Your Cat’s Invisible Parasite That Can Control Your Mind
It sounds crazy, or perhaps something straight out of a science fiction movie: According to the Center for Disease Control, over 60 million people in the United States may be infected with a dangerous parasite called toxoplasma gondii that can change their personality, increase recklessness, and even cause a higher risk of suicide. While this parasite can originate from many different places, cat owners may be at a heightened risk of contracting the infection. Continue reading to learn more about to avoid toxoplasma gondii, the invisible parasite that can control your mind:
Fatal Attraction Leads to Infection
As researchers continue to discover more about the parasite and the side effects those infected can suffer, they have uncovered a weird side effect for infected mice: they no longer show fear of cats. While most mice will run the other direction when sensing their feline predator, the parasite can control the mind of the mouse, causing them to do the exact opposite of what they would normally do. In fact, the mouse not only ignores its normal sense of danger but is attracted to the cat– leading, of course, to the mouse’s demise.
As the mouse is devoured, the parasite goes with the cat’s meal– finding a new host in the process. Now you own an infected cat, and you’re likely to be none the wiser. If you’re not careful, you could end up contracting the parasite yourself and suffering the symptoms.
The Human Symptoms of Toxoplasma Gondii
While you cannot contract the parasite simply by petting your cat or sitting where it has sat, it can be easily contracted through your cat’s feces. If you’re not careful after cleaning the litter box, for example, you could be at risk.
An infected human could be at as much risk as the infected rat, and the consequences could be just as deadly. Researcher Jaroslav Flegr was one of the first biologists to discover the parasite’s presence after being infected himself– and he found that the infection could cause jarring differences to an otherwise happy person, such as schizophrenia, depression (at times severe leading to suicide), and recklessness.
Time Heals Everything
The positive side to this otherwise horrifying parasite is that the Center for Disease Control claims that the infection (and therefore the symptoms) will disappear on their own within a few weeks. The problem is navigating that space in between, the time when you are suffering the ill effects of the infection.
Since severe depression is a side effect, be sure to talk to your physician immediately if you suspect that you may have contracted the parasite. To guard yourself against any future infection as a cat owner, simply be sure to wash your hands with warm water any time you clean the litter box. Do the same when you’re working outside in the garden, as outdoor cats may have dug into the soil– causing the parasite to be present there as well. If you suspect that your cat may have contracted the parasite, be sure to take your pet to a clinic like Montgomery Animal Hospital.