Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Everything You Read On Facebook Is True

English: Road gritter, Belfast Roads Service N...
English: Road gritter, Belfast Roads Service Northern Ireland gritter at Shaftesbury Square in Belfast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Obviously it isn't, but otherwise rational, intelligent people are quite happy to pass on bizarre spam style 'warnings' and information without checking the veracity of the facts.

Here is an example from this morning's news feed. "WARNING! CAT AND DOG OWNERS - With the snow upon us the roads are now being gritted, if you walk your dog on gritted roads/paths please make sure that their paws are washed either by walking them through a few puddles away from the gritted surfaces or by dipping their feet in fresh water once at home. WATCH TO SEE IF YOUR CATS ARE LICKING THEIR FEET A LOT. WHY ? GRIT CONTAINS ANTI-FREEZE WHICH IS POISONOUS, ANTI-FREEZE TASTES SWEET TO DOGS AND CATS. CATS AND DOGS LIKE TO LICK THEIR FEET! ................please copy & paste and keep our pets safe!"

This appears to be an amalgamation of two different warning stories carried by the Daily Mail and other papers this week.  "Hundreds of dogs and cats die from rock salt scattered by gritters in big freeze" ran the Daily Mail lead on an article that went on to explain that rock salt does not contain the poisonous component
ethylene glycol, but anti-freeze does.  However both rock salt and anti-freeze seem to be bad for your pet's health, so the foot washing advice seems helpful.

On the subject of what cats can taste, Wikipedia says this "Cats have relatively few taste buds compared to humans. Domestic and wild cats share a gene mutation that keeps their sweet taste buds from binding to sugary molecules like carbohydrates, leaving them with no ability to taste sweetness. Their taste buds instead respond to amino acids, bitter tastes and acids."*  The erroneous information about cats liking sweet tasting things can be found  on a number of reputable websites  in the pet care field, a quick search revealed the same warning distributed on Saga and large number of pet related forums.  The search also revealed that some local councils had posted memos stating that the grit they used was rock salt only and does not contain anti-freeze.

As Facebook meme distribution goes then, this isn't really a bad one.  The information about the harmful component of anti-freeze is useful, but it has become muddled and confused.

Anyway, it is only Facebook, home to rapidly propagating memes across the spectrum of useless, entertaining and bizarre, and very occasionally containing a fragment of truth.

* Bradshaw, John W. S. (1 July 2006). "The Evolutionary Basis for the Feeding Behavior of Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris) and Cats (Felis catus)". Journal of Nutrition 136 (7): 1927S–1931.
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