And they stink. I was recently running the trails here in Austin and I realized that I could actually smell a dog before I came upon it. It's pretty bad sometimes because people here let their dogs run into the lake and then shake themselves off all over the trail and people nearby. It's nasty.
People that own dogs always have homes that stink. The homes of cat owners stink too -- but usually only when they don't change the litter box. Needless to say, the smell of a dog is among the most bothersome things to me. I know I have sensitive olfaction, and a lot of human scents bother me as well: Particularly the smell of gym locker-rooms and the smell of thrift stores. But not as much as dogs.
So, back to cats. Almost all of my long-term relationships have been with cat owners. I have had long term flings with dog owners, but they were situations where I went to her place maybe once. The rest of the time was spent at mine. Of all the women that I have cohabited with, all were cat owners -- including two in Austin. Currently I do not own cats, but years ago I actually had two cats of my own. Perhaps most importantly, my family always had cats growing up.
So here's the thing with cats. They carry a parasitic protozoa called Toxoplasma. They can only reproduce in the digestive tracts of cats. However, they can be spread to any mammal through hand-to-mouth contact with cat shit or even getting scratched by a cat that has feces on its claw. The hand-to-mouth contact doesn't seem so unlikely when you consider things like playing outside, sandboxes, gardening, changing cat litter, and the fact that the protozoa can live up to a year outside of a host.
The disease that this little fucker causes is called Toxoplasmosis. One third of people worldwide have the disease! In the US, it is estimated that 23% of people have it. If you consider that I grew up with cats, I like cats, I like women that like cats, and some other factors that I'm about to mention -- it is highly likely that I have it. (Note to self: Find a way to get tested.)
Here's the thing. People that have it, don't know they have it. There are no acute symptoms in people with healthy immune symptoms. Or are there?
First of all, Toxoplasma has a profound effect on the behavior of mice. It fuck with their dopamine and makes them fearless of cats and actually seek them out. This is to the advantage of the parasite: The cat eats the mouse and the parasite is back in the cat's digestive tract where it can reproduce. Simply put, the parasite turns mice -- who have every reason to avoid cats -- into cat lovers!
Now, there is startling evidence that the parasite has a behavioral effect on humans as well. Toxoplasmosis has been linked to:
--slower reaction time
--greater likelihood of car accidents
--greater jealously in men
--greater promiscuity in women
--changes in mood, sociability, attention, motivation and sleep patterns
--greater likelihood of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
Fascinating. So was the "crazy cat lady" driven that way by the parasitic infection that her cats gave her? Maybe it was just that first kitten she had as a little girl who's parasite caused her to fall in love with cats?
And what of these women in their 20s and 30s that have one or two cats? Are they more moody? More antisocial (or at least introverted)? More promiscuous? In my experience, all three.
(Note to self: "Cats or dogs?" might turn out to be the best screening question ever.)
Why aren't more studies being done on this?
I'd be interested to learn if there has been a survey that asks about how many sexual partners a person has had and what kinds of pets they have owned.
I grew up with cats. I've owned cats. I've been with hundreds of women. Most of the them also grew up with cats. Many owned cats. The cycle continues. Toxoplasma wins.