Cat Parasites Wrecked My Automobile


"Yes, drive to your doom, human! My mighty parasites compel you!" (© iStockphoto.com/11247t)

No seriously, I'm fine -- as is my car and (presumably) my cat. But this is just the sort of claim you might hear a lot of in the future if researchers at Charles University in Prague are really onto something.

Let's break this down for a moment. Lots of cats play host to a little parasite called Toxoplasma. You may know this organism as the reason pregnant ladies should stay away from litter boxes. For the most part, however, it's not really a risk to humans with healthy immune systems.

But according to an article in New Scientist, if you happen to have rhesus (Rh) negative blood (which means a missing protein on the surface of your blood cells), a Toxoplasma infection could make you 2.5 times more likely to wind up in an automobile accident.

Why? Well, the toxo life cycle kicks off in rodents, where it alters their brain and makes them reckless enough to wind up in the belly of a cat. The parasite then continues its epic journey via cat poop.

Not only does the Prague study state that this Rh/Toxo combo results in slowed reaction time in humans, it goes on to suggest that between 400,000 and a million of the world's annual road deaths might be due to cat parasites.

My own cat, Biscuit, brought me half a chipmunk yesterday. Was this a loving gift? An attempt to teach her poor human how to hunt? Or was it a warning?

The last thing I need is cat parasites making me even worse at things like driving my car and playing "Bomber Man Ultra."

Brush up on cats and parasites at HowStuffWorks.com: How Pregnancy Works How to Treat Common Cat Diseases Can a car really be death proof? Rats Under The Influence of Toxoplasma: Crazy for Cat Urine Toilet-Trained Cats Threaten Environment


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.