Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Science explains the Crazy Cat Lady

The New York Times ran an article about parasites a few weeks ago. At the end of the article, she comes up with a biological explanation for the Crazy Cat Lady: toxoplasmosis. It's a parasitic infection which can live in humans, but which can only reproduce in the intestinal tract of a cat. When a rat is infected with the toxoplasma parasite, its behavior changes; it's no longer threatened by the presence of a cat and isn't driven away by their smell. A researcher in Prague did a study of humans infected with toxoplasma; the results showed that "infected women ranked relatively higher than noninfected women in measures of warmth, self-assurance and chattiness". Add the inability to notice cats' smells and an increased level of comfort around cats, and you're looking at the crazy cat lady.

I found this extremely amusing and thought I'd pass it along. For reference, Laura and I are highly aware of our cats' various smells, so we're probably not infected. And even if we are, we won't be passing it along unless our cats eat us....

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