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Crazy cat lady no more: cats don't cause mental illness, study finds

Crazy cat lady no more: cats don't cause mental illness, study finds

These limitations included studies in which researchers asked people with and without mental health problems to remember details about their childhood, which could have led to errors in recall. It's not as ridiculous a question as it might sound.

Living with a cat during childhood does not cause mental illness later in life, a new study from University College London suggests, disputing earlier studies that caused alarm by linking cats to human mental illness.

This kind of domestic pets is the definitive host for a parasite named toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) that causes toxoplasmosis infections in people.

Cats are host to a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii.

For some time people have believed that owning cats was associated with mental health issues, this was especially true for individuals who grew up with feline companions. As a result, some researchers have suggested that children raised in households with cats may be at increased risk of developing schizophrenia and perhaps other psychiatric disorders later in life.

However, in expectant mothers and those with depleted immune systems, the condition could cause severe health issues, including harm to the brain and eyes.




"More than 60 million men, women, and children in the USA carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness", the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

"In our study, initial unadjusted analyses suggested a small link between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at age 13, but this turned out to be due to other factors", lead author Dr. Francesca Solmi said in a statement. The study controlled factors such as household overcrowding, as well as, socioeconomic status - finding that cats were not to blame for symptoms of psychosis.

"Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations", Solmi said in a press release. Thus, cat people can finally catch a break.

Nevertheless, the research team suggested that "pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter, given possible T. gondii exposure". For this study, researchers specifically focused on participants with complete data on psychotic experiences in early adolescence, when they were 13 years old (6,705 in total) and in late adolescence at age 18 (4,676 in total).

Cat owners can breathe easy: there's little danger that your beloved tabby will make it more likely for you to develop a mental illness. That means staying away from litter boxes and other areas (like loose soil in the garden) where their cat - or neighborhood cats - may have deposited contaminated feces.

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