Cat Poop Mind ControlPosted: October 3, 2009
Rebecca Beachy became a mini-celebrity when she wore her skinned feral kitten hat to the September 11th gallery openings. Gapers Block interviewed her a couple days ago, where Beachy said:
Most of my art was already concerned with material and I started thinking about the mythology of cats. I have been thinking about puns. You know, the cat in the hat. The cheshire cat. And then the LOLcat website which is such an obsession of people in our generation. So I thought it would be interesting to re-purpose the cat body to make connections between the body and the image and the mythology of the cat. The cat hat was my first project along those lines.
via Gapers Block
The idea of wearing a dead kitten on the head makes sense in a pun sort of way; we all have cat on the brain. Humanity has always been obsessed with felines on one level or another. Cultures around the world all have their own cat folklore and mythology, from the Egyptians, Greeks, Norsemen, Scottish, to even the Chinese. Did you know that the prophet Mohammed had a beloved cat named Muezza, and one day, instead of disturbing his sleeping cat to attend the call to prayer, Mohammed cut his own robe?
On the other side of the cat obsession, during the Dark Ages the Church believed cats were the agents of the Devil and would organize massive cat burning parties. Gerina Dunwich outlines cat torture methods the Church employed in her book “Your Magickal Cat: Feline Magick, Lore and Worship” (starting on page 60). This cat burning craze had dire consequences. When the feline population in Europe came close to zero the rats ran amuck and spread the Plague.
So Fruzsi, what’s your point about Beachy’s kitten hat and cats being our overlords? (Wait for it…)
I was listening to a Radiolab podcast the other day, and they had a great episode about parasites. The very last segment titled “The Scratch” (starting at minute 47) deals with a little parasite in cats called toxoplasma gondii and its ability to effect and control the brain of the host animal. Toxoplasma gondii can be carried by a variety of animals, but really only wants to live in cat stomachs. Robert Sapolsky, the neuroscientist on the show, goes on to explain the effects of toxoplasma gondii on rats; toxoplasma gondii travels to the rat’s brain and messes around with the circuitry to make the cat attractive to the rat. The end result has the rat approaching the cat to be eaten. Sapolsky goes on to mention that it is not “speculative” to think that Toxoplasma gondii might be doing the same thing in humans. Research done on toxoplasmosis in humans has revealed a link between toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia. Dr Fuller Torrey explains during the show how rates of schizophrenia “exploded” around the same time humans began keeping cats indoors as pets.
A study published in 2007 by the Oxford University Press hypothesizes toxoplasmosis effects dopamine and testosterone levels in the brain. Men with toxoplasmosis
“were more likely to disregard rules and were more expedient, suspicious, jealous, and dogmatic”
while women infected with toxoplasmosis
“were more warm hearted, outgoing, conscientious, persistent, and moralistic“.
Either way, that’s some serious mind-altering power right there.
According to the CDC, 60 million people are infected with toxoplasma gondii and most don’t even know it because our immune system keeps us healthy. That means 1 in 4 Americans have it. The wiki entry on Toxoplasmosis says one third of the worlds population has been infected at some point.
Does this mean the prophet Mohammed had toxoplasma gondii in his brain? He is said to have drank from the same water vessel as his cat. The Pope’s cat Chico has his own Twitter account. Does this mean the feline-obsessed Pope has it too? How long have humans had this parasite in our brains and not even known about it? Do I love my cat of my own free will? Am I really a warm-hearted and outgoing person, or is this the parasite talking?
Even if Rebecca Beachy wasn’t thinking about toxoplasma gondii when she made her fashion piece, her kitten hat has a whole new meaning.