Is Your Cat Making You Crazy?


Is your cat making you crazy? According to Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr, cats can be the source of serious medical conditions, mental health issues and tragic incidents in humans, including:

  • Suicides
  • Car crashes
  • Schizophrenia

Say what — he must be a kook, right?! Well, Flegr’s theories really aren’t as crazy as they sound. Cat feces contain a single-celled parasite known as Toxoplasma. Exposure to the parasite has long been known to cause serious health problems, including severe brain damage and death, in fetuses and people with weak immune systems. But for healthy people? Well, though Toxoplasma takes up permanent residence in your brain cells, the adverse health affects are usually mild.

Flegr, however, doesn’t believe that Toxoplasma is so innocuous in healthy brains. He believes that the parasite could be, “tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents.”

This might all sound a little “fringe,” to put it delicately, but Flegr’s work has gained some respect from notable neuroscientists. It’s also been backed up by some pretty incredible research. One such study found that the parasite, “can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator.”

Flegr has found some fascinating gender disparities in his research on humans with the parasite — men were more likely to be introverted, sloppy dressers and oblivious; women, on the other hand, were more likely to be outgoing, image-conscious and trusting. Both genders tested were also 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than people without the parasite. Toxoplasma, too, can trigger schizophrenia in people that were already genetically susceptible.

Still sound crazy? Well, perhaps it’s fair to compare Toxoplasma’s mind-control power to rabies, which, if left untreated, can seriously alter a person’s personality.

Next page: Tips for protecting yourself from Toxoplasma, and should you be concerned about your cat?

As scary as this all sounds, though, it’s important to keep in mind a few facts about Toxoplasma in house cats:

  • Toxoplasma is only carried by outdoor cats – indoor cats are not at issue here!
  • The parasite is only shed by outdoor cats for 3 weeks of their entire lives. It’s generally when the cat is young and new to hunting.
  • During that time in your cat’s life, you can thwart Toxoplasma by keeping a clean house and thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Most people with Toxoplasma in their bodies will not suffer any ill effects
  • Moreover, if a person does experience personality changes, they will most likely be too subtle to notice.

In the end, perhaps Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky says it best, “this mostly falls into the ‘Get a load of this, can you believe what nature has come up with?’ category.”

What do you think about Flegr’s work? Are you concerned about Toxoplasma? Do you think it’s just junk science? Leave you opinions in the comments below!

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Elisa F.
Elisa F.2 years ago

Cats are Lovely! Thanks for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

thank you! I´ve been a cat lady since I was a little girl!

Shan D.
Shan D.3 years ago

Judging by the photo accompanying this article, it's the human making the cat crazy. That is one incredibly pissed-off cat!

Nice that the article doesn't bother to say whether the alleged problems are caused by physical contact or due to airborne particles...

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

Well, I won't swear my sanity was highly rated to start with, but moral of the story is 'keep your cats inside'.

Ra Sc
Ra Sc3 years ago

Yup, it's the cat making me crazy. Obviously. It's the cat. Couldn't possibly be anything else. I totally blame the cat.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

All our cats are inside cats, so I don't have to worry.

Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 3 years ago

Never. He is too darned lazy!

aj M.
aj E.3 years ago

very sad how inaccurate this article is. any vet can give you much better information. I guess care2 is going for ratings today?

Giovanna M.
Giovanna M.3 years ago

Very surprised at the lack of responsability in the information portrayed in thsi article.
Is Care2's basic concern getting a polemics even if by using things that are biased ?
Of course you can get some infections etc from your pets, just as they can get them from you, and in the mentioned cases, many can be prevented if the owner takes good care of his/her cat.

There is no cat as dangerous as any human being, even comparing the ammount of infectious serious stuff we can give each other.
I think thsi dr Flegr openly hates cats and is looking for excuses to get rid of them.

Leiah Sariell
Leiah Sariell3 years ago

If your cat is that angry at you , you don't treat it well that's for sure. Also in TV I saw "How clever cat one had" when it said no no no no...that was not true the cat is singing warning song and better to stay far away it because the instinct is on and it can attack anyone who touch it. Cats are very sweet pets...IF you treat them well