16 April 2013

The Old Grey Matter

I heard an interesting report on NPR the other morning about aging and the brain.  There's new studies being done on old people (80+ years old) who have retained all there mental faculties and have the brain age of a 50-60 year old person.  As I quickly approach the big 50, this is something that I'm a bit concerned about.

The studies indicated that brains stayed more functional from 4 things:
  1. Physical exercise -- Apparently, when you exercise, your brain gets extra oxygen and more of the waste is removed.  So, the authors of the study recommended 2-3 45-minute periods a week of exercise such as walking or swimming.  This is something I know I should be doing anyway, but I never seem to have time to do except on the weekends.
  2. Healthy diet -- It makes sense, the healthier you diet, the better your brain functions.  If you eat lots of junk food, then, well, what do you expect?  Red wine was mentioned as beneficial.  My diet is basically okay -- probably better than most since I'm a vegetarian, but I still rely too much on carbs and maybe need to up my protein level.  The red wine is easy!
  3. Social interaction -- Having friends and talking to them seems also to help keep a brain young.  I do have friends and I do talk to them, but it's sporadic since many live far away from me.  I'm not sure what I can do to increase this part, because I'm basically not-social, I have little time, and I've never figured out how to find interesting people locally.  I do wonder if talking to my students and/or teaching would count?
  4. Learn new things -- Oh this is perfect!  If you learn new things or even try new things (such as a language, a skill, reading, puzzles, etc) this encourages your brain to grow.  I love learning new things, be it something totally new such as linguistics or an extension of something older such as projective geometry.  I don't have a lot of time to do delve into new topics, but maybe this summer.
I don't want to end up old and not have my mind functioning.  I've always enjoyed the ability to pick new things up quickly and I'm afraid this is waining.  Last time I tried some serious math, I had problems.  I'm not sure if it was my brain per se, or the fact that I was tired, or the sporadic nature of my working on it.

But at least I have some ideas on what I need to do to preserve as much of my brain as I can!

Two Years of Olivia

I can hardly believe it but Olivia, my ninja princess, has been with me for 2 years. 

A friend emailed me about a Persian cat in the local humane society shelter.  I went over to see her and fell in love with her.  The shelter staff told me that she'd been turned in by the owner who had left her outside and she became terribly matted.  She also got pregnant which was discovered when she was spayed.  Her mat was one giant mat from head to tail, which they shaved off her.

At the shelter, she played with me and climbed in my lap.  The shelter employees said she rarely did that.  They also told me how several people had wanted to adopt her, but they refused to let them.  It's not a good sign when someone comes in and asks, "I just want a black cat.  I don't care how old or what sex -- just black."

So, Olivia came home with a lioncut.

She also assumed her role as Ninja Princess and will chase, body slam, stalk, etc James and Tolstoy.  Some of it is her having fun and some of it is not.

She is not the most cuddly of cats, but she is loving in her own way.  After breakfast, her big thing is to lay belly up on the carpet for me to scratch her tummy.  If my husband tries he is clawed.  It's a girl thing....

She has also developed a fondness for soy milk.  While I am eating my bowl of cereal, she sits on the table and watches.  When I get to the point of drinking the milk from the bowl, she will stare at me from the other side of the bowl and maybe even use her paw to get me to put down the bowl.  Funny part is she only wants the soy milk if I have had granola cereal, but not with Shredded Wheat or Honey Bunches of Oats. 

14 April 2013

Peaches Comes Home!

Nothing like getting the carrier out for a non-vet visit!  Which is exactly what happened yesterday morning.  I got my Peaches!

The plan had been to meet with Lynda half-way between us on Memorial Day weekend and for me to get Peaches then.  It would have meant waiting and driving 4 hours each way for both of us.

Instead, a friend of Lynda came down to a show in Arcadia and brought Peaches with her.  So, I drove 2 hours over yesterday morning and picked her up at 8:30am and drove straight home.  I would have liked to seen the TICA show, but not with Peaches and hubby in the truck waiting.

