Cat ownership has been linked to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, believed to be activated by cat parasite T. gondii.
Cats! Who isn’t fond of them? The Internet is certainly obsessed with these little balls of fur! They peacefully allow you to rent out space in the house you own (because cats really do rule the roost) and allow you to pet them now and again (because they are kind rulers of the known universe). But is there something more important about cats that you ought to know? According to Schizophrenia Research, there sure is. A recent study published in the acclaimed journal suggests that, “Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness.”
According to the ASPCA, approximately 37 percent of American homeowners have cats as pets. The numbers are much bigger when you consider that cats are popular pets all over the globe. Affecting more than 2.5 million Americans, schizophrenia is one of the most dreaded mental illnesses out there. Characterized by hallucinations and delusions, schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder that makes the affected person interpret reality in an abnormal way. According to the National Institutes of Health, this “chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder affects about 1.1 percent of the US population age 18 and older in a given year.” But how are cats and schizophrenia linked?
In 1982, the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI) distributed a questionnaire to more than 2,000 families in the United States. The questionnaire found that in the sample group of families with instances of schizophrenia, a whopping 50.6 percent owned a cat during the patient’s childhood.
In the 1990s, two other studies with smaller sample sizes were conducted by the NAMI – both studies had similar results. One found that a 50.9 percent correlation existed, while the other touted a 51.9 percent correlation.
Researchers from the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Stanley Laboratory of Developmental Neurovirology have looked at all these studies and performed further research to arrive at the same conclusion. While no causal link has been established (having a cat in your childhood does not necessarily mean you will have schizophrenia at a later date – breathe), there is a distinct link.
Researchers are working on the theory that a parasite that is primarily found in cats is the real culprit behind these issues.
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