Sneaky Parasite Attracts Rats to Cats

Toxoplasma gondii cysts in a mouse brain

hide captionToxoplasma gondii parasites live in rats or mice, but they can only reproduce in a cat's stomach.

Dept. of Parasitology, Charles University

When you see a cat pounce on a rat, it seems like a classic story about a predator and prey.

But scientists have recently discovered that sometimes the main actor is actually a tiny parasite in the rat's brain that makes the normally fearful rat think "oh how nice" when it smells a cat.

The parasite wants the rat to be caught by the cat because it needs to be in the cat's stomach to reproduce. New research sheds light on how this surprising little organism can manipulate a rodent to do its will.

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