Do cats cause schizophrenia?

Cody PriceFeb 25, 2017

"Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness", the authors reported in a press release issued with the study.

The main idea was that Toxoplasma Gondii, a parasite associated with mental health problems such as schizophrenia, of which cats are a carrier would cause their owners to succumb to these disorders. In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers looked at data that tracked 5,000 Brits born in the early '90s until they were 18.

Your cat is off the hook.

There is no link between owning a cat and the development of mental disorders like schizophrenia, a new study out of University College London says.

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A 2016 study was one of several to link the parasite to a range of mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and intermittent explosive disorder (IED), as well as other behavioural dysregulations like suicide attempts and auto accidents.

The CCOHS says that if an infection is suspected, treatment depends on the severity of the infection but it's primarily treated with antibacterial and anti-parasitic drugs for about four weeks. It's commonly found in soil and reproduces in cats' digestive tracts.

However, the parasite could affect pregnant women causing severe health complications and also can affect all those who do not have a strong immune system. Most notably, it didn't include blood tests of the participants to see if they had been directly exposed to T. gondii.

So, just to recap: your cat will not make you mentally ill, and as long as you steer clear of its poo, it's unlikely to cause you any other health issues. It precisely alters their fear reaction so that they love the smell of cat pee. People often get infected with the parasite through undercooked food or unclean water.

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But the British team didn't find that. The researchers found out which of the participants' houses had cats when their mothers were pregnant or when they were growing up, and how many children were taken to clinics to be evaluated for psychotic-like symptoms.

"Our study suggests that cat ownership during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for later psychotic symptoms", senior author Dr. James Kirkbride said in a statement.

She said, "Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations". And thankfully, cat lovers now have even more ammunition in the argument for why cats are better than dogs. The infection causes the illness known as toxoplasmosis.

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