Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Look What Dragged the Cat In

When does "meow" turn into Me? Ow!

Whether enigmatic animal (particularly cattle) mutilations are the dirty work of something frighteningly unknown, of Venusian hamster invaders armed with laser scalpels, or of clandestine government agencies which, for some reason, didn't budget enough to purchase their own experimental cows and ranch land, the issue that always diverted my eyes from the obvious evidence of trauma is -- what about nearby animals which appear unaffected by the forces killing and cutting up their companions? Would they be the real focus disguised by the chaos of mysterious mutilation circumstances? Are intruders throwing investigators off track by leaving so much evidence of horror among the dead that living animals dwelling nearby, who may have experienced less invasive but more important encounters, are ignored by the inquisitive?

But forget all of that for now and instead go into panic mode about another potential vessel of terror. . .your cat. Does the litter box harbor microscopic agents of internal hypnosis and biological destruction? Are recognized organisms, already inhabiting earth for a millennia, the stealth mutilators of another variety?

The March, 2012 issue of Atlantic Magazine features an article entitled "How Your Cat is Making You Crazy." Kathleen McAuliffe explores the work of Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr. Flegr long believed that parasites found in house cats had entered his brain and caused certain changes in his activities. "Could tiny organisms carried by house cats," asks the author, "be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?"

The concern here is a single-celled parasite from the protozoan family called Toxoplasma
gondii (called T. gondii or simply Toxo) and is the microbe responsible for
toxoplasmosis, commonly found in cats. Pregnant women, you may already know, are instructed to avoid this organism.

This parasite, among what are suspected to be a myriad of microbial invaders available from all manner of living sources, appears to excel at entering human and animal brains with the express purpose of changing behavior to its own liking. For instance, studies indicate that rats infected with the parasite through contact with cat feces can be influenced to actually prefer going to places frequented by cats -- and cats, in turn, kill and eat the rats and eventually leave more cat droppings infiltrated with proliferating Toxo "offspring," waiting to infect more rats and other creatures which inadvertently eat the substance.

As far as humans go, the common cat litter box provides everything the Toxo parasite needs for human brain infiltration -- and once that occurs, anything can happen, the research suggests, and the result may occur specifically to benefit the invader. Organically, the effects may devastate a human. Research is just beginning to pull all of this together, though the evidence already in existence provides numerous clues.

The article is online, and I hadn't intended to read more than a few lines, but became captivated by the science, the theories and the implications, especially when the point was driven home that a lot of common disease processes and mental illnesses seem not to have been recorded in history until cats commonly became pets.

The article is fascinating, well worth your time, and if you have a cat -- don't worry, it's probably already too late to worry about feline dangers or litter box jitters. In fact, no matter what variety of pet you may have, it seems almost mandatory that they all carry some parasitic organisms just itching to burrow into our brains and, in the words of the street, make us their bitch. Sort of like what our government does routinely.

The online version is available here: