By Lexi Petronis, Glamour magazine
Did you know that, when you're pregnant, you're not allowed to change kitty litter? For real. And it's not just because it's hard to do when you're sporting a huge baby belly. There's an actual health risk involved...
Cats can play host to a parasite called toxoplasmosis after eating infected prey (like a mouse or bird). The parasite multiplies inside the cat and produces oocysts that are deposited in the cat's feces. These oocysts are extremely resistant and can stay in the environment for almost a year. If a pregnant woman comes in contact with the parasite, her unborn child can become infected and could face loss of vision, mental disabilities, and loss of hearing.
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It's rare--and not a reason to give up your cat. Indoor cats are very safe from getting the parasite, and the chances of an outdoor cat transmitting it to you are seriously slim, as well. But cleaning the litter box daily is important, and washing hands immediately afterward is good too. Obviously.
But could this toxoplasmosis parasite actually make it to your brain? A Czech scientist believes that it can--and that he's become infected. Reports The Atlantic:
"He began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. [...] the 'latent' parasite may be tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that's not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia."
More research is needed, of course. My cat absolutely drives me crazy sometimes--mostly when she sits on my head at 6:05 A.M. and meows as loudly as she can. But I love her no matter what (and even more so when I'm fully awake).
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