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Infinite Cat Project Archives for December 3-7, 2018.

Mewsings, December 3, 2018: "Cats like doors left open--in case they change their minds."
- Rosemary Nisbet

solid and liquid cats

Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: Are cats solid or liquid? The mystery continues.

Cat Mewvie: The Widdle Kitten.


cat and a pullover sweater

Today's Kitty Komic

black cat art

Feline Art: "Fortune Cookie Cat" by Danial Ryan.

cat tongue

Can cats change your personality?
by Sal Iaquinta

Some discoveries sound so far-fetched that people refuse to believe they are real. Would you believe that owning a cat might change your personality because of the the microorganisms the cat harbors? Do you believe the Earth is round?

Turns out both might be true.

We already know that toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can create cysts in the brain. These cyst lie dormant in infected individuals and were long supposed to do nothing. But do they really do nothing? Recent studies suggest otherwise.

The parasite is endemic around the world. Some studies show more than 20 percent of Americans have been infected. In some countries that number rises up to 90 percent. The protozoan is carried by cats and can be transmitted just by cleaning the cat’s litter box. For non-cat people, it can also be in raw or undercooked meat, or even in contaminated water. If infected, we might suffer a flu-like illness and rarely anything more. No big deal.

Affects the brain

However, sometimes it is a big deal. Pregnant women are warned to take steps to avoid exposure because fetal infection can cause problems with brain and eye development. The other times infections can be serious is in those patients without a fully intact immune system. During the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s (before there was a treatment for HIV), it was discovered the latent cysts can reactivate and become an active infection after years of lying quiescent. Untreated infection in the brain can cause weakness, gait disturbance or even mimic psychotic disorders such as psychosis, dementia, anxiety or other personality disorders. Toxoplasmosis infection can affect the brain in strange ways.

New evidence suggests even people with intact immune systems can be affected in subtle ways. A small study of 200 men and women found that women with a history of toxoplasmosis infection (as evidenced by anti-toxoplasmosis antibodies in their blood) rated themselves to have significantly less anxiety, insomnia and depression compared with women with no evidence of previous infection. No such finding was found in men with or without antibodies.

A French study looking at schizophrenics and patients with obsessive compulsive disorder found that both groups were more likely to have antibodies than healthy volunteers. Schizophrenics are 2.7 times more likely to have antibodies than people without schizophrenia. This doesn’t necessarily prove causality, maybe people with certain mental health problems just hang out with cats more than others. Scientists won’t be able to infect people and watch what happens in a prospective way. Their only option is to compare infected people with non-infected people.
Fearless rats

Scientists can infect rats and see what part of the brain the parasite creates cysts in. They can also see if the rat’s behavior changes. Rats normally have an aversion to cat urine, from an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense. However, rats infected with Toxoplasma not only lose this instinct but appear to have a brain response akin to sexual attraction! From the point of view of Toxoplasma, having fearless rats venture into the cat’s territory is a great way to ensure the parasite will have plenty of healthy hosts.

These rats have been measure to have higher levels of dopamine in their brains.

Another study done on chimpanzees in Gabon found that chimps with antibodies to Toxoplasma lost their aversion to leopard urine compared with chimps without infection. The researchers went a step further and tested the chimps response to other animal’s urine. There were no difference between the groups. The leopard is the chimps’ only natural predator, and Toxoplasma has found the cerebral switch to flip to make its host tolerant of an odor it usually runs from.

This brings us back to what happens in humans. Personality tests, response time tests and other questionnaires have been administered to people with Toxoplasma antibodies. A study in the Czech Republic and then a confirmatory study in Turkey found that infected individuals were more than two times more likely to be in traffic accidents than uninfected people. Other studies have shown people with Toxoplasma have slower reaction times. Another study shows that depending on blood type the effects on the brain on intelligence are different.

Don’t ditch the cat
None of this means it is time to get rid of the cat. First off, indoor cats don’t have the parasite and outdoor cats are only infectious for a period of about three weeks. Exposure is far more likely from improperly washed vegetables or uncooked meat.

Second, the effects of Toxoplasma are small, meaning they don’t turn an introvert into an extrovert.

Third, even for schizophrenia, there is likely a genetic component that makes some families more susceptible to any changes in the brain that occur from toxoplasmosis.

Keep in mind that toxoplasmosis is relatively common whereas schizophrenia is rare. That said, I’m sure the next time you meet that strange lady with 10 cats you might ask yourself, who is controlling whom?”

Mewsings, December 4, 2018: "For me, one of the pleasures of cats' company is their devotion to bodily comfort." - Sir Compton Mackenzie

two black cats on toilet

Gratuitous Kittiness: The Heralds of Darkness.

Cat Mewvie: My cat, my editor.


social media cats

Today's Kitty Komic

fairy fishing on swimming cat art

Feline Art: "Fishing Fairy" by Jemaica Murphy.