Peaches did very well on the trip.  Meowed a bit as we talked to her.  But I could tell she was exhausted.

I put her in the second bathroom to isolate her and she immediately hid in the cabinets.  I kind of expected that.  Later last night, she moved up to the bed on the top of the counter and did allow a bit of scratching.  She also ate a bit.

This morning she was more active -- pacing back and forth.  She's still VERY nervous about this whole thing.  And I can't blame her.  In 48 hours, she's gone from the home she knew to a 10 hour trip with strangers and 5 other cats to a motel room then to a carrier and then to another carrier, 2 more strangers, and a 2 hour trip, only to be finally plunked down in a strange bathroom with cat noises from the other side of the door.  I would be stressed!

But I am sure she will settle down -- hopefully sooner rather than later.  She is such a sweet, but somewhat hyper girl.

I just would like to thank Lynda for entrusting me with this girl.  Thank you!

Cats: Food Recalls

This was written in response to three different recalls of canned and dry cat food.

I know there has been several recalls of food lately because of low thiamine and salmonella contamination. I have a degree in statistics and I have worked in food safety for the USDA, plus I done a lot of research on food for cats, so I'll throw out a few thoughts on these recalls.

Please, what I write does not mean I advocate ignoring recalls, especially if you have cans of the food being recalled. This is only meant to hopefully calm some fears and shed light on the process.

1.) All recalls are not the same. The two latest -- one for thiamine and one for salmonella -- are worlds apart. Thiamine is a B vitamin. While it is true that long-term lack of thiamine can lead to some nerve issues, this would be long as in 3-4 months or more and would be none or little thiamine. In all likelihood,  the food would still have some thiamine in it from the meat and other ingredients. It probably would be less than ideal, but some would be present. While it would be nice to have each meal perfectly balanced for nutrients, the reality in the wild is meals are not balanced -- it's the long-term averages that matter, not what was eaten for breakfast.

The salmonella, on the other hand, is a huge red-flag for companies and the public.

2.) Not all salmonella is the same. There are hundreds of strains of salmonella -- some benign and living in your intestines right now, some very dangerous. The testing procedure identifies "salmonella" and not the strain. So, how dangerous the strain is is unknown.

A side note on salmonella and cats, since a cat's digestive tract is shorter and the stomach acid is stronger, cats have less problems with bacteria in the food than humans do.

3.) The way they test food is not accurate. As you probably would guess, they do not test each can. They usually do not test each 'batch' even. They pull less than 0.1% of the product from a few days of production and then randomly sample that. If the sample comes back clean, the pallet of pulled food is okay-ed. If the sample comes back with a problem, they then check more cans from the batch and from 1-2 days around that date.

In the meantime, the product has been sent out to stores. The testing takes 1-4 weeks in good times, more with cutbacks (like now). Pet food is a lower priority than human food, so delays of months is not uncommon.

If other cans are found with problems, the manufacturer is advised and based on the type of problem and the extent, the recall is issued by the company. (If very serious and/or the company refuses, then it's a government recall.) How much to recall is a guess. If two cans from the same lot are tested, one positive and one negative, most companies will recall it. But there is no hard proof that more than the one or even a hand-full of cans were contaminated.

4.) Most recalls by companies are for legal reasons and not health concerns. Take the thiamine recall -- if the low levels were public knowledge and someone had a cat that may coincidentally developed nerve problems, the owner might blame the company and then sue them. Ditto with the salmonella, since the mention of salmonella in food causes many people to panic out of proportion to the risk. Better to recall and claim they care, than face hundreds of lawsuits and bad publicity.

So, what to do? That comes down to the comfort level we each have.  I have a fairly high tolerance for risk when it comes to these recalls, so unless I have the particular batch in question, I ignore it.  Since I feed 2 different brands of food, neither involved in the recalls, I ignored all these.