Caturday Fever

Scientists Finally Prove What Cat
Lovers Already Knew: They Do Rule

Ok, so we got carried away with this headline. Then again, haters need not to apply. The fact is, we’ve got impressive news to report and won’t let a small detail, such as who cares? get in the way.
Breaking: Cat lovers are being controlled by a parasite that ‘manipulates’ their personality. That’s why we’re so weary of rats. Just in case, the Chinese have an imprint of a cat hidden on their money.
It’s all true, honest to heaven. Or, as a dog lover would say, that figures. No wonder these people go berserk at the sight of kittens playing on the Internet. There’s got be a name for that. Oh, yes, it’s called insanity.
Yes, cat people do believe they’re the ones who’re owned, not the other way around. That’s why they run when the masters call, but can’t make a single command work to their advantage.
Hopefully these three examples will settle once and for all this matter. Of course, you’ll hear loud barks against it in weeks ahead, but not to worry. We’re sure that that parasite will take care of those canine worshippers in no time.
As most scientists, Jaroslav Flegr has heard more criticism than accolades about his work. But the voice he usually follows is the one inside his mind, which has led to serious work in the field of evolutionary biology.
While still in his native Prague, Flegr started researching the cat-feces microbe that causes toxoplasmosis, which is transmissible to humans and animals. Known since the 1920s, it’s the main reason why pregnant women are routinely advised to stay away from cat litter.
His research led him in the 1990s to suspect that the single-celled parasite, Toxo for short, was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. We know what you’re thinking but respected scientists in his field have given credence to his theory.
Other research has shown that the parasite is capable of turning a rat’s aversion to cats, for example, into an attraction. That, obviously, has dire consequences, and felines make no excuses for enjoying eating them, either after a chase or, as in this case, when they voluntarily ‘offer’ themselves.
Think that dogs are exempted from such a far-out way of thinking? You need another shot. Try rabies, the virus that acts in much the same way: it drives canines insane, and in the process, takes steps to make sure it’ll be transmitted to another host. A human would be just fine.
So, parasites commandeering behavior of large-brained mammals may be rare but not impossible to happen. Many classes of insects are also known for inoculating others with their eggs or genetic material, and manipulating the host’s behavior to their own benefit.

But before you go ahead and enlist this as another possible excuse for your own bad behavior, you deviant, a word of caution: research in the field of evolutionary biology is vast and mostly inconclusive, as the implications are complex and the potential for erroneous assumptions shouldn’t be underestimated.
That being said, Flegr did test himself and found out he was, in fact, infected with the parasite. It’s all around you, it turns out, even if you don’t live with a cat. Drinking water can be contaminated, as can unwashed vegetables and raw or undercooked meat, and you too may be infected, that’s all we’re saying. Sorry.
More startling, but far less conclusive, are the results of a series of tests he conducted with people both infected and not. Compared with a control group, males who tested positive, for example, were more introverted, suspicious and oblivious to other people’s opinions of them.
Infected women, on the other hand, seemed to behave in the opposite way, being more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule abiding than those uninfected. Such odd results held consistently similar, even when other groups of subjects and under different conditions were tested and compared.
The psychological implications are, naturally, too complex to summarize here, and are still being studied. But before you blame your cat for your anti-social behavior, it’s important to be clear that indoor cats are rarely exposed to the parasite. And people usually take good care of their (cats) litter box.
Research about parasites that may be related to personality traits continue. But no one likes to admit they may be acting in a certain way because of a microscopic puppeteer-master inside their mind. People who start talking this way are usually considered, what’s the term again? oh, that’s right, crazy.

We wouldn’t survive. Is that the parasite talking? Perhaps. But, as far as we know, veterinary medicine professor Alan Beck, who is actually saying that, is not infected. His is just plain common sense: without cats, the rodent population would increase, ravaging our food supplies and causing widespread famine throughout vast regions of the world. Without food, guess who would be disappearing next?
Besides, without felines, soon there wouldn’t be many seabirds left around either. That is because if rats were not under the strict watch of cats, they’d multiply and start feeding more and more on bird eggs. In the span of a generation or two, most bird species would be all but extinct. Think about that the next time Jack brings a feathery prize for you to praise his predatory skills.
Of course, if cats would cease to exist, other species would develop a taste to prey upon mice and rats. But that would take a few hundred thousand years of evolution, so we for ones will not even be around to confirm such scenario.
Talking about evolution, there’s also a chance that more subspecies of rodents would be able to strive and plague our food depots without control. And grow in size, too, if that would make it easier for them to gain access to supplies. That means, picture rats the size of small horses, roaming about and coming at you for food. Running wouldn’t help you much, we’d have to tell you.
So let’s not dismiss what took felines millions of years to develop: a keen sense of duty and a body highly equipped to fulfill it. In other words, if you think you’re the one feeding the cat, think again, buster. Or would you want us to tell that Toxo guy to give you a direct, inside-brain order?

Finally, another reason why the land of Confucius (and Lang Lang) is known for its multi-millennium wisdom and appreciation of nature and all creatures. That is, excluding the air pollution, child labor, well, take it easy, would you? We’re talking about money, of course. As with your hard-earned dollar, most of what appears on the bill is nothing compared to what’s hidden.
So we may have the ‘Eye of Providence’ and the pyramid and all the stories about our national legal tender, both fictitious and true. Mostly, we’ll never know everything about what’s on the dollar, besides, of course, how fast and easy it is to spend it.
The Chinese have the 100 renminbi bill and now someone spotted a tiny depiction of what looks like a cat being adored by two others, and got the Internet abuzz with rumors.
That’s probably because the strange, cartoonish scene is right next to the figure of Mao Zedong, but we have no idea what kind of speculation is going on over there.
We just feel a certain sense of misguided brotherhood with our friends from the Far East, for as it turns out, cats are indeed special creatures for them too.
It’s all silly, of course, and there’s not much more to it anyway. Let’s hope our little foray into a possible relation of cats with our brains, stomach and even money will be enough to get you going over the weekend.
And yes, we too hear voices. Like now, for example, saying, enough.


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