"The fact that the cat was young suggests that it was one of those bred specifically for mummification," says lead author Giacomo Gnudi, a veterinary professor at the University of Parma.
Robotic cats in Scotland
Back in modern-day Scotland, vets have been trying to explain strange symptoms in 21 cats that arrived at Strathbogie Veterinary Centre, Huntly, and Morven Veterinary practice, Alford, both in North-East Scotland, between 2001 and 2010.
The animals appeared to have a slowly-progressing neurological disease. Walking with an odd gait with stiff, extended tails, the cats dubbed robotic cats due to their movements presented a veterinary oddity not seen before. Cats with a slightly different but possibly related condition have been spotted in Sweden and Austria, where it was referred to as "staggering disease." Histological tests suggested a central nervous system infection, lymphohistiocytic meningoencephalomyelitis, could be the cause.
The cats had outdoor access and lived in the same geographical rural area. When the vets looked at immune system markers they found a significant expression of the interferon-inducible Mx protein, a sign of an as yet unidentified infective or environmental immunogenic trigger for the illness.
"All the cats included in our study, and most of the cats reported with 'staggering disease', belong to the rural population accustomed to hunting birds and rodents," says one of the study's authors, Luisa De Risio. "It can be speculated that the aetiological agent may be transmitted from these animals to cats."
The authors conclude
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