Cat Project Archives for December 3-7,
3, 2018: "Cats like doors left open--in case they
change their minds."
- Rosemary Nisbet
Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: Are cats solid or liquid? The mystery continues.
Cat Mewvie: The Widdle Kitten.
Feline Art: "Fortune
Cookie Cat" by
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
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
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.
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
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?”
4, 2018: "For me, one of the pleasures of cats' company
is their devotion to bodily comfort." - Sir Compton
Gratuitous Kittiness: The Heralds of Darkness.
Cat Mewvie: My cat, my editor.
Feline Art: "Fishing
by Jemaica Murphy.
5, 2018: "A cat's name may tell you more about its
owners than it does about the cat."
- Linda W. Lewis
Gratuitous Kittiness: "You know what your problem is, Harry? You're
Cat Mewvie: What your cat does
when you're gone.
Art: "Five Mights at Freddy's and Wet Cat" by Nina Levy.
6, 2018: "I have studied many philosophers and many
cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." -
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)
Feline Art: "Red
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
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Is the dog gone yet?"
Cat Mewvie: "The floor is
Feline Art: "Allley
by Artem Cheboha.
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
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
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
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