Friday, April 27, 2007

The Dreaded Cat Poo Disease

I'm finding out that pregnancy means more than getting your wife an extra pillow for her feet or pickles slathered in satay sauce at three o'clock in the morning. Especially if you're infected with cats. Apparently, one of the many dangers the Monster faces in its larval stage is toxiplasmosis*, which comes from a parasite that mostly infects cats and can cause some fairly serious and unfunny consequences to a small percentage of unborn monsters. This disease, I kid you not, is transmitted by touching cat poo (also, raw meat). Caveat #1: most people have gotten toxiplasmosis already in their life, and you really only worry about transmitting it to a fetus when the expectant mother is exposed to the parasite for the first time while carrying the child. Caveat #2: if you clean up the cat poo every day (like a good owner should), the parasite doesn't really have time to reproduce. Caveat #3: strictly house cats, like Jackie and Houdini (pictured above), aren't at risk of having the parasite because cats get it from eating prey, not kibbles.

Nevertheless, this discussion gives me an excellent opportunity to share this little tid bit about the Toxoplasma gondii parasite:

It has been found that the parasite has the ability to change the behavior of its host: infected rats and mice are less fearful of cats - in fact, some of the infected rats seek out cat-urine-marked areas. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat. The mechanism for this change is not completely understood, but there is evidence that toxoplasmosis infection raises dopamine levels in infected mice. The findings of behavioral alteration in rats and mice have led some scientists to speculate that toxoplasma may have similar effects in humans. . . . [however, the] evidence for behavioral effects on humans, although intriguing, is relatively weak.

We all know, of course, that what those "scientists" are really saying is that (i) cats have a parasite in their poo that (ii) makes us all think they're super cute and harmless, and (iii) one day they will use this poo disease to take over the world.

* I learned everything I know about this disease from the internets, and I am not a doctor.

1 comment:

cheryl said...

It's true that most indoor cats are pretty safe to be around (and even their poo is pretty safe), but Lance has taken over cat poo sifting duties anyway, just in case. This is especially important since Boca has a bad habit of hopping on the counter and licking the raw chicken juices out of the defrosting dish the second I turn around, despite my best efforts to keep him off the counter. Or, better yet, he likes to lick the floor when I clumsily drip said juices on the floor and can't wipe them up or grab the disciplinary spray bottle fast enough. (Stef, you'll find that pregnancy makes you VERY VERY clumsy and this clumsiness increases at an exponential rate as your belly grows. I can't even begin to tell you how many things I've dropped or spilled or walked into.)

Anyway, as unlikely as it is, I'd use the "dreaded cat poo disease" as a really good excuse for nauseous, tired Stef to avoid litter duty for a while!