Cats have a tendency to find my family. We have never adopted a cat, rather they adopt us. I “got” my first cat when I was six, and I still have one today. I’d like to have more cats, yet avoid the title of “crazy cat woman” with one too many furry feline friends. Some scientists believe that cats should not be in homes with children because they increase the risk of schizophrenia. Could the sweet old cat woman really be crazy?
A recent study in Psychological Medicine found that for 5,000 children in the United Kingdom there was no evidence of increased psychotic experience by having a cat in the home during gestation or childhood. Psychotic experiences are early signs of mental illