How Cats Create Neurotic Societies September 15, 2012Posted by Beachcombing in : Actualite , trackback
***Dedicated to Paschal***
Cats, it has been so long… The last cat tag was about cat clocks back in February, before that it was dried cats in 2011 and then there was cat burial in Iceland, black cats and luck and musical instruments that employ cats. But, thinking of today’s post, how can cats create anxious societies? Surely all that purring and stroking would calm down some of our tenser and more anxious citizens?
Well, yes, cats may calm while in the sitting room, but cats also carry around small colonies of a single-celled protozoan named Toxoplasma gondii in their guts. Single-celled this protozoan may be, but don’t underestimate its sheer microscopic cunning. It moves with delight and ability from cat excrement into the bodies of those who come into contact with said excrement. There it settles in the new subject’s body and brain where it is credited with changing behaviour.
These behaviour changes are well charted in some mammals. But in human beings they remain difficult to chart: not least because no study yet has managed to capture the ‘before’ and the ‘after’. However, the textbook answer – for what it is worth – is that men and women are changed in different ways. Women’s intelligence, for example, seems to increase, men’s intelligence seems to decrease. The one trait that both sexes carry forward is that Tg amplifies anxiety and neuroticism. Unfortunately Tg is associated, inter alia, with greater suicide risk and other self-damaging behaviour.
Nothing to see, move on? Tg cannot be ignored because it is so freakishly common. It is estimated, in fact, that about a third of the world’s population carries Tg around in their heads and there are, naturally, massive variants between countries depending on (i) how cats are treated and (ii) climate, that has an incidence in just how long Tg ‘eggs’ can survive. A penchant for (iii) raw or semi raw meat may help Tg along as well.
So Norway has 8.6% Tg, the United States 12.3%, Spain 22.7%, Brazil 66.9% and one study places El Salvador at close to 75%! Imagine a parasite capable of changing behaviour where three our of four members of a given society are affected: no sociologist or historian could ignore this. Some of these contrasts are all about distance and geography. But in some instances neighbours have curiously contrasting numbers. The British have about a 6.6% incidence of Tg, the French manage about 45% and the Germans about 42%.
How will these Tg affect society? Well, thinking of the numbers above relations between insular and continental Europe, for example, should be fraught with difficulties in understanding: glacial Brits facing off against hot-blooded Euros. Suicides should be higher in societies with high Tg. Societies with high Tg will be more rule oriented: rules counteract anxiety and give a sense of structure. Would Tg-rich societies be more likely to go to war? Should we thank the stars that El Salvador does not yet have a nuclear arsenal?
As the one academic study on Tg and human culture points out, Tg will only ever be a partial explanation for human behaviour: Lafferty, the source of all the statistics above save the numbers for El Salvador, is well worth a read. But it is difficult to think of another non-fatal medical condition capable of altering this number of people in such a radical way. Any others: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
30 September 2012: KR writes: This particular organism has been hyped for some time in the virtual “Zombie Apocalypse” world, making it especially apropos as a bizarre subject. In light of the experiments showing that infected rats “commit suicide” by becoming attracted to cats, I would be more impressed if current researchers linking suicides in human women were able to show that these women had chosen similar suicide methods. Is there even one example of Tg+ human-female suicide via cat-attraction, such as jumping into a tiger cage at the local zoo? This site, although listed as an alternative health site, does give a list with some references of quite a few viruses that can induce psychiatric symptoms. Also it mentions parasitic infestations involving brain cysts, bornea virus, streptococcal bacteria, and toxoplasmosis. Generally whether some of these are fatal or not depends upon treatment. http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/articles/infections.htm One should not fail to mention prion diseases in connection with psychiatric symptoms, for although generally named as fatal, some can be in the body and dormant for a long time before showing symptoms, including psychiatric symptoms. AB writes with a curious line or two: Flippancy aside I once read this old Native American guy on line who was convinced all the problems of humanity were down to our brains being invaded by sentient microbes or bacteria or whatever from outer space. I thought it was a load of bollocks until I started coming across material about viruses or whatever making ants commit suicide by climbing atop the highest trees in the Amazon rain forest ie far away from the ground where they liked to be and allowing themselves to be eaten to facilitate the viruses’ breeding cycle.’ Thanks KR and AB