Oh, man, there is totally an issue we have to discuss right now that I found out today and it is MAJOR, you guys, no joke.
OUR CATS ARE INFECTING US WITH BRAIN CONTROLLING PARASITES.
No, I’m not EVEN exaggerating, a SCIENTIST said it. A scientist! This guy right HERE!
Yes, yes. Let’s just get this out of the way: I am aware that the scientist in question, Dr. Jaroslav Flegr, looks like a ginger version of, well…
But listen! DOC BROWN WAS A GENIUS YOU GUYS. I mean, flux capacitor? Come on, not just any yahoo could invent that. I’m sure some yahoos have tried, too. I mean, who WOULDN’T want to go back…to the future?
I also think Flegr looks a little like this:
And the fact that Filch has a cat is VERY MYSTERIOUS.
ANYWAY. So today I was playing around online, you know, as one does, and saw this article, and thought, ha ha, MY CAT TOTALLY MAKES ME CRAY-CRAY, I mean, the minute I walk in the damn house he’s all, “Meow? Meow? Meeee-ow? Mrooow? Meow? Mieuuuuu? Mrooo. Mroooouuu?” like we’re having a little conversation, only I’m not fluent in cat, you see, so it’s kind of one-sided. So mostly it’s him saying those things, and me being all, “Hi, Dumbcat. YES, Dumbcat. I SEE you, Dumbcat. I KNOW, Dumbcat, yes, there you are! There you ARE! Good BOY! Aren’t you a GOOD BOY! Oh, man, was that a totally hard headbutt into my stomach. Ouch, your nails are sharp, digging into my leg like that OW OW OW DUMBCAT now I am BLEEDING, I still love you, don’t be scared, aw, my little sweet potato.” Also, he likes to leap on my head half an hour before the alarm goes off in the morning, or really early on the days I can sleep in, all “HI MOM! Pet me. Want to pet me? YOU TOTES DO MOM. Right NOW you do. I KNOW IT. Pet me pet me pet me AREN’T I SO CUUUUTE purr purr PURR IN YOUR EAR PURR.” My response to this is usually “Mrrphmph Dumbcat stop it so scheepy stop stop ow stop you’re stepping on my eyeball.”
But oh, no no, this article was NOT about how your cat, who probably, let’s face it, isn’t named Dumbcat (honestly, mine isn’t either, that’s just his blog-pseudonym, so you don’t kidnap him or open a credit card in his name, because I know if you called him he’d totally be fooled into giving you his social security number, he’s very trusting) is making you a little crazy with the meowing and purring and early-risering. It’s about BRAIN PARASITES and SEX and CAR CRASHES and RAW MEAT and EUROPE and RATS and URINE.
It’s also eleven pages long. And, because I love you (and you, and you, and YOU, oh, wait, no, not you, sorry to be misleading) I printed it, and brought it with me on my lunch break, and read it twice, and wrote my thoughts all over it so we could totally have a serious scientific discussion about how your cats are infecting you with brain parasites. Andreas! Are you totally the most proud of me right now? I thought so.
First, this is from The Atlantic. I don’t think I was aware of this publication. But you guys, it is totally fancy. I am impressed with this. It is well-written, it is easy to peruse online, and according to research I totally just did right now so you don’t think I’m just making shit up, it’s been around since the mid 1800s. And the reason I wasn’t aware of it was because it used to be called The Atlantic Monthly and I WAS aware of The Atlantic Monthly, so now I don’t feel like a heathen.
Anyway. Because the article was ELEVEN PAGES LONG ZOMG, and totally twisty and turny and sciency, I do NOT expect you to click. Well, I bet Andreas will click. He grooves on science. But I totally read this for you so you don’t have to click. Unless you want to. It is interesting and worth a read, if you want to. And I really liked the article, and the author’s style. So, yeah, you go, The Atlantic! You get my stamp of approval. Stamp, stamp, stamp.
Also, any sciency-type mistakes I make here are totally my own and not the fault of the original article. I take full responsibility for science-style mistakes made in the name of tomfoolery and shenanigans.
Here’s the story:
The scientist above, who is NOT Doc Brown but kind of LOOKS like a ginger Doc Brown, Dr. Jaroslav Flegr, has been doing research into the Toxoplasma gondii microbe for some time. This is the microbe that is in cat feces (you know how pregnant women are told to not change cat litter? that’s why, it can cause birth defects) that causes toxoplasmosis. This microbe is also found on unwashed fruits and vegetables and in dirty water and undercooked meat.
