There is a story, a meme really, that circulates regularly about cats and Toxoplasma gondii. The story suggests that this parasite makes us love cats. Scientific American asks “Are Cats Responsible for “Cat Ladies”? a question based, remarkably, on research showing that entrepreneurs infected by toxo take more risks (Johnson et al. 2018).
At the heart of this story is an anxiety, or maybe a desire to recognize that humans are not the pinnacle species of the planet. The reality is less dramatic, but no less consequential, which is that cats have indeed domesticated us just as much as we have them—though everything hangs on how we define and think about what domestication is and how it works. Perhaps it is not a question of making cats do something for us, but a question of how microbes and environments bring us together into a collaboration.
Johnson, Stefanie K., Markus A. Fitza, Daniel A. Lerner, Dana M. Calhoun, Marissa A. Beldon, Elsa T. Chan, and Pieter T. J. Johnson. 2018. “Risky Business: Linking Toxoplasma Gondii Infection and Entrepreneurship Behaviours Across Individuals and Countries.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285 (1883): 20180822. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.0822.