Mewsings, December 5, 2018: "A cat's name may tell you more about its owners than it does about the cat."
- Linda W. Lewis

kitten with dust-bunny on nose

Gratuitous Kittiness: "You know what your problem is, Harry? You're too pushy!"

Cat Mewvie: What your cat does when you're gone.


cat cage comicpirate cat tree

Today's Kitty Komic

cat sleeps on hair comic

Feline Art: "Five Mights at Freddy's and Wet Cat" by Nina Levy.

Mewsings, December 6, 2018: "I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." - Hippolyte Taine

cute cat poster

Gratuitous Kittiness: He's on the FBI (Feline Beauty Inspector) top ten most wanted list.

Cat Mewvie: The Revenge of the Xmas Tree! (Warning: Naughty language)


art for kitty comic

Today's Kitty Komic

red cat painting

Feline Art: "Red Cat" by Joostland.

Mewsings, December 7, 2018: "If you were hit by a shrink ray, your dog would still love you. Your cat would spend an hour killing you." - anonymous

kitten in teapot

Gratuitous Kittiness: "Is the dog gone yet?"

Cat Mewvie: "The floor is LAVA!" cat-style.


cat lady date comic

Today's Kitty Komic

hungry alley cat art

Feline Art: "Allley Cat" by Artem Cheboha.

cat news

Should we walk our cats?
by David Grimm

About 13 years ago, my fiancée and I started to go for walks in our neighborhood. When we’d step out of the house, cars often lingered at the intersection out front a bit longer than they should have. People would stop us to ask questions. And the patrons of a restaurant across the street framed by large, plate-glass windows would occasionally run outside and shout, “It’s you — we’ve heard about you!”

Perhaps this wasn’t so surprising. We were walking our cats, after all. On leashes.

We weren’t trying to start a movement. And we weren’t the only people in the country who had the crazy idea to buy a small dog harness, strap it onto a nonplused feline, and pray that the tens of millions of years of evolution that separate dogs and cats would suddenly evaporate. We just wanted our two kittens — Jasper and Jezebel — to experience more of the world than our cramped 800-square-foot apartment in the heart of Baltimore. We also wanted to keep them from running out into traffic.

In the past two decades, there has been a growing movement to confine our feline friends indoors. Veterinarians argue that this significantly extends their life spans, protecting them from disease, cars and predators. Wildlife advocates contend that outdoor cats are a blight on ecosystems, killing countless birds and small mammals every year. Increasingly, it seems, no one wants to cross paths with an outdoor cat.
Yet cats belong to a proud race of savanna kings and nomadic carnivores. Their ancestors slunk out of the deserts of the Near East 10,000 years ago to hunt mice in our early villages, and they have been free to roam our backyard jungles since. They have not evolved to slumber in our living rooms.

People began to keep dogs as indoor pets in large numbers in the late 1800s, thanks to the invention of flea and tick shampoos. And yet, cats remained outside. Even the advent of Kitty Litter in 1947 could not contain them completely; tomcats still prowled alleys at night, in search of a mate — or a fight. Today’s indoor cat is a tiger robbed of his dominion, a Lamborghini left idling in the garage.

So how do we honor cats, while protecting them from the world — and the world from them?
The solution lies in what we’ve already done with dogs for decades: We need to start walking our cats. I’m not saying that you should put your cat on a leash like we did. They don’t like you telling them where to go. But we should let our cats outside for 30 to 60 minutes a day to rove yards, stroll sidewalks and disappear into shrubbery.

And we should be there to watch them. We should pick them up when they head for the street. We should whistle or clap our hands when they begin stalking a bird. And we should have a bag of treats ready when it’s time to call them back indoors.

We don’t let our dogs wander unsupervised or destroy whatever they want. We should exercise the same responsibility with our cats.

I’m not going to lie to you. Walking a cat is not easy. You’re going to spend a lot of time just standing there while they chatter at squirrels. You’re going to lose track of them when they double back on you under a bush. You’re going to get some questions from your neighbors, concerned, that perhaps you might have finally lost it. Bring a magazine — and a sense of humor.

You may not get any cardio, but you’ll most likely make some new friends. And with each day, you’ll see your cat come alive in amazing ways, bolting, scaling, leaping and becoming one with the wild world around him. And you’ll marvel at the miracle of this once fearsome and solitary predator who decided to be your best friend.

When your cat does return home, I think you’ll find, as we have, that he comes back a complete being, one who has salved his savage heart and who is now perfectly content to be the lion in your lap. Sure, you’re going to get some strange glances from other people. But it will be nothing compared with the look in your cat’s eyes when you open the front door.


The Infinite Cat Project
Presented by Mike Stanfill, Private Hand
Illustration, Flash Animation, Web Design

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