Could your cat be responsible for making you more prone to freaky sexual activities like bondage? Apparently so, according to a new study from the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, which says that a parasite which is carried by cats could be messing with your brain to make you more likely to think about bondage, sadomasochism, and other more unusual sexual preferences.
Here’s the science!
The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has previously been linked to things like schizophrenia and excessive rage, but it is how it reacts with rodents which is most interesting here.
The Toxoplasma infects rats but needs to land on a cat to reproduce, so it changes the rodent’s behavior to make them attracted to the smell of cat urine, rather than frightened by it. This means that the rats seek out cats and often end up killed by the feline predators, who in turn are infected with the Toxoplasma.
It seems that the parasite alters the rodent’s brain so that what should normally activate fear activates sexual arousal – so scientists decided to see if the same would happen for humans! Could this cat-borne parasite make us become sexually attracted to things that would normally inspire fear?
Researchers used more than 700 questions about sexual preferences on 36, 564 people in Slovakia and the Czech Republic (of whom 714 were infected with Toxoplasma gondii).
The results found that those that were infected, “expressed higher attraction to bondage, violence, zoophilia, fetishism, and, in men, also to masochism, and raping and being raped.”
Pretty shocking – but interestingly, those who were infected were also found to be less likely to actually engage in these behaviors. This may be because the Toxoplasma increases the secretion of dopamine to the brain, which in turn actually makes people more considered and less impulsive in their actions.
So maybe the parasite makes you think freaky thoughts but less likely to carry them out? The study’s co-author, Jaroslav Flegr explains:
In case you were wondering, previous studies have found that 12 percent of women and 22 percent of men are aroused by the idea of sadomasochism. Flegr says that while Toxoplasma infection may have an effect on your propensity for freaky bedroom activities, it is likely to be very small.
Chances are your cat may be making you a little freakier – but it’s not enough to use it as an excuse! 😉