July 15, 2022
by Club Editor

The Cat Litter Parasite

by | Jul 15, 2022


There is a very bizarre connection between cats, their litter box and Toxoplasma gondii.

Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is one of the most common parasites that can infect pretty much any warm blooded animal including your pets and us humans.  The parasite alters the brain behaviour of its host and it's been found that it alters the behaviour of infected rodents by making them less fearful of predators (such as cats) evidently making it easy for the parasite to spread to a new host.  The trouble is, while the parasite rarely produces any form of clinical disease within the cat, the cat's intestines is the only environment that the parasite can sexually reproduce itself.  So basically, the mouse becomes infected with Toxoplasma gondii.  The infection reduces the general aversion and anxiety of the mouse towards predators, such as cats.  The mouse gets eaten by the cat which provides the right environment for the parasite to complete its lifecycle and to reproduce again.

Now, some scientists have begun to suspect that the parasite can alter human behaviour in a similar way too.  Humans will often pick up Toxoplasma gondii from handling cat litter boxes given that the parasites can be found in their feces but there are other ways to become infected such as through eating undercooked meat.  There is evidence that the long-term and latent infection can subtly change a person's personality over time and that's on the increase.

Infected people have greater rates of neuroticism, schizophrenia, depression and have slower reflexes in lab experiments.  As a result, they are more prone to being involved in traffic accidents more often and there's also evidence that they have higher rates of suicide.  The infection doesn't seem to cause behavior changes in everyone, but it does seem to occur at slightly higher rates in those that are infected.

Interestingly enough, it's been stated that as many as 60 million people in the US alone could well be infected with the parasite.

Never the less, there is enough evidence around to prove that it is actually the cat that has a positive effect on our mental health and well being through lowering our risk of heart disease and stroke, reducing feelings of loneliness and lowering our stress levels and anxiety..........anxiety.....mouse.....oh dear, that explains alot


Submit a Comment