The Strangest Thing I’ve Read All Week

I had some vitriolic posts all fired up about Terry Schiavo and this Senate anti-lynching thing, but I’m too spent to a keep up my anger. Instead, here’s a story from the Times about how a cat parasite can alter human personality with feline traits. Apparently nine million British cats are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, and it infects the brains of half of Britain’s human population too.

Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive. Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the “sex kitten” effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun-loving and possibly more promiscuous.

Apparently infection rates among humans in Germany and France reach 80%-90%, which opens a whole can of worms in derogatory national puns.

Toxoplasma gondii’s life cycle is fulfilled by passing between cats and rats. Rats eat infected cat feces, cats are infected by hunting rats. Once infected, rats seem to lose their natural fear of cats, so the parasite alters rat brain patterns and instincts to increase the likelihood of the rat being eaten by a cat. Researchers think this is the same process involved in the human personality changes.

So now I have a valid excuse for why I’m so scruffy looking. It’s the alley-cat effect. No if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to warble out in the yard, pee on my neighbor’s bed and go lounge under some automobiles for the rest of the day.

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