Wednesday, August 09, 2006

BOW before your furry masters!

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At first I thought this article was a joke:

Aug. 9, 2006 — Kevin Lafferty is a smart, cautious, thoughtful scientist who doesn't hate cats, but he has put forth a provocative theory that suggests that a clever cat parasite may alter human cultures on a massive scale.

His phone hasn't stopped ringing since he published one of the strangest research papers to come out of the mill in quite awhile.

The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has been transmitted indirectly from cats to roughly half the people on the planet, and it has been shown to affect human personalities in different ways.

Research has shown that women who are infected with the parasite tend to be more warm, outgoing and attentive to others, while infected men tend to be less intelligent and probably a bit boring. But both men and women who are infected are more prone to feeling guilty and insecure.

But apparently it's serious. This is really the best part:

Toxoplasma, he notes, is "frighteningly amazing."

It can change the personality of a rat so much that the rat surrenders itself to a cat, just as the parasite wanted.

The parasite's eggs are shed in a cat's feces. A rat comes along, eats the feces, and becomes infected. The behavior of the rat undergoes a dramatic change, making the rat more adventuresome, and more likely to hang out around cats.

The cat eats the rat, and the parasite completes its life cycle

Since most humans do not eat cat feces, I'm not clear on how Toxoplasma makes humans do cats' bidding. But I don't really have time to chat about it. I'm feeling kind of guilty and insecure right now. I. Must. Feed. The cats. Now.


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