“Teh Deth Kitteh!”

Run!  Itz teh Deth Kitteh!

The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports (Dosa, DM: New England Journal of Medicine; 2007; 357:4; pp 328-329 ) on the case of a single eukaryotic organism – a specimen of Felis catus – who is reported to identify People Who Are About To Die (insert ominous thundercrash here).

It is presented in a tone that is a mixture of “OOOo, spooky, mysterious!” and standard issue “Human Interest Story“, as though it was a baffling or unexplainable phenomenon. Honestly, didn’t modern science explain this long ago?

Obviously, Oscar the Cat is simply waiting around to devour the souls of the departed as they are exhaled on the last breath. Or as “Mike, the Mad Biologist” puts it:

Shouldn’t the situation be obvious? I mean, come on, did ALL of these journalists sleep through Biology 101? Even if they did, surely at least some of them own cats and already know about this….

There are, of course, numerous examples in the scientific literature documenting the tendency of the cat to steal the breath of the living. See, for example, Bener A, Galadari I, Naser KA.”Pets, allergy and respiratory symptoms in children living in a desert country”;Allergie et immunologie;1995 Jun;27(6):190-5…

Interestingly, as I was trying to find a more explicit reference in PubMed to this folk-belief, I ended up stumbling upon an article entitled “Micturition and the Soul” [Holstege G.”Micturition and the Soul.” J. Comp. Neurol. 2005 Dec 5;493(1):15-20.]. I love browsing databases of scientific papers. Where else could you go looking for a folk belief and find an article about the neurology of peein’?

I know I don’t normally discuss freakish, perverted Eukaryotes on this blog – hey, CHILDREN could be reading this! – but I found the article (and the responses to it) interesting, and it serves as filler until I can finish putting together my “Gram Stain Article To End All Gram Stain Articles” post.

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

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