening to a "foe," they exhibit lower frequencies with rougher auditory characteristics, asking “yo, what up?” This is an effect already described for other animal species.

Men respond to calls from previously unknown individuals with even lower and rougher tones of voice and thus try to increase the acoustic perceivable body-size, something akin to Kodiak Bears and other wild animals, wherein the larger, tougher animals have lower voices than smaller ones and angry, strong animals use rougher-sounding voices.

The duration of memory is well beyond the previously estimated ability for men, and the ability to remember the closeness of a previous relationship with a female has been shown for the first time in men, giving hope to females everywhere.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sea-Turtles Continue To Face Discrimination In The Workplace

Lynnwood, WA

More than three decades after Congress passed a law trying to protect Sea Turtles in the workplace, discrimination is still widespread and needs to be combated with publicity and clearer guidelines, according to testimony yesterday at a federal hearing.

The issue of workplace discrimination was highlighted two weeks ago in Seattle when a federal judge ruled against a 42-year-old Loggerhead Sea Turtle named Myrtle who said he was fired after asking for a small selection of crabs, conchs, and shrimp to be added to the lunchroom wending machine.

Discrimination against Sea Turtles includes refusal to hire based on species, firing, being forced leave without pay, being denied a place to swim during breaks, and being barred from sources of fresh saltwater, witnesses told the five-member EEOC panel at a hearing on the issue.

Spaghetti has been championing the cause of Sea Turtles and other Marine Reptiles since graduating Gonzaga Law School in Spokane

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s legal counsel, Spaghetti, a 7-year-old Pug, said the agency had resolved 38,000 Sea Turtle cases since 2008, with $150 million paid out in damages.

“Sea Turtles are generally known to be good workers,” said Hirum McBagby, an 11-year-old Scottish Fold who owns a small metal fabrication shop in Lynnwood, “But you have to flood the entire office with salt water if you hire one, and that can get expensive.”

Other employers said hiring Sea Turtles can be costly. “Sea Turtles are really cute,” said Chaplin, a 13-year-old Domestic Short Hair who owns a bakery and has previously employed Sea Turtles. “Other (employees) are always stopping and staring at them, it creates a lot of on-the-clock downtime and just isn’t cost-effective.”

Chronically unemployed Sea Turtles feel a major socio-economic impact

Decades after the passage of the 1977 Sea Turtle Anti-Discrimination Act, discrimination reaches from the shop floor to the executive suite, with oceanic stereotyping a major factor. It is found in every state, but is more likely to hit Sea Turtles in low-income jobs, they said.

“This many years after the Sea Turtle Anti-Discrimination Act, we still have employers who still don’t understand the basics. Are we getting the word out on fundamental issues?” said Spaghetti, who vowed to never give up fighting for Sea Turtles.

The hearing came ahead of the scheduled May 2012 release of the EEOC’s four-year Marine Reptile and Crustacean Strategic Hiring plan, which hopes to give employers direction on how to combat further discrimination.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blues-Fighting Goodness Found In Donuts, Cheeseburgers, Cats Say

Seattle, WA

A University of Washington researcher is among four cats who argue that eating two to three donuts and/or cheeseburgers a day may slow or completely stop signs of depression, improve overall mood, and promote feelings of happiness.

They describe how the sugary, sweet goodness of a powdered sugar-coated, raspberry jelly-filled donut and the cheesy, moist, saltiness of a hot cheeseburger, eaten separate or together, may help control and even elevate mood in a paper published today in the journal Nature.

The cats came to their conclusion while eating donuts and cheeseburgers watching late night television. They found their moods highly elevated after each of them ate at least three to four servings of the items in no particular combination and began trying to determine if a correlation and/or causation was present.

“The cheeseburgers, they made us real happy,” said Chesty

"The assumption was that eating (the donuts and cheeseburgers) made us happy," explained Chesty, a 9-year-old Domestic Short Hair, he is the UW associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry who co-authored this paper.

While Chesty and his colleagues noted that the donuts and cheeseburgers seemed to work without error, it did not stop them from trying the experiment repeatedly with placebo foods such as corn dogs, baby back ribs, fried chicken, kung pao shrimp, hot waffles, ice cream sundaes, meatloaf, vegetarian egg rolls, kettle corn, pastrami sandwiches on rye bread, beef tacos, sausage biscuits with gravy, roast beef, fish and chips, spaghetti, moo-shu pork, Marshmallow Fluff, sweet potato pie, Boston baked beans, chicken vindaloo, guacamole, corn on the cob with butter, milkshakes, whole chocolate bars, lasagna, bacon, mayonaisse sandwiches, chocolate cherry cheesecake, Hot Pockets, peanut-butter-filled pretzels, Boston creme pie, smoked salmon, pancakes,Chicken Marsala, elephant ears, mega burritos, denver omlettes, turkey club sandwiches, hot meatball subs, garlic bread with dipping sauce, pulled pork tacos, chicken pad thai, red pepper-baked shrimp, garlic french fries, hot spun cotton candy, goat milk yogurt, peanut butter, Pop-Tarts, pizza, and apple fritters.

