Ahh the internet, the true land of the free…but not entirely free from some odd unwritten rules that one needs to respect to be considered part of the internet community. These rules include : compulsory freak-out every time your favourite website changes its layout ;  screaming “GODWIN POINT” to anyone who mentions Hitler or WWII (you may do it now !), and thou shalt talk about cats.

I’m pretty sure reaching the Godwin point will be easy enough for a car blog, mentioning  the history of any German car-manufacturer is a sure way of doing that. But talking about cats? It is really hard to fulfill this cat-containing commandment. After all what is the link between cars and cats?

I mean, everybody knows that cats drive like jerks. It barely qualifies as news

I mean, everybody knows that cats drive like jerks. It barely qualifies as news

Well, I have a hard time believing it but it is actually totally possible to find a link between cats and cars that is relevant and not even that far-fetched.

It is a rather unpleasant stories of parasites and brain-control that makes zombie movies seem cute and endearing in comparison.

They only want love! Just pet them already

They only want love! Just pet them already

Here is how the story goes :

Introducing Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that causes Toxoplasmosis. This parasite is extremely awesome in its own little way because it affects the behaviour of infected rats : normal rats are naturally scared of cats, their natural predators, but the Toxoplasma gondii seems to rewire some parts of the rodents’ brains and make infected rats surprisingly attracted to the smell of cat urine. Only cats’? Yep, only cat urine. Scientists have tested their responses to other animals’ urine and they seem to have a perfectly normal response to those smells – which is utter disgust. The scientists working on it dubbed it “fatal feline attraction” which does sound a bit too glamourous given the topic but it actually isn’t that far-fetched since…wait for it… the parasite makes the rats sexually attracted to cat urine smell…

Why would the parasite do such a thing? Because it needs to get into a feline’s digestive system to reproduce. That’s why!

No no, it gets worse actually

No no, it gets worse actually. Wait till we get to the part about humans

So what about humans? It turns out that humans can get it too from contact with cat feces which are oddly enough often found in litter boxes or by eating undercooked meat.

toxoplasmosis

Don’t stare at me like that… The content of the article already makes me feel uncomfortable and guilty

One third of the human population is believed to have latent toxoplasmosis. Now, you do remember how this parasite makes rats behave self-destructively. It seems to have somewhat the same effect on humans, and the latent form is responsible for delayed reaction time and a shortening of the attention span.

So if I sum it up : impaired reaction time, short attention span and risk-taking behaviours, no wonder separate studies have highlighted a very significant correlation between latent toxoplasmosis and higher risks of traffic accidents. How much higher? Oh, about 2.6 times higher. It is probably involved in several hundred thousand road deaths each year.

But eh, don’t think it’s a reason to blame your terrible driving skills on your cat. As Dr Flegr puts it :

However, I’m not too worried, in that the effects on humans are not gigantic. If you want to reduce serious car accidents, and you had to choose between curing people of Toxo infections versus getting people not to drive drunk or while texting, go for the latter in terms of impact.

It also may triggers schizophrenia in some people and it makes men more attracted (or less disgusted) by cat pee and no, there is no cure but enough bad news for one day, here, look at this and forget about everything I said today :

cat-in-carPersian (1 year old), Norwegian Forest Cat (5 years old)l-546cat-car

Sources :

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19356869

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2176548.stm

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/how-your-cat-is-making-you-crazy/308873/

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/9/72

http://academia.edu/383434/Is_Toxoplasma_gondii_a_potential_risk_for_traffic_accidents_in_Turkey

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