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Pet Problems

A lost dog is more likely to be reunited with its owner than a lost cat. In one city in Ohio, researchers found that 71% of lost dogs were found, compared to just 53% of lost cats.More than a third of the recovered dogs were found by a call or visit to an animal shelter. On the other hand, more than half of the cats returned on their own, but less than one in 10 dogs did. Maybe this is because owning a dog has been linked with being healthier. For instance, a 1995 study found that dog owners were more likely to be alive one year after a heart attack than non dog owners.

More than one in four dogs were found because the animal wore a dog license or identification tag at the time of its disappearance. Although Ohio law requires that dogs be licensed, just 41% of the lost dogs in the study wore a license at the time of their disappearance. Less than half (48%) of dogs had an identification tag or microchip when they went missing. Microchips, which are implanted under the skin, provide permanent identification about where a pet belongs. Cat owners aren't required to identify their pet, and 19% of lost cats had a tag or microchip at the time they were lost.

Two out of three (66%) of the lost cats came home on their own. Only 8% of lost dogs returned home on their own. More than one out of three owners (35%) found their lost dogs at a shelter. Just 7% of cat owners who recovered their pet found it at a shelter.

In the UK newspaper the Independent, Martin Hodgson writes, "If you are looking for a healthier life, get a dog." New research suggests that dog owners are physically healthier than cat owners. One reason may be that you need to walk your dog, which leads to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But there are more subtle health advantages to pet ownership. In fact, an Israeli study suggests that pets can help schizophrenics to be more calm.

But that may not always be true. One problem with dog and cat ownership is that your pet could give you bird flu. Several years ago, it was suspected that cats might be passing SARS to their owners. Now, especially in Indonesia, health officials think that people may be catching bird flu from pets who eat diseased chickens.

Debora Mackenzie writes in New Scientist that the H5N1 bird flu virus is widespread in cats across Indonesia, mostly in areas where there have been outbreaks of bird flu in either poultry or humans. She quotes Dutch public health expert Albert Osterhaus as saying, "In the 1918 flu pandemic there was some intermediate mammalian host. For H5N1 that host could be cats."

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