Impact of Climate Change on Insect-borne Diseases

The existence of global warming has been extensively discussed and hotly debated for decades across oceans and continents. Most of the discussions have been focusing on climate change, increased incident of natural disasters, negative impact on farming and fishery, wildlife survival and the resultant human suffering because of all these negativities.

With the sudden outbreak of mosquitoes-borne Zika virus in Central and South America countries, it appears global warming likely to bring forth another serious threat to the public- the spread of pandemic diseases in areas that are previously spared from. According to an American biologist, Daniel Brooks – “whenever the planet has faced a major climate change event, man-made or not, species have moved around and their pathogens have come into contact with species with no resistance.” The alarming rate of birth defects attributed to Zika virus is a good example of dire consequences of the chance encounter between usually benign pathogens with non-immune species. Zika virus named after the Zika Forest of Uganda was identified in 1947. Prior to 2015, Zika fever is under the radar of most world health authorities as it causes minor discomfort at most. It is now reached pandemic levels in several Central and South America countries with suspected link to unusually high numbers of babies born with microcephaly (congenital condition of severely undeveloped brain) and a neurologic conditions in adults, Guillain–Barré syndrome.

With escalating temperature, changed rainfall systems, increased human mobility and globalization, the World Health Organization has found it is necessary to remap the landscape of water-borne and vector diseases. According to WHO, a worldwide temperature rise of 2-3 C likely translate to additional 3-5% (several million) of people risking contracting malaria, another disease that is spread by mosquitoes. Female Aedes aegypti, the daytime-active mosquito that carries Yellow Fever, Zika, and other diseases, thrive in warmer conditions with plenty of stagnant water. Many other insects, including fleas and certain species of ticks, also spread faster during warmer climate. A prolong spell of temperature could see cat-scratch disease and tick-borne diseases spiking around your neighborhood.

According to Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a WHO climate change expert scientist – “Infectious agents in water will proliferate with more flooding. It’s clear that we need to strengthen our surveillance and response to a range of diseases. Globalization, the movement of people, is an important factor too. In a world where we are disrupting the climate system, we’ll have to pay the price for that.”

How to Stop a Cat from Biting or Scratching

House cats by nature are calm and loving beings. They are also pretty smart, they will go to great length to avoid hurting their humans. However, it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine a cat taking a swipe at a cheeky kid that is pulling its tail or a cat engaging in an energetic play forget itself and take a nip. A cat scratch or bite can be infectious and develop into annoying diseases such as cat-scratch disease and is best to avoid it. It is handy to know ways to prevent scratching and biting, and how to response when the cat is on the war path.

If You Have Been Bitten or Scratched:

  • Retain your composure. Never yell, hit, or chase after your cat. These actions are counterproductive in the long run.
  • Instead, use your voice and body to signal a disapproval by saying “NO” immediately firmly and authoritatively. Stare at the cat to signal your annoyance as well as dominance. For cheekier or aggressive cat, you may need to clap your hands loudly once or twice while simultaneously saying “NO” to further emphasize your dominance.
  • Disengage yourself from the cat as soon as possible. Stop touching the cat immediately, move your limbs under attack well out of its striking range. Walk away dismissively and leave the room until the cat has calmed down. The signal of disapproval must be consistent, cuddling, petting, or soothing must be denied temporarily for at least 20 – 30 minutes.
  • A way out for the cat. If a snarling, hissing cat is blocking the way, preventing you from leaving the room, it is likely it feels trapped and interprets your walking towards him as trouble, defense by attacking is on the radar. The best thing to do in this situation is simply to step aside and let the cat pass first before going your way.
  • Refrain from giving treats or food to the cat for 20 – 30 minutes following a scratching or biting incident. You would not want the cat to have the misconception of scratching or biting is rewarding.

Curtail Scratching and Biting Behavior:

  • Start young or as soon as possible to teach your cat acceptable limits. When your kitty nips you while playing, say “NO” firmly and move your limp away, disengage yourself and walk away to signal the game is done. Done consistently, the kitten will soon associate biting or scratching as dismissal and will refrain from doing so.
  • If you want to discourage love bites, pressing back steadily but gently against the bite will make it unpleasant for the cat and prevent further chomp down. Pulling away too fast from a play grab or bite is likely to get yourself clawed or bitten accidentally
  • Invest in a cat scratching pole or two will keep the cat’s claw short and also provide a good workout session for your cat. A contented and tired cat is less likely to cause any harm than one that is bored with excess energy.
  • Engage your cat in multiple 5-minute play sessions with laser light or LED pointer, string toys, a roll of yarn or other suitable toys that do not include your fingers or toes will keep your cat stimulated, energy well spent, and all your digits safe.
  • If a cat is particularly problematic and does not react to normal technique, neutering is an option. A neutered cat is known to be more sociable and easier to get along with.

