A team of UK researchers has recently revealed that there is no association between cat ownership and developing a mental issue. Previous studies suggested that individuals growing up with cats were more likely to develop a mental disorder in later life, Toxoplasma gondii infection being the most cited cause.
For some time, it was thought that growing a child around a feline might increase the risk of him or her developing a mental disorder in later life. However, a team of scientists from the University College of London has determined that there’s no indication that cat ownership and mental disorders go hand in hand.
The British team revealed that previously studied suggested that individuals growing up with cats can develop mental disorders after being infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is known to cause schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis.
As you know, the Toxoplasma gondii parasite lives inside the body of a cat, but not limited to it. The clever parasite can infect any warm-blooded host and can produce a disease called toxoplasmosis. Previous studies pointed out that people with a weakened immune system or pregnant women are more vulnerable to the condition than others.
Researchers have observed that even though the parasite can infect even those with a strong immune system, the body’s defenses render the parasite harmless.
However, in those with a weakened immune system, the parasite can wreak havoc. Toxoplasmosis can affect multiple organs at once, such as the brain, the eyes, lungs, and liver.
The team of British researchers acknowledged the fact that people with a weakened immune system are indeed susceptible to becoming infected by the parasite, but they’ve said that there’s no empirical proof that all those who own cats will develop schizophrenia or other mental disorders.
In order to ascertain if there is indeed a connection between cat ownership and mental disorders, the British team has decided to keep track of approximately 5,000 patients. At first, the subjects were tracked between 1991 and 1992 and then to later life.
According to the team, each household had a cat and, for the purpose of their study, the scientists measured and analyzed the level of interaction between the pregnant mother and the cat and later, between the toddler and the cat. The team surmised that all participants were in good health during their teen years, despite being exposed to a cat during early childhood.
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