Attn: insane cat ladies, you're not as insane as you think

This might do something to counter the "crazy cat lady" stereotype.

But Solmi said the findings indicate that owning a cat doesn't amount to an additional risk for developing psychotic symptoms - in other words, if we assume T. gondii is a driver of mental health disorders, then having a cat around doesn't seem to be more risky than other sources of infection, such as dirty vegetables. This is much more reliable than methods used in previous studies, which asked people with and without mental health problems to remember details about their childhood.

Researchers looked at the mental health of 5,000 people until the age of 18. 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. But Solmi added that if there's a cat-mental illness connection, the early signs would be detectable when the participants were screened for psychotic experiences at ages 13 and 18.

The study looked at almost 5,000 people born between 1991 and 1992 and followed them until they reached the age of 18.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more on toxoplasmosis (the disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii). Study authors had access to birth information and could tell whether the participants' mothers had cats during pregnancy or after the participants were born. When a rodent, for example, is infected by T. gondii, the parasite goes to the host's brain and finds a way to switch off the rat's natural fear of cat urine. The new study was not able to measure T. Gondii exposure directly, but the results suggest that if the parasite does cause psychiatric problems then cat ownership does not significantly increase exposure.

The CCOHS says that if an infection is suspected, treatment depends on the severity of the infection but it's primarily treated with antibacterial and anti-parasitic drugs for about four weeks.

"Our study suggests that cat ownership during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for later psychotic symptoms", Dr. James Kirkbride of University College London, who oversaw the research, said in a statement.

The researchers continue to recommend that pregnant women handle cat litter with caution.

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After controlling other factors, such as socioeconomic status or a crowded household, they found that that the data did not point to the cat.

Soiled litter boxes are not the only places to contract the parasite. "For example, cats love sandboxes because of the loose soil".

She suggests that future studies look at replicating this research study to add more evidence.

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