Cats Don't Cause Mental Illness, Study Finds

25 February, 2017, 00:23 | Author: Lorraine Moran

It's not as ridiculous a question as it might sound. In other words, having a cat around while you're a baby probably won't affect your mental health negatively later in life. Toxoplasma gondii is a transmittable virus, being spread through the feces of infected cats.

For example, in 2012, a meta-analysis (an analytic review) of 38 studies found that people with schizophrenia were nearly three times more likely to test positive for antibodies to a common infectious parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.

Results of research by British scientists who conducted the study were released Tuesday.

Over the past few years, cats have increasingly attracted media attention due to a number of scientific studies reporting that a Toxoplasma Gondii (T. Gondii) infection is linked with mental health issues, including schizophrenia, suicide and intermittent rage disorder. So some researchers hypothesize that owning cats in childhood increases the risk of developing mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia, and a handful of studies have supported this idea.

Reports state that although they are infected, most of these individuals who develop toxoplasmosis do not experience many symptoms of the condition because their immune systems keep the parasite from causing any illness.

T. gondii, causes the infection called toxoplasmosis in humans and animals.

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Still, Dr. James Kirkbride, the senior author added, "There is good evidence that T. Gondii exposure during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects and other health problems in children".

'Once we controlled for factors such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status, the data showed that cats were not to blame.

Ultimately, the study found that there was no evidence that cat ownership during pregnancy or while growing up was linked with the onset of psychotic symptoms later in life. Specialists analyzed whether those women who had a cat while they were pregnant or when their kid was three years old were more likely to have children who suffered from psychotic episodes, like hallucinations or paranoia, at age 13 up to 18.

After controlling for potential confounding factors, the study concluded that cat ownership in pregnancy and childhood did not play a role in developing psychotic symptoms during adolescence.

The "crazy cat lady" is a cruel stereotype often applied to female cat owners - but contrary to previous research, owning a cat isn't bad for your mental health. It's commonly found in soil and reproduces in cats' digestive tracts.

Nevertheless, the research team suggested that "pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter, given possible T. gondii exposure".

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