Good news for cat owners! Cat ownership does not cause mental health issues, contrary to previous studies that link cats to mental and behavioral problems.
A new study by researchers at University College London suggests that cat ownership does not contribute to psychotic symptoms and schizophrenia. Previous studies claimed that Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat faeces, may mess with a person’s brain chemistry and cause psychiatric problems.
The study, published in the medical journal Psychological Medicine, focused on the relationship between childhood cat ownership, Toxoplasmosis and the development of psychiatric issues during adolescence. The research team studied 5000 people born in 1991 or 1992 who were followed-up until the age of 18. Researchers took note whether the family had cats while the mother was pregnant and when the children were growing up. At ages 13 and 18, subjects were assesses whether they developed psychotic-like symptoms.
After controlling for factors such as household overcrowding and socioeconomic status, the researchers found no link between cat ownership and psychosis.
“The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health,” Francesca Solmi, lead researcher confirmed. “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.”
While cat ownership may not have an effect on an individual’s mental health, exposure to T. Gondii can lead to other serious health problems. Exposure to T. Gtondii during pregnancy may affect the child’s development.
Although cats are known to be the primary host of T. Gondii, the parasite can also get into your system through contaminated water and food. As such, it’s important to keep your household clean especially your pets.
Hope this made you feel safe around your feline companion.