Toxoplasma-Infected Rats Attracted to Cats

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Photo: James Davies

When most rats sense a cat nearby, they flee in fear.  When a Toxoplasma-infected rat senses a cat, he falls in love.

According to a recent study in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, researchers found when the rats infected with this brain parasite are exposed to cat urine, not only is the region of the brain associated with fear deactivated, the area of their brain that governs sexual arousal is stimulated.

It’s been a known fact that the Toxopasma parasite immobilizes the rodents’ fear and manipulates their behavior, but scientists say they were amazed to find the increased sexual attraction to felines.

The parasite needs to reproduce inside a cat’s intestine so, by deactivating the fear and stimulating the attraction factor, the rat walks right into the cat’s clutches.  The cat then eats the rat and the parasite can complete its cycle.

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