In fact, the altered pattern of holistic junk food consumption seemed to work even better and activated other sensations of pleasantness and satiety, which in turn triggered a variety of cellular processes that seemed to stimulate happiness. The food made them happy, they said.

Scientifically speaking, the cats believed the mood elevations occurred because the foods they chose were “yummy.”

Chesty and his colleagues draw on two important facts to support their conclusion.

"First, we need food to survive," explained Chesty. "Second, other cats have previously shown that eating tasty foods improves and enhances overall mood and disposition."

Chesty says he and his research partners will now work even harder find out exactly which other junk foods may help elevate mood and under what circumstances they should be eaten.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dopamine-Related Activity Of Food & Reward May Explain Crazy Ass Squirrel Behavior

Seattle, WA

Research to be presented at the Meeting of the Society for the Study of Squirrel Behavior (SSSB) finds that squirrels who possess genetic modifications associated with low activity of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain when eating appetizing foods are more prone to weight gain.

Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the food reward regions of the brain were measured and tested while squirrels ate and reacted to items such as crunchy peanut butter, broccoli, Five Guys’ cheeseburgers, mung beans, Nutter Butter cookies, beets, and kale.

In the five-year study, scans of volunteer squirrel brain activities revealed squirrels who had lower activity in food reward “pleasure” regions of the brain and who had genetic modifications associated with lower dopamine activity showed the greatest weight gain after one year.

Some squirrels seem to go to extremes out of an apparently constant hunger

Aragorn, a 14-year-old Scottish Fold from Western Washington University who led the study, said “These findings provide some of the first prospective evidence that squirrels who experience a blunted reward from food may compensate by over-gathering, over-burying, and later overeating, increasing risk for unhealthy weight gain.”

Thus squirrels’ seemingly obsessive over-gathering, over-burying, and later over-eating of foods may simply occur as a sad, unconscious attempt to increase the brain’s pleasure reward in less responsive squirrels.

“It would really explain some of the frantic, aberrant, and bizarre behaviors exhibited by some squirrels,” Aragorn said, “The ones outside my office can’t seem to ever get enough to eat and sometimes act erratic and scary (sic).”

Even adult cats have reportedly been terrified by the erratic behaviors of food-seeking squirrels

The results of this study highlight the need for further research into the role that neural reward systems play in the development of squirrel obesity. Hopes are that more and more squirrels will come in for testing and be made aware of this possible genetic pre-disposition.

“It may be useful for squirrels who show low food-related reward to increase their physical activity, which not only promotes activity in the same reward circuitry, but also reduces unhealthy weight gain from constant overeating” said Aragorn.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Working, Thinking, Takes a Toll on Mental Health, Study Finds

Seattle, WA

In an era of recession and 9.7 percent unemployment, no cat needs to be told that getting a job is good for the bank account. Thankfully, new studies have shown gaining “meaningful” employment also undermines a less-obvious measure of well-being: mental health.

A new Gallup poll finds that a majority of part-time and full-time employed cats describe themselves as "on the brink of madness." They were also more likely to report depression, binge eating, and feelings of sadness, rage, and worry than their unemployed, relaxed counterparts.

“Such psychological turmoil isn't surprising” says Boo Boo, a 13-year-old Siamese associate professor of public health at the University of Washington, who studies the relationships between economic trends and psychological well-being.

This cat was hospitalized for panic disorder, night terrors, and compulsive thinking after just one day of actual employment

"The finding is very consistent that employment is related to higher incidence of serious mental disorder and depression," he said. “As previous studies have found, it appears any type of physical labor or work, whether real or imagined, is bad for your health.”

Gallup questioned 40,000 adult cats about their employment status, emotions and activities. Negative emotions were more common among the employed, 98 percent of whom reported feelings of worry and constant jelly donut cravings, 94 percent of whom reported sadness, constant itching and scratching, and fits of road rage while commuting.

In addition, 91 percent of the employed cats said they'd been told by a medical professional they had chronic depression, a number that was less than .001 percent for cats who were unemployed.

Working and sadness go hand-in-hand, whereas successfully doing nothing all day can lead to a relaxed life and contentment

The poll represents a snapshot in time and can't be used to determine specifically if employment causes depression or if depressed cats are more likely to seek jobs. But longitudinal research — which follows the same cats over many years — suggests that working does decrease overall psychological well-being.

"Our research finds that gaining employment lead to a massive increase in symptoms of depression," Boo Boo said. “When cats work even one hour a day there ends up being not enough time for ample napping, grooming, eating, and playing.”

Boo Boo’s study found that cats who work are more likely to begin to misuse alcohol and have crying spells after getting a job than cats who do nothing all day.

Working creates a hostile environment for cats, who have since learned that it is better to take a nap or bath instead

Indeed, the bulk of cat employment research has been pessimistic. In 1998, a study from Seattle Pacific University found employed cats were twenty-seven times as likely to die from suicide as the unemployed.

Thanks to this research, many cats are now actively taking control of their mental health by quitting their jobs and openly admitting they “just couldn’t hack” the difficult tasks of commuting, thinking, obeying orders, sharing, and being nice to others.

Copyright The Kitty City Gazette