Czech scientist makes cameo appearance on 'Family Guy' series

Jaroslav Flegr has dedicated much of his career to studying toxoplasmosis, a disease spread by cats.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 13.05.2021 14:20 (updated on 13.05.2021)

Czech biologist Jaroslav Flegr, or at least his photo, made a brief appearance in the most recent episode of the U.S. animated series Family Guy. The episode called "Family Cat" first aired on May 9. It is the 19th episode of the series’ 19th season.

The plot (spoiler alert) involves a feral cat that is adopted by the Griffin family, but the cat has less than honorable intentions. Pouncy, as the cat is called, is part of a long-term feline plot to control the human race by spreading a parasite called toxoplasmosis that purportedly affects human behavior. Pouncy sets his sights Meg, the daughter of the family, and starts to turn her into a crazy cat lady.

The family dog, named Brian, tumbles onto the plot, but can’t find anyone to listen to him. Eventually, the Griffin’s neighbor Quagmire tells the family about toxoplasmosis, describing the disease in extreme terms.

When [cats] find the right person, they enslave them to do their bidding for the rest of their lives. Someone to take care of all the feral cats in the neighborhood," Quagmire says.

Czech biologist Jaroslav Flegr. (Photo: Wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Czech biologist Jaroslav Flegr. (Photo: Wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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He then claims the disease is a "real thing" and shows an unflattering picture of Flegr, looking like a mad scientist. The photo is labeled “actual guy.”  

Flegr began studying toxoplasmosis in the 1990s and is one of the main proponents of the idea that the disease can affect human behavior, though not quite in the way it is depicted in the cartoon.

He claims it can influence personalities and change sex ratios. His more controversial claims are that it increases the number of traffic accidents by up to 1 million per year, and that it also leads to increased risk of some mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Some publications have referred to the idea as "crazy cat-lady syndrome." 

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Most scientists take a less extreme view, and say that the disease most often has no symptoms, or initially causes a mild flu-like reaction. In extreme cases they say it can affect coordination, cause seizures, or result in eye problems.

These days Flegr is better known for making predictions related to the development of the pandemic in the Czech Republic. His ongoing appearances last year as a Czech media pundit landed the evolutionary biologist among the most searched for Czech personalities of 2020 on Google. His 40K+ Facebook fans follow Flegr for his regular Covid posts paired with photos of, you guessed it, cats.

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