Learn to read aggression behavior:

  • A displeasure cat may hiss, growl, or ululating, or tipping back his ears flat against his head.
  • A cat ready for preemptive strike likely to arch his back with skin rippling, and growl aggressively. His whiskers may point forward and mouth draws back. Ears flat and point backward.
  • A cornered cat likely to crouch and look nervously from side to side, looking for an escape path. Failure to do so will likely see him strike out defensively.

Possible reasons why cats scratch or bite:

  • The cat may be anxious or stressed. A change in people, environment, and abusive toddler may cause the cat to feel cornered and strike out. The best option is to restore the ambiance as much as possible, and as soon as possible. Tune down the volume on TV, separates the crying or noisy kids from the cat. Teach the kids not to chase the cat around or pull its tail. No hitting or shouting at the cat. Learn how to pet the cat the correct way.
  • The cat may be in pain or not well. A cat in pain or unwell may become defensive and lash out. A trip to a veterinarian clinic may determine the health issue and proper treatment can be prescribed. Once the underlying health issue is treated, the cat temperament is likely to improve as well.
  • An older cat may not welcome being cuddled or picked up. They just want to be left alone in peace.
  • The cat may merely too excited in play. To curtail over play, please refer to earlier sections of this article.

Cats react best to positive reinforcement and consistency in treatments, praising and treat rewarding for appropriate behavior will mold your cat to be well behaved and well loved. Scolding, hitting, chasing and other negative gestures likely to turn your cat into a scared confused cat ready to defense itself at any possible perceived threat.


Cleaning Out Cat Litter Box

Every sane person loves to cuddle a cat, but I doubt the equally sane person would actually willingly, happily, voluntarily loves to clean out a cat litter box. But clean we must, for the health of our beloved cats as well as for the health of the cohabiting humans.

Cat feces are known to contain numerous pathogens that are harmful to humans. Among them, Bartonella henselae bacteria which causes cat-scratch disease and Toxoplasma gondii parasite which causes toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women are advised not to handle cat waste if possible as these pathogens may harm the development of fetuses and the health of the mothers.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 2012 pet ownership statistic, thirty percent of American households own cats, averaging 2.1 cats per household, translating to more than 74 million cats living closely with us. That also means there are lots of cat litter to clear every single day across America.

In fact, cat litter clearing is such a headache to some cat owners that a wide range of litter box designs has sprung out, ranging from the old fashion open tray, disposable, to a self-cleaning litter box and everything in between. Some clever owners have even taught their equally clever cats to use the toilet and flushing after use.

Our feline friends are fastidious in nature. Each cat prefers its own litter box and the litter box cleaned and changed on regular basis. Failure to do so, the cat will likely choose to do its business where you do not want them to be. You have been warned, so don’t get mad.


If you have a basic tray type litter box, use a scooper to gather the waste and remove them from the litter at least once a day. Once a week, throw out the soiled litter, thoroughly wash the box with detergent and water, dried, and refill with fresh litter to about 2-3 inches high. Waste and soiled litter need to go into a wide-mouth trash bag immediately and into the outdoor waste receptacle when removing from tray to minimize flying litter dust. Avoid cleaning the kitty’s litter box in the kitchen at all cost, instead, do it either outdoor, in the bathtub, or in the laundry room. You might want to consider wearing mask and gloves if you are unwell or prone to catching whatever flu bugs flying around. Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the raking or cleaning.

If you are allergic to litter box cleaning or simply too occupied with other things in life, there are various self-cleaning litter box designs that you may consider investing. The well-designed litter boxes allow you weeks of litter-free experience. One of the better designs I have seen is a self cleaning litter box with disposable box, prefilled with crystalline material. When your cat uses the litter box, the crystals immediately absorb moisture and odor and begin to dehydrate solids. Some minutes later, a rake automatically sweeps the waste into a covered compartment, leaving the litter near soiled-less and fresh. You may not even need to replace the disposable litter tray for half a month or so. Nearly hands-off convenience and excellent odor control. I want one too.

The ultimate bliss is probably when your cat uses the toilet just as you do. It is possible to train your cat to use the toilet seat. Yes, it requires time, patience and the correct tools but think about the time and cost saving a couple of months down the road!

During the toilet training period, you will be shaping your cat behavior and slowly progressing it to use the toilet. Training starts by placing a training seat on your toilet bowl filled with a sufficient amount of litter. After your cat has adapted, you will cut a small hole in the center of the training seat and slowly make the hole larger and larger until it’s completely open. When this is complete your cat will have completely adapted to using the toilet and you will no longer need the training seat. You may even train your cat to flush after use. Based on your toilet flushing mechanism, you can put a toy or catnip on a flat top press button to encourage them to press on the button. If you have a lever type of flushing mechanism, you may need to tie a string between the lever to something nearby so that your cat can pull on the string to trigger flushing.

When all done and successful, you can really sit back with a cuppa with your cat on your lap and a book in your hands. What a bliss! It may take months before your cat is totally adjusted to using the toilet, but the reward will soon get you to forget about the pain and the numerous accidents. Just be patient and back off a little if your cat becomes reluctant or confused.

We love our kitties, don’t we?