What does kitty litter have to do with entrepreneurship? (Photo: Shutterstock)
What do you need to become an entrepreneur? A good idea? Dedication? Drive? How about some cat poop?
Yes, while the road to starting your own business may be littered with challenges, who knew that it could have anything to do with kitty litter? A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences found an interesting association between exposure to Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can be found in cat feces, and interest in starting a business, with an emphasis on the word association. A team from the University of Colorado (Stefanie K. Johnson, Dana M. Calhoun, Marissa A. Beldon, and Pieter T. J. Johnson), the Frankfurt School of Management and Finance (Markus A. Fitza), Deusto University (Daniel A. Lerner), and the University of Hong Kong (Elsa T. Chan) conducted the three-part study.
The first part collected and analyzed data from 1495 students. Those students who tested positive in a saliva test for T. gondii exposure “were 1.4 times more likely to major in business and 1.7 times more likely to have an emphasis in ‘management and entrepreneurship’ over other business-related emphases,” according to the authors of the study.
The second part focused on 197 professionals attending entrepreneurship events. Those who tested positive for T. gondii exposure “were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees.”
The third part of the study integrated data from infectious disease databases and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor database. Countries with higher rates of T. gondii infections also had higher levels of entrepreneurial activity and lower proportions of people claiming that “fear of failure” was preventing them from starting new business ventures.
Pictured here is Toxoplasma Gondii, viewed under an electron microscope. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via… [+] Getty Images)
What could a parasite that currently infects over 2 billion people around the world possibly have to do with entrepreneurship? Supposedly, it may all be in people’s heads. If you have a weakened immune system and are infected with the parasite, the parasite can invade your brain cells, causing lesions and leading to various central nervous system problems such as headaches, confusion, coordination problems, and seizures. A study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that T. gondii infections can alter the brain chemistry of rodents, increasing the metabolism of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Brain chemistry disturbances could be a reason why rodents infected with T. gondii tend to be less fearful and bolder, as described in an article in the journal Microbes and Infection. While such boldness may not help rodents start businesses because rodents are very bad at pitching to venture capitalists, it could make them less afraid of predators such as cats and thus more likely to be eaten.