The Zombie Cat Parasite

Last week in Tampa, Florida a cat named Bart was hit and killed by a car. Upon discovering Bart’s lifeless body, his owner buried him in the yard, next to a tree. Five days later, Bart showed up in his neighbor’s garden. Despite being severely injured, the cat was very much alive. His owner, who was positive his pet was dead at the time of burial, was baffled when Bart returned home. While it is much more likely the cat was just unconscious and mistaken for dead, there are many hopeful zombie enthusiasts who believe Bart may the Patient Zero of an impending Zombieapocalypse. Unbelievable as that theory is, lets take a moment to ignore all logic and reason on this matter and pretend Bart really is the beginning of the end: A world overrun with undead felines who crave human flesh. For the next five minutes, believe it is possible that the rotting corpse of Mr. Pickles will reanimate any day now, claw his way out of the shoebox you buried him in, and show up at your doorstep, ready to consume you, your loved ones, and the majority of your neighborhood. Do you believe? That’s great, because its actually not that far-fetched of an idea. First of all, if there were to ever be a Zombieapocalypse, it would undoubtedly begin in Florida, America’s Unofficial Capitol of Bizarre News Headlines. Secondly, there’s this terrifying parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii, and you probably already have it. Sixty million Americans are already infected- if you’re not living in America, don’t unclench your asshole just yet- this parasite exists all over the world. Toxoplasma Gondii causes Toxoplasmosis, which usually doesn’t include any symptoms at all… “Usually” being the key word. When it DOES create symptoms in the infected, it looks a lot like a Zombie Virus right out of the movies (aside from the whole rising from the dead thing, which is of course a key element). Toxoplasmosis symptoms include fever, lethargy, abnormal pupil size, enhanced response to light, it can even cause blindness, lack of coordination, twitching, seizures, loss of control over urination and/or defecation, and most terrifying of all, extreme changes in personality. The Toxoplasma Gondii parasite has the ability to effect neurotransmitters in your brain causing you to become neurotic, extremely aggressive, even schizophrenic. While this parasite can be found in humans, pigs, birds, and a whole slue of creatures, it can only reproduce in the small intestine of a cat. The way Toxoplasma Gondii ensures its survival is unsettling, to say the least. When the parasite infects a rat, it alters its host’s brain in a way which convinces the vermin to go towards the scent of cat urine- the exact opposite of what the animal’s instincts tell it to do. Its a lot like the plot of ‘The Happening’, only instead of ruining M. Night Shyamalan’s career and making people want to commit suicide (including his fans who saw the film), it does it to rats. Infected rats will faithfully hang out around areas that smell of cat urine, waiting for the cat to return and eat it. Obviously, these rats don’t WANT to be killed, but the parasite forces them to behave in this way. Once the Toxoplasma Gondii travels to the feline’s small intestine, it reproduces. Over the next few weeks MILLIONS of parasite eggs are expelled by way of the now infected cat’s feces. Rats find the cat’s paracite-laden feces, eat it, and so the Toxoplasma Gondii’s circle of life continues… Humans can come into contact with the parasite by eating contaminated pork that has not been cooked properly, or by cleaning the family cat’s litterbox, assuming Fluffy has recently contracted Toxoplasma Gondii. Once you have it, theres no getting rid of it (unless youre a cat, in which case it will expel itself as quickly as possible in hopes of finding yet another cat’s small intestine to reproduce inside of). Obviously, as is, Toxoplasmosis is not going to cause any end of world scenario to play out on a large scale; However, parasites certainly have the potential to evolve into something much nastier than they already are. Given the ability they have to lie dormant for wildly varying amounts of time before beginning to alter their host’s brain, they pose a huge problem. One day you’re fine, the next you’re convulsing and insisting Beyoncé is hiding in the tree outside your bedroom window, waiting for the right moment to kill you. When your loved ones assure you you’re mistaken, you become paranoid and assume they are plotting against you, so you beat them sensless with a cast iron skillet- all because you wanted to make ten bucks by checking in on your Aunt’s cat that one weekend she went to Atlantic City when you were twelve. And you didn’t even like that cat- or your Aunt. If parasites ever were to evolve or be modified by humans to the point that they could still operate their host’s brain post mortem, the entire world would be screwed. Since that has yet to occur naturally, it probably won’t for another million or billion of years or so. Unfortunately, scientific advancements far surpass the human race’s level of maturity and responsibility; Therefor, if scientists void of anything but the best intentions begin playing around with the capabilities of parasites, we could very easily kick off a real life Zombieapocalypse just as quickly as you can say, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
For the animal lovers who are as concerned about Bart’s well-being as I was, he is expected to make a full recovery. Sadly, he will have one eye removed, which was severely damaged in the accident, and his broken jaw will have to heal before he is entirely back to his old self again. His owner, who was unable to afford Bart’s medical bills, has temporarily turned him over to the local Humane Society, which will fix him up free of cost. Bart will be returning home to his owner and feline brother just as soon as he is able. His brother, Bart’s owner claims, may have been responsible for recovering Bart from his grave. Although the cat was badly mangled and dehydrated after being ran over by a car and prematurely laid to rest for five days, the neighbor says Bart was purring when she discovered him.

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