Stop Worrying! 'Mind-Controlling' Parasites in Cats Will Not Make You Crazy, Study Reveals
There's been growing concern that crazy cat people might actually become crazy due to the common parasite Toxoplasma Gondii (T. Gondii) that's primarily found in cats. It's time to stop worrying, a recent study assured.
In a paper published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers from the University College London (UCL) revealed that there's actually no connection between cat ownership and mental health disorders like schizophrenia.
According to an official release from UCL, owning cats during pregnancy or childhood do not play a role in developing psychotic symptoms upon hitting adolescence. The study observed nearly 5000 people who were born in 1991 or 1992, then regularly followed their progression until the age of 18. Cat ownership during their mother's pregnancy or their childhood was taken into consideration.
"The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children's mental health," lead author Dr Francesca Solmi of UCL Psychiatry confirmed. She added that while initial analyses showed a small link, it was later attributed to other factors such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status. Previous studies about the link between cats and psychosis "simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations."
This new study followed their subjects regularly for nearly 20 years, compared to previous smaller-scale studies that relied on participants recalling their childhood experiences.
Although cat ownership is shown not to significantly increase exposure, the parasite still does pose some danger during pregnancy.
"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 explained.
However, Kirkbride recommends that pregnat women should avoid handling cat litter. He notes that exposure to T. Gondii while pregnant could lead to other health problems and serious birth defects to newborns.