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Cat cuddling! The truth revealed

I think it’s fair to argue that often the media is guilty of hyperbole and scaremongering, especially when it comes to owning a pet.

For example, there was a recent story based on research suggesting dogs are selfish. Yes, think about that for a moment and consider how this couldn’t be further from the truth. My grievance with the research was not only that the sample very small, but the task they had dogs completing had very little bearing on determining why a dog could be selfish. Yet, stories were written stating that very point.

Further to this, we were confronted again this week with stories including a headline from the UK’s Daily Telegraph that ‘Cuddling kittens can kill you, warn scientists’. Before I explain why this story and particular headline are wrong, I want to explain why misleading news stories do frustrate me.

As a practising vet for more than six years, I understand why pets are so important to the UK. In fact, 98 per cent of our customers told us in a survey that they consider pets to be part of the family. Promoting responsible pet ownership is important in terms of the way we feed our pets, clean up after our pets and care for our pets. Pet owners and by extension, their vets, know best when it comes to pets and so stories like this do much harm.

While I may be over-exaggerating in believing that owners may all of a sudden take cats they’ve owned for years to the local rescue centre in fear of being poisoned, let’s put this into perspective.

Firstly, cats love cuddles – and surely this is one of the best perks of being a pet owner!

Practically though, scratches do happen, but we should never be fearful. As with any wound, it is important to clean any scratch thoroughly with disinfectant, use an antiseptic ointment if necessary, and keep an eye on it. If in doubt, see your doctor - especially if you are immunosuppressed.

I have been scratched plenty of times by either a fractious or nervous cat (as have my colleagues) and had no issues as I cleaned any wounds properly and monitored them closely.

It’s important to realise there is a risk, yet a risk that is miniscule. I have only known a couple of clients who ended up with Cat Scratch Fever and while it was a highly unpleasant experience for them, it is worth recognising that its prevalence is 0.0045% (as stated by the article, right at the very end)!

The media would be far better writing stories about pet issues that can harm both animals and humans such as Toxocara canis. This is a type of roundworm found in dogs that can cause blindness (sometimes irreversible) in kids (especially under 3) and young adults. The route of transmission is via the ingestion of infected soil or sand with worm eggs that can be found in sandpits and everyday parks. If the media campaigned instead to remind readers to worm their dogs regularly (every 3 months) and to scoop their poop up afterwards, you would be doing the country a far better service.

Andrew Bucher is the Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal