It Is Official - Having A Cat Does Not Cause Mental Illness
Source: Metro, UK
It feels like every other month, cat-lovers are warned about the various horrors of toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can be transmitted through cat poo.
This woman shared her HIV status on Twitter and inspired everyone:
We're warned that our cats could be the cause of our severe PMS. We're advised to keep pregnant women far, far away from all felines. We're told that our kitties could make us really, really into bondage and BDSM (which definitely isn't a bad thing, but it's a bit strange for our cats to be responsible for our sexual preferences).
And, of course, there's the warning that toxoplasmosis can cause mental illness – particularly for children whose mothers have been exposed to the parasite.
Which is all a bit scary, and the reason we occasionally find ourselves giving our cats side-eye and wondering: "Will my cat be the cause of my death? And if they are, would they eat my body?"
But here's some excellent news: According to a new study, having a cat does not cause mental illness.
Take that, crazy cat lady stereotype.
The study, from University College London, suggests that living with a cat during childhood does not cause mental illness, noting that children who were born and raised in households that also homed cats were at no higher risk of having psychotic symptoms in their teens or early adulthood.
On The Conversation, the researchers note that previous studies that suggested the link between cats and mental illness relied on small samples, did not specify how the participants were selected, and did not account for the presence of missing data and alternative explanations.
The new study, in contrast, used data from around 5,000 children, following their health as well as their demographic, social, and economic circumstances from their birth all the way into late adolescence.
Their data suggests there's no link between having a cat in early childhood and having mental illness in later life.
So, in short – no, having a cat will not make you mentally ill.
It's worth noting, however, that while the "cats make you crazy" claim isn't true, there is still evidence to back up warnings about toxoplasma gondi increasing the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or other health problems in a child.
But that shouldn't put you off having a cat while pregnant.
For a cat to even have the parasite in their symptoms, they must have eaten contaminated raw meat or an infected mouse (which means indoor cats would find it difficult to ingest the parasite in the first place). Cats are then able to spread the parasite for two weeks after consuming it.
But to contract the parasite, humans would need to accidentally consume their infected cat's poo, or something that's come into contact with it.
Which is actually quite tricky to do.
Keeping yourself protected comes down to avoiding changing cat litter – or touching any cat poo at all, really – when you're pregnant, and making sure to wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Easy.
So, just to recap: your cat will not make you mentally ill, and as long as you steer clear of its poo, it's unlikely to cause you any other health issues.
Love your cat, ignore the haters, and embrace the cat lady/cat man label.