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Study: cat parents may be at humongous risk from schizophrenia and other related disorders

Cats, often considered graceful and wonderful pets, have been associated with a potential risk of schizophrenia and related disorders, according to a new analysis of more than 15 studies. Researchers from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research in Australia conducted an analysis of 17 studies spanning almost 44 years from 11 countries worldwide.

The analysis revealed an intriguing association “between broadly defined cat ownership and increased odds of developing schizophrenia-related disorders.” The initial idea linking cat ownership to schizophrenia risk emerged in a 1995 study, proposing a connection through the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, of which cats are the definitive host.

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite transmitted through undercooked meat, contaminated water, bites from infected cats, or their feces. In the US, an estimated 40 million people may be infected without obvious symptoms. Once inside the body, the parasite can infiltrate the central nervous system and affect neurotransmitters. T. gondii has been linked to personality changes, the onset of psychotic symptoms, and some neurological disorders, including schizophrenia.

While some studies have associated exposure to cats with higher scores on scales measuring traits related to schizophrenia, not every study has shown this connection. The new analysis involved studies conducted over several decades, and after adjusting for various factors, it found that individuals exposed to cats had approximately twice the odds of developing schizophrenia.

It’s worth noting that not every study on this topic has found a consistent association between cat ownership and schizophrenia risk. While some studies have linked early childhood exposure to cats with an increased susceptibility to schizophrenia, others have not found a clear connection. The role of Toxoplasma gondii in these associations is also complex and not fully understood.


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