New study shows owning a cat could lead to mental illness

Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 18:59:05-04

Cat lovers aren't going to like this one.

A new study shows that those who have cats may be more likely to develop mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and sudden fits of rage.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published the study in Schizophrenia Research stating a parasite called "Toxoplasma gondii" in cat feces can lead to Toxoplasmosis, a condition that, if contracted in childhood, may lead to serious mental illness later in life.

The study examined groups of adults with and without mental illness and compared how many had cats growing up, KFOR-TV reported.

For years, doctors have told pregnant women to avoid cleaning the cat's litter box because the parasite has been shown to cause severe birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 60 million adults in the U.S. have Toxoplasmosis and may never show symptoms.

However, experts say you shouldn't get rid of your pets because of this study.

If you have an indoor cat, researchers say the chances of your feline getting this parasite are very slim.

Also, cats can't take all the blame; Toxoplasmosis does not come from cat feces alone.

The same condition can come from eating under-cooked meat, poultry, seafood and unwashed fruits and vegetables.

Health experts say you should avoid feeding your cat under-cooked meat for the same reason.

The CDC says, if you must handle a litter box, clean it daily because the T. gondii protozoa "does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in feces."

Also, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and consider wearing disposable gloves.