Flegr (hee, I love that name, I think if you were to say it, you’d have to say it with a very guttural pronunciation, just for fun) one day realized he was acting strangely. He was not afraid of things that he should be. Like walking into busy streets! And the Communists who ruled his homeland of Czechoslovakia! This made him curious. One day, the university where he worked was running tests for a study they were doing on the T. gondii microbe, and needed test subjects, so he took the test and tested positive.
This led to years and years and YEARS of intense research on this parasitic microbe. He’s been working on this for twelve years exclusively, to be precise. It is his life’s work.
Here is what Flegr has discovered about good old T. gondii:
Healthy adults and children experience brief flu-like symptoms when infected; they quickly fight them off. Then the “protozoan…thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells.” FOREVER. Ugh ZOMG WTF.
Once there, the parasite (according to Flegr’s research) causes changes in our behavior – anything from “changing our response to frightening situations,” to changing our “trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preferences for certain scents.”
YES! The insidious microbe, having taken up residence in our BRAINS, “rewire(s) circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal.” It does this by causing multiple small cysts in various parts of the brain.
THIS CAUSES BRAIN CYSTS THIS MICROBE CAUSES BRAIN CYSTS DUMBCAT IS GIVING ME BRAIN CYSTS
Some people consider what Flegr is doing to be “fringe science.” This made me VERY EXCITED because I was hoping that the article would go on to say they called in Joshua Jackson to consult on the matter but that never happened dammit.
How T. gondii works in rats, who are T. gondii’s primary targets, anyway, is that it gets into them, it rewires their brains with all the cysts, and then – no, I’m totally not kidding – it makes cat pee smell GOOD to them. It makes the rats LOVE THE SMELL OF CAT PEE. It also makes the rats GET SEXUALLY AROUSED BY CAT PEE. It ALSO makes the rats more active. So you have rats tantalizingly running around more and hanging out where cats pee. The scientists call this “feline fatal attraction” in what I can only assume is a bit of scientist-humor. HA WELL-PLAYED SCIENTISTS. Well! Who’s going to catch THOSE rats, I wonder? CATS. And once cats catch and eat them, T. gondii’s life cycle is complete – it can mate, because there are (I assume? The article didn’t really go into this) other T. gondii’s hanging out in the cats’ digestive tracts that they want to pump it, pump it real good with.
How it works in HUMANS is a little less easy to explain, because T. gondii doesn’t really want to BE in humans. It’s not MEANT to be in humans. But, good old T. gondii! It adapts!
It makes the following things happen:
Men become “more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules”
Women become “more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding”
Infected subjects have a slower response time and a lower fear response, so they are more apt to get in car accidents
Men who are infected are perceived as more masculine by members of the opposite sex than uninfected men (presumably because the microbe wants you to mate with its host)
If you have a genetic disposition toward depression or schizophrenia, it may be heightened or precipitated by infection
Men who are infected find the scent of cat urine attractive
Infected subjects have increased levels of dopamine, so their fear, pleasure, and attention signals are all out of whack (most upsetting side effect: it can rewire your fear sensors into your sexual arousal sensors, so when you are afraid, you become sexually aroused)
This is VERY UPSETTING.
However, I think we can surmise, based on the above, that I am not infected. OR, if I AM, I am male. Because look up there at the symptoms female subjects experience. Just look. Now look back at me. NOW BACK AT THE SYMPTOMS. I am NONE of those things. However! I am ALL of the things that the MALE subjects experience. So either I’m male (let me check…nope) or I’m parasitic-brain-sucking-microbe-free. WHOO. Didn’t get me YET, Dumbcat!
Now, the best part of this article, for me, was the testing section, where they talked about the scientific tests they ran to come up with the results above, and other tests they ran. My favorites:
“…a postdoctoral student decided to inspect infected rats’ testicles for signs of cysts. Sure enough, he found them there – as well as in the animals’ semen.”
I LOVE THIS. Is this not the WORST post-doctoral gig EVER? “What’d you do today, honey?” “Oh, nothing much. Manually masturbated rats, checked their semen and testicles for cysts. Typical day. How about you, babe? What’s for dinner? Can I help make it?” “WASH YOUR HANDS YOU ARE DISGUSTING DON’T EVEN TOUCH ME.”
“To test whether they were prone to being suspicious, they were asked, among other things, to drink an unidentified liquid…And when it came to downing the mystery fluid…‘the infected males were much more hesitant than uninfected men. They wanted to know why they had to do it. Would it harm them?’ In contrast, the infected women were the most trusting of all subjects. ‘They just did what they were told.’”
