Big Fuzzy Medicine

The latest casualty of the US government shutdown: health care for raccoons.

The Chattanoogan reports that a planned drop of oral rabies vaccine in Tennessee has been suspended due to the furlough of government employees. The vaccine air drop had been planned to protect area raccoons from the spread of rabies.

Raccoons are disproportionately from low-income families. Most work in unregulated industries which do not even pay minimum wage. That makes health insurance unaffordable for the majority of Procyonid Americans. Worse yet, raccoons as a class are not eligible for ACA coverage, so they have to rely on government-provided free services such as the indefinitely-delayed vaccine.

Hopefully the shutdown will end soon and the raccoons can get their vaccinations in time to prevent rabies from spreading through the community and into the surrounding human, feline, and canine communities.

Meanwhile, funding for medical research to improve the health of small, fuzzy creatures focuses on felines. Note, for example, a recent study done in the UK on stress levels in cats which shows that being patted elevates feline stress levels. Seriously: the researchers claim that no cats actually enjoy being patted, and those most willing to tolerate being stroked showed the highest levels of distress and stress hormones.

So remember, next time your faithful feline companion jumps up in your lap, meowing pitifully, don’t pat her! She definitely doesn’t want to be stroked, and cuddling her will just rile her up…

My guess would be that the study didn’t adequately control for the stress induced by the blood draws necessary for stress hormone testing. Maybe I’m wrong though, in which case somebody should make sure the results of the study get communicated to Brooklyn, NY, where — as Gawker reports — a cat has taken over Park Slope, terrorizing the residents. The cat wears a belled collar, so it’s certainly a pet rather than feral, though whether it’s an outdoor pet or a stray is currently unknown.

The notion that it has been driven insane by an excess of pettings and ear skritches and is attacking other cats and hissing at humans in a quest for revenge has a certain appeal. However, it may actually be following in a tradition of cats terrorizing New York neighborhoods that dates back more than half a century. A reliable report from 1946 recounts the tale of a cat that terrorized all of Jackson Heights. From humble beginnings, Rhubarb rose slowly in power, first taking over Jackson Heights, stealing golf and tennis balls and attacking women and dogs, then using his celebrity to become first the heir and then the owner of a baseball team and a multinational corporation.

Keep an eye on MLB’s winter meetings, folks. If we hear that the Mets have a new owner, one with four legs and a tail with a peculiar curve to it, we’ll know that Life is once again imitating Art.

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