Cats are oh so cute, cuddly and dangerous, and not only due to their razor-sharp claws.
New research suggests that those adorable Fluffy McFluffertons might also cause some of their human friends to go completely ape-shit -- as in fly into terrifying fits of rage. And not just because Mr. Whiskers pooped on the carpet again.
Researchers at the University of Chicago blame a nasty parasite that cats often play host to -- toxoplasma gondii, or t. gondii, for short. In a study that involved 358 adult subjects, they identified a probable association between toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by the highly contagious bug, and intermittent explosive disorder (IED).
The chronic -- and very real -- psychiatric condition is marked by repeated, sudden impulsive outbursts of aggressive, violent behavior or enraged verbal tirades. It’s a doozy.
Yep, your cuddly kitty might be to blame for your road rage, people.
The researcher’s findings, published yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, are the latest in a wealth of earlier data collected that connect psychiatric disorders with toxoplasmosis.
“Our work suggests that latent infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior,” senior study author Dr. Emil Coccaro, chairperson for the University of Chicago Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, said in a statement. “However, we do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone who tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues.”
Cat owners can catch the toxoplasmosis bug by touching soiled kitty litter, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes with the microscopic fecal ick, according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Gross, we know because our O.B. told us so, three pregnancies in a row.) Our furball friends -- dogs included -- can get infected with t. gondii when they dine on infected birds, rodents and other creepy crawlies.
Now that you’re wondering, the grody affliction can also lurk in contaminated water, undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables. The good news: It’s relatively harmless. The CDC estimates that roughly 60 million people in the U.S. carry the parasite. Of those, only a very unlucky few exhibit symptoms.Until more is known, we suggest you keep your precious people paws out of the kitty litter and wash them often.