First, if you’re in a scientific test situation, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to kill you. That’s like being worried on Survivor that you might really die rappelling or something. You won’t, or they can’t air the footage, you know? The test is already flawed. Second, “downing the mystery fluid” is the funniest non-euphemism euphemism I’ve read all day. THIRD, infected girls would TOTALLY be a hit at college frat parties. Gah. Nervous-making. I’m thinking of the friends I had to pull out of “they just did what they were told” situations back in the early-to-mid-nineties and this is making me shudder. I wish I had known that it was the fault of their damn murdery brain-parasite infecting cats.
“…infected men like the smell of cat pee…more favorably than uninfected men do…The sniff test was done blind and also included urine collected from a dog, horse, hyena, and tiger.”
This made me laugh and snort iced coffee out my nose, you guys. “OK, Bachelor #1, your blindfold tied tight? Good, good. Now, sniff, nice and deep. Get a gooood whiff. What’s that bouquet? Explain the notes you detect in this sample. Would you say it’s more or less pleasing than the last sample?” “OH MY GOD THEY ALL SMELL LIKE PISS PLEASE MAKE THIS STOP”
Alright. SO. Does Flegr say to get rid of Dumbcat? NO HE DOES NOT. He actually HAS cats. (Of course he does. He’s already infected, what does HE care?) He says it’s actually more important to wash your fruits and vegetables, make sure you have clean water, and cook your meat well (or at least freeze it before preparing it, if you have to have it done rare, to “kill the cysts.” UGH EW. ALSO! Have I not TOLD you people, ALL ALONG, that beef is DISGUSTING? Yes I HAVE. I’ve TOTALLY been trying to save you from BRAIN PARASITES.)
Also, this sentence, totally full of win: “The so-called cat craze began among ‘poets and left-wing avant-garde Greenwich Village types.’” Hee! YES. All the hippies and rebels and the ones your momma warned you about with their crazy hair and eyes and KITTY CATS FILLED WITH DISEASE!
As you can see, our cats are totally trying to kill us through car accidents and inappropriate sexual behavior due to BRAIN PARASITES. Barring that, they’re trying to get us to fall in love with the scent of their urine, I assume so they can start peeing all over the damn apartment.
SO! Let’s take our new-found knowledge and apply it in the REAL WORLD. Like scientists! Scientists of SCIENCE! Here are some famous people with cats. Let’s diagnose them!
Ian Somerholder! Totally not infected. He is very sweet and very non-scary. Unless this is a photo of Damon, in which case, YES. Damon is TOTALLY infected with cat-poo-borne brain parasites. That would explain why I am so attracted to Damon, as well. Hmm. This one’s iffy.
Michael Jackson before he was scary and filled with plastic surgery and also dead! No, not infected. Michael Jackson was a lot of things, but overly masculine was not one of them.
Holly Golightly! I think half-infected. The fashion-conscious and outgoing half. The other half, the rule-abiding and trusting half, not so much. The asshatty half, TOTALLY all her, though. If you’re mathing for me, that’s three halves.
Bill Clinton! NOT INFECTED. Don’t you even say a WORD. I won’t hear ANYTHING against my Bill Clinton. I LOVE HIM THE MOST. He has NO BRAIN PARASITES. He is PERFECT. Well, he might have a touch of whatever makes me irrationally attracted to him, but not brain parasites.
Dr. Evil! TOTALLY infected. Also, hairless cats creep me out the most. I had a friend with a hairless dog once. It was so icky.
Marilyn Monroe! Candle-in-the-wind poster child for parasitic brain infection. She fits the bill perfectly.
And finally, a young and adorable Michael J. Fox holding Dumbcat’s DOPPELGANGER! (Although with a tail. Dumbcat doesn’t have a tail. He lost it somewhere, I assume, and forgot where he left it and then wandered off and didn’t go back for it. That’s just like Dumbcat, honestly.) Not infected. Marty McFly is totally not infected with brain parasites.
So! In SUMMATION! Dumbcat! I TOTALLY have my eye on you right now, bud. If I start acting all compliant and friendly and wearing “expensive, designer-brand clothing” (HA, like that is EVER going to happen, I’d buy electronics or nail polish with that money first) you KNOW I have been body-snatched by a furry assassin with too many toes and ever-so-slightly crossed eyes. WATCH OUT FOR HIM. He is ONE WILY CAT. Him falling off the back of the couch and get his head stuck in my winter boot last night WAS JUST A RUSE. A cunning, cunning, hysterically clumsy MURDEROUS ruse.