Scientists discover mysterious link between cats and schizophrenia

A recent study suggested that having a cat could potentially double the risk of developing schizophrenia-related disorders.

Australian researchers analyzed 17 studies published over the past 44 years and found a link between cat ownership and the development of schizophrenia-related disorders.

“We found an association between cat ownership in the broad sense and an increased risk of developing disorders related to schizophrenia,” explained researchers from the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research, in their study published last December.

The link was proposed in a 1995 study, with exposure to a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii suggested as the cause. But so far, research has not reached a definitive conclusion.

For example, some studies have shown that cats during childhood may make a person more likely to develop schizophrenia, but not all studies found such a link.

Other studies have linked cat exposure to high scores on scales measuring traits linked to schizophrenia. But again, other studies have not shown such a link.

So, in order to better understand, researchers conducted a thorough review and analysis of all the research on cats and schizophrenia.

The T. gondii parasite can be transmitted through a bite or through the feces of an infected cat. People can be infected without any symptoms, but research has revealed stranger effects the infection can have.

Once in the body, T. gondii can infiltrate the central nervous system and influence neurotransmitters. The parasite has been linked to personality changes and certain neurological disorders, including schizophrenia.

The new analysis of 17 studies found “a significant positive association between broad cat ownership and increased risk of schizophrenia-related disorders.”

“After adjusting for covariates, we found that individuals exposed to cats were approximately twice as likely to develop schizophrenia,” the team explained.

However, it is important to note that 15 of the 17 studies were case-control studies, meaning they cannot prove cause and effect. Additionally, a number of studies were of poor quality, which the authors point out.

Researchers agree that more and better research is needed.

“In conclusion, our review supports the existence of an association between cat ownership and schizophrenia-related disorders,” the authors write.

“There is a need for more high-quality studies, based on larger and more representative samples, to better understand cat ownership as a modifying factor in the potential risk of mental disorders.”

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