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Your Cat may Actually be Driving You Crazy.

 by zack on 07 Jul 2013 |
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Here’s a frightening thought: your housecat is host to a parasite that can infect you, and in so doing affect your brain function, making you more impulsive, promiscuous, less attentive, less intelligent, and possibly suicidal. Sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but unfortunately this parasite is so pervasive that liberal estimates say that over 8 million Australians could be infected, along with upwards of 60 million Americans. Worldwide estimates of infection range into the billions.

The disease is called Toxoplasma, and it starts in rats, goes to cats, and ends up inside your freaking brain, in what seems like a very demented spin on the circle of life. When a rat is infected with Toxoplasmosis it loses all aversion to the scent of cat urine, and in fact, becomes sexually aroused by the smell. It then seeks out areas filled with cat odors, and is predictably and promptly eaten by an unsuspecting feline.

Cats are then similarly infected though their behavior remains largely unchanged, a whole laundry list of symptoms has been associated with the disease, including:
  • Laziness
  • Sadness
  • High temperature
  • Sudden reduction in weight
  • Trouble breathing
  • Reduced coordination
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Nausea
  • Loose bowels
  • Reduced appetite
  • And inflammation

However, the really scary part is how often the disease goes unnoticed because of a lack of these symptoms.

Humans can catch the disease by being in close contact with cat feces which is where the ocysts, that is to say the toxoplasmosis progeny, are released after reproduction occurs inside the feline’s intestinal tract. It’s also common to catch the disease when in contact with undercooked foods, and is much more prevalent in countries with a tradition of eating such fare, like Brazil for example, which is estimated to have 67% of its total population infected with the parasite.

So I know this is supposed to be a pet blog, and we’re mainly concerned with pet issues here, but are you ready to hear some really scary facts about this parasite’s effects on human behavior?

Toxoplasmosis affects the human brain’s fear center, causing a disdain for authority, less adherence to social folkways and mores, an increased risk of schizophrenia, an increased risk of dying in a motorcycle accident, higher rates of suicide among the infected, increased levels of sexual promiscuity among women, and higher frequencies of neuroticism in both sexes. Ironically enough, you’re also more likely to be good at Soccer.

This psychotic protozoan is a major health concern for all of the above reasons, and is an excellent reminder to wash your hands after changing your cat litter and always before eating. Diagnosis for the disease is very difficult and not often undergone. It includes measuring t cell count in the blood stream as well as tracking the number of liver enzymes.

Treatment is likewise not always recommended as the disease is only serious in patients with weak immune systems. This is true for humans and cats alike. When it is treated, there is a long list of drugs used to do so, but there is more available in the way of prevention than actual treatment.

So there’s your daily dose of microscopic horror. Just remember, you’re not always in control of your actions. Sometimes nature plants a scary bodysnatching minute monster inside your brain to help you make stupid decisions. 
 

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