A strange new study links a parasite found in cat poop to every woman's least favorite time of the month

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Updated: January 25, 2017

Kitties are adorable little fur babies who know just when you need a snuggle. But, let's face it, they're also maniacal demons who throw up in your shoe without even pretending to care that those sneakers were brand new. And now, according to new research, your cat may also be behind your wicked PMS every month. A germ found in cat feces has been linked to PMS and its more severe cousin, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, took 151 women who reported bad PMS or PMDD symptoms and tested them for Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a parasite that lives in cat poop. Ten of the women tested positive for the bug. Those same ten women then rated their pre-menstrual symptoms which were compared to the those who didn't have toxoplasmosis. The result: There was a clear association between having the parasite and severe pre-menstrual symptoms, particularly the feeling of being out of control or overwhelmed. (Even if you don't have a parasite, PMS sucks, right? Here are the best ways to reduce PMS symptoms according to science.)

Before you do something cat-astrophic like give your fluff ball to your aunt, there are a few things you should know about T. gondii. First, it's super common; about one in five people in the US currently are infected and the vast majority never even know they have it, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people don't show any symptoms and those who do, generally feel like they have a mild case of the flu. In rare occurrences, it can cause a severe infection and damage the brain, eyes, or other organs, and it can be particularly harmful to pregnant women as it can infect the fetus.

T. gondii sounds villainous, but what it actually does and how it affects the majority of humans who have it, is up for debate. The effects seem to be subtle and gradual with past research linking it to mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder, and even "rage disorder." But it's hard to say whether it's a cause-and-effect relationship, or if it's just a correlation.

More research needs to be done into the PMS link, but in the meantime, there are things you can do to protect yourself. The parasite is transmitted to when you clean a cat's litter box, which is no one's favorite chore to begin with and now take on a much more ominous meaning. The CDC recommends keeping the litter box out of the main living areas, using gloves when you clean it and avoiding it altogether if you're pregnant.



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