Good News! Your cat isn’t making you susceptible to mental illness, after all — if that was something you were concerned about. Scientists previously found that the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, found in cat feces (as well as under-cooked meat), may cause a disease called toxoplasmosis which could put humans at risk of schizophrenia, psychosis, severe rage, and other mental disorders. Although last year researchers dialed back the claim and said that the jury was still out on that.
But now, a study of 5,000 people published by the medical journal Psychological Medicine has completely ruled out mental disease being linked to cat ownership. Dr. Francesca Solmi of University College London, who led the study, released a statement on Tuesday presenting her team’s findings.
The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health. 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.
Once we controlled for factors such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status, the data showed that cats were not to blame. Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations.
Pregnant women are still advised to steer clear of litter boxes as toxoplasmosis may still be linked to birth defects and miscarriages, and you can never be too safe. But for now, rest assured that cat ownership isn’t going to make you crazy — within reason, of course.