A lot of people probably look at the video I’ve posted below and think, Awh, it’s a hilarious rat who just loves his friend the cat! But when I watch it, I can’t help imagining something evolutionarily larger.
Some background information: The parasite Toxoplasma infects many species (including an estimated 60 million people in the US), but it can only undergo sexual reproduction in cat digestive tracts. Evolutionarily speaking, this means toxo’s survival depends 100% on its host being eaten by a cat (even if its host is human; more on that below the jump). So toxo has evolved a complicated system for taking over its hosts’ brains to increase the likelihood that they’ll be eaten by cats (for example: it rewires rat brains so they’re actually attracted to the smell of cat urine). Knowing this, I ask you: Is this rat just friends with this cat? Or is it actually in a toxo induced frenzy and trying to get eaten? If so, then this video is an example of a cat kicking toxo’s ass (to a hilarious soundtrack):
If all cats were like this one, toxo would eventually cease to exist.
Now, on a more human note …
Last year, I wrote an article questioning whether all of this might explain the ubiquitous Crazy Cat Lady syndrome: Maybe their obsessive cat collecting is actually a sign that toxo has taken over their brains and is making them hoard cats to increase the likelihood that they’ll be eaten by one. So far, no one has studied that theory.
Thanks for the video link, Meg, though your peeps may not want to think about this one ;-).
[Update: Those entertained by the idea of a toxo infected rat desperately trying to get eaten by a cat should check out my pal Scott Westerfield’s book Peeps, which features a such a toxo-infected rat (plus vampires and other fun things).]