What Makes Us Cat People?

(Last Updated On: April 13, 2020)

What Makes Us Cat People?

You’ve likely become acutely aware of cat people. Honestly, we’ve all probably met someone who is weirdly obsessed with cats. Maybe not to the extreme degree of some–but those people definitely exist. If you can’t think of anyone in your friend group who likes cats a little too much; bad news, you’re probably that person. But… Why does this happen? Why do some of us like cats way more than others?

What Makes Us Cat People? Yes, There’s a Reason

Before you go “well some people just like cats,” there might be a physiological reason some people like cats (a lot). Well… Physiological probably implies some people are just… Born to like cats. Which is probably a thing, but that opens the door to a discussion of free will and whether or not you develop your own personal interests. 

We don’t want to have another existential crisis.

Toxoplasma Gondii

You’ve probably heard of toxoplasma gondii, people like to drop the “people like cats because of parasites” fact often. It’s one of those “just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re interesting” facts. Or one of those facts people use to sound smart but they don’t actually understand what they’re talking about.

Anyway, the parasite in question is toxoplasma gondii. It’s actually quite prolific, able to infect pretty much any warm blooded thing. That includes us humans. Some 11% of the American population over 6 years old has toxoplasma in them right now.

However, (be it blessing or boon) toxoplasma gondii can’t reproduce in humans. Or anything other than one animal. Cats.

What that ends up meaning is that the end goal of toxoplasma gondii in any context is to get itself inside of a cat. Typically this is by infecting something cats like to eat–like rats or whatever. 

What Does Toxoplasma Gondii do in Rats?

Unfortunately for our rat friends, toxoplasma gondii gets into the brain. It’s shown to do some shenanigans once in there too. Given that cats kill rodents, they typically stay away from their predators. You wouldn’t go cuddle with an angry tiger unless you had a death wish, or were really confident in your tiger-taming abilities. 

Rats don’t tame cats, and toxoplasma gondii infected rodents are categorically less afraid of cats. So it increases the likelihood that a cat will find and eat this infected rodent–thus getting toxoplasma gondii into the cat and allowing it to reproduce.

Making Cat People

Unfortunately for us, we are not so different to rats in that toxoplasma gondii has an affect on us. While it’s not going to make us suicidal, early research suggests it can actually make us like cats more. There are other seemingly random personality quirks that can cause this too–such as being apparently friendlier on average. Though this may be one of those “correlation is not causation” things.

However, it’s actually unlikely that toxoplasma gondii will make you go get a pet cat. While research suggests it might make you want one, there hasn’t been much research that we could find confirming it. Score one for the humans!

There has been research linking toxoplasma gondii to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD can manifest in many ways–including collecting a bunch of kittens. Depends on the person.

Toxoplasma gondii has links to schizophrenia as well. 

How Do You Get Toxoplasma Gondii?

Given how like 11% of Americans over 6 have toxoplasma, you might think it’s quite easy to contract it. And it turns out, it is.

Eating undercooked or otherwise contaminated meat is a great way of getting a lot of health complications–toxoplasma included. But you should be washing your hands, cleaning your food, and cooking it well anyway. 

You can also get toxoplasma gondii, unsurprisingly, by being a cat person already. Since toxoplasma lives in cats and is normally expelled in their poop, cleaning the litterbox of an infected cat will transfer the parasite to you. 

If you’re a mother with toxoplasma, it’s possible to transfer the parasite to a child as well. 

Toxoplasmosis

Most people live relatively unaffected by toxoplasma gondii, though infants can suffer from lifelong neurological and optical complications if they congenitally get infected with toxoplasma. 

If you’re an adult otherwise unlucky, you can suffer from flu-like symptoms among other less pleasant things as a result of acute toxoplasmosis.

But long story short, clean your food, wash your hands (regardless of whether you own a cat, jeez), wash your pets, and be clean. 

You can still like cats even if you don’t have toxoplasma, we promise. Look at some cute kitties here!

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About Kyler 563 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and has just finished his undergraduate at the University of Washington. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019 and has accumulated so much random, general knowledge he'd rather not think about it. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.