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Owning cats may increase chances of developing schizophrenia: study

Research shows people who own cats have twice the risk of developing these kinds of diseases

By Web Desk
February 25, 2024
A representational image showing four cats. — Purina/File
A representational image showing four cats. — Purina/File

A recent research published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin has ignited debates among medical professionals and animal lovers. 

Surprisingly, owning a cat has been linked by researchers to a higher chance of developing schizophrenia and other mental health issues, Cat Time reported.

This meta-analysis and comprehensive review sheds insight into a potential environmental risk factor for these illnesses that is not well understood.

The study examined information from several publications over four decades, focusing on the effects of cat ownership before age 25 and the risk of acquiring disorders associated with schizophrenia.

Surprisingly, the research shows that people who own cats as children have twice the risk of developing these kinds of diseases as those who do not own cats. 

These findings are significant since cat ownership is so common throughout the world.

Toxoplasma gondii (T gondii), a protozoan parasite that is common in domestic cats, is at the centre of the dispute. 

Cat faeces can carry T gondii, which can contaminate the environment and perhaps contaminate human food or water supplies. 

These infected materials can spread to the brain and cause toxoplasmosis, a disease linked to several mental health conditions, including schizophrenia when consumed by people.

The study highlights the need to raise public awareness of toxoplasmosis, especially among cat owners. 

People may greatly reduce their chance of transmitting T gondii by implementing preventative measures, such as washing their hands often after handling cats or their litter boxes and keeping cats indoors to protect them from hunting and contracting the infection.