Parasite Makes Mice Sexually Attracted to Cats. UNO Is Using Citizen-Science to Understand If It Alters Cat Behavior Too.
Cat Behavior Research
In the cat-behavior lab, we are studying how the parasite Toxoplasma Gondii affects cat behavior. This parasite only reproduces sexually in cats, so cats are pivotal in its spread. Many different infected animals are healthy, but the parasite has an amazing strategy to ensure its own reproduction: it alters mouse behavior so cats can easily prey upon them. We suspect it also promotes its spread by altering cat behavior. To test this idea, we are working with pet-cat owners so that we never infect cats. Since some pet cats have been exposed to the parasite while others have not, we are comparing the behavior of these two groups of cats. This will help us answer whether this parasite manipulates the behavior of cats using a least-invasive, humane paradigm that is ecologically relevant.
For more information, or to participate, visit www.toxoproject.com.