As dog people, we at DFC remain in opposition to our mortal enemies, cat people. Among the many reasons dogs are better than cats is the fact that, while yes, cats will poop in a box so it’s nice and convenient for you to scoop it, and so you don’t have to go hunting in your yard with a long shovel and a flashlight, or maybe an ice pick depending on the weather — dog owners don’t have to worry about catching toxoplasmosis from said poop.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that results from infection by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which lurks in cat feces, and can cause flu-like symptoms. It’s also long been known to spark a range of behavioural differences, both in cats’ human “staff”, and in their prey. In mice, toxoplasmosis has been found to cause a loss of fear in mice of cats — even when the infection itself has cleared.
An international group of researchers have just discovered a fascinating consequence to toxoplasmosis infection in humans: an increase in entrepreneurship. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense — what turns off fear and increases risky behaviour, fatal in mice, could actually be positive for human business! From the study’s abstract:
Using a saliva-based assay, we found that students (n = 1495) who tested IgG positive for T. gondii exposure were 1.4× more likely to major in business and 1.7× more likely to have an emphasis in ‘management and entrepreneurship’ over other business-related emphases. Among professionals attending entrepreneurship events, T. gondii-positive individuals were 1.8× more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees (n = 197). Finally, after synthesizing and combining country-level databases on T. gondi infection from the past 25 years with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of entrepreneurial activity, we found that infection prevalence was a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity and intentions at the national scale, regardless of whether previously identified economic covariates were included. Nations with higher infection also had a lower fraction of respondents citing ‘fear of failure’ in inhibiting new business ventures.
Though I’m still a die-hard dog fan, I find it fascinating that one of the major downsides of cat ownership has such an unexpected benefit for human behaviour. Good thing cat people are valuable, in that they are warm places to sit and have opposable thumbs — and aren’t edible!