Research in UK Suggests Mental Illness Not Linked to Cat Ownership

Curiosity may have killed the cat; however, cat owners are having their curiosity satisfied, as a new study based in the UK suggests there is in fact no correlation between cat ownership and mental illness.

There has been speculation in recent times as to whether or not toxoplasma gondii (T.Gondii), a protozoan parasite known for infecting various warm blooded animals including humans, may be responsible for the development of various psychoses, such as Schizophrenia.

As cats are known to be primary hosts of the parasite, previous studies have been done suggesting that people who have grown up with cats may be at a higher risk of mental illness.

“Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations,” said study author, Dr. Francesca Solmia, of University College London Psychiatry.

In this new study, researchers observed nearly 5,000 people born in 1991 as well as 1992, until they were 18 years old. The data collected contained information on whether the participants’ households accommodated cats during their mothers’ pregnancies, or if they were present during their childhood.

Researchers were pleased to conclude that cat ownership during pregnancy and childhood was not related to psychotic symptoms developing during adolescence.

Solmia stated with conviction that, “the message for cat owners is clear: There is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health.”

Be that as it may, women who are pregnant should still err on the side of caution, as their cats’ litter boxes may still contain fecal matter in which the parasite may be present.

“There is good evidence that T. gondii exposure during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects and other health problems in children”, noted the study’s senior author, Dr. James Kirkbride.

 

This piece is based on one by HealthDay News, published on UPI.com, which can be viewed here.

 

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Megan Baksh received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University in May of 2016, and is currently pursuing an education in the field of psychology.

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