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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 199

Date:- 01 May 2005

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Cats' Eyes The Facts

IT'S 70 years this week since reflectors called 'cats' eyes' were first used on our roads to help drivers see in the dark. They were aptly named and designed in honour of our feline fri by inventor, Percy Shaw, after the reflection from a pair of real cat's eyes prevented him from crashing his car in dense fog.

Many people will have seen the glimmer of a pair of cat's eyes at night peeking out from behind a tree or bush, but what causes this and what else is special about a real cat's eyes? 

PDSA pet care column aims to answer these questions as well as revealing some other interesting 'cat eye' facts.

Cat vision:- Cats' eyes are similar to ours in that they have a cornea, pupil, lens and iris. However, their eyes are far stronger and catch 50% more light than a human eye and are 8 times more sensitive at night. Although a cat's general vision may be somewhat blurred in comparison to ours, they can detect the slightest movement. They also have excellent depth perception which means they can usually judge distance much better than most humans. Many people wonder if cats can see in colour. It is thought that they can differentiate between shades and hues, though not necessarily distinguish different colours. 

The reflective nature of their eyes is the result of tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer at the back of the eye that enhances an animal's vision in extreme low light conditions and creates the glow of their eyes. It works by acting like a mirror, reflecting light hitting the back of the eyeball back onto the light receptive cells in the retina. Some of the light reflected back in this way comes out of the front of the eye, which is noticeable at night when a bright light hits a cat's eye. Cats are not the only animals with this layer - dogs, horses and cows also have it. Cats also have a 3rd eyelid which provides additional protection and partially closes over the eye when the cat is blinking and sleeping. It is usually only visible in the corner of the eye.

Here are PDSA's top tips to help keep cats' eyes in purrrfect condition:-

1. Diet… A cat's body is designed to function on a diet that primarily consists of protein and fat. They have a particular need for certain types of protein such as taurine which is vital in preventing visual, heart and reproductive problems. Cats can't produce vitamin A, needed for sight and healthy skin. These dietary components can only be obtained from animal sources, which is why cats can't be fed a vegetarian diet. They should be fed a well balanced diet to help keep their eyes, skin and coat in good condition. 

2. Eye infections… There are several things that can cause chronic eye infections in cats. Symptoms may include runny or red eyes or discharge. There are many treatments available to combat eye infections so seek advice from your vet as soon as possible.

3. Change in appearance of eyes… If owners notice any change in the eyes, especially pupil size, they should take their cat to the vet for a check up as this could be a sign of a serious condition such as glaucoma, inflammation of the iris, or a problem with the nerves in the eye. It can also result from a problem with the brain, such as an injury, infection or tumour.

Leading criminologist raises identity theft concerns as 44 million polling cards flood the UK

FOLLOWING an identity theft feasibility study conducted by Professor Martin Gill, one of the UK's foremost criminologists, voters are being urged to take particular care of their polling cards and other personal documentation. With more than 44 million polling cards in circulation during the election campaign, Professor Gill advises the estimated 18 million non-voters to make sure they destroy their polling cards rather than just throw them in the bin. 

The warning comes after Professor Gill and his team of researchers were commissioned by Capital One Bank to conduct a study into they ways in which different types of documentation are accepted as 'proof of identification'. Using only a polling card as identification the team was able to withdraw cash on a credit card and collect a number of registered parcels from the post office.

In some cases the only hurdle to jump in order to use a polling card to withdraw money and check balances at a bank (without a bank card or account number) was to answer stock security questions, such as their address, post code or date of birth - all of which can be obtained easily. In other cases the team achieved similar aims without the need for a polling card or any form of independent identification at all. 

Professor Gill commented:- "Some of the findings are extremely worrying. For instance, one phone retailer allowed a member of the team to open a mobile phone contract using only a faxed copy of a council tax bill and a bank account number. Ultimately the study highlights that people need to look after their personal documentation and ensure that information such as their account details are kept secret and secure."

The report's sponsor Capital One recently launched the UK's first free Identity Theft Assistance service to help tackle the growing problem of identity theft in the UK. 

Capital One spokesperson, Dan Cobley, is asking the public to take particular care during the election, he commented:- "Polling cards are clearly visible, with no envelope to disguise them, and have no photo, signature or other feature to link them to their bearer. This makes them even more attractive to identity thieves. Those who decide not to vote should destroy their polling card immediately. The best advice to anyone who has not received a polling card is to check with their local council when it was sent out."

Identity theft is one of the UK's fastest growing crimes, in fact research suggests there is a case identity fraud committed every 4 minutes in the UK. It is facilitated by the ease with which offenders can gain information and personal documentation about people. Given that an estimated 14.4 million items of mail are lost each year, the dangers are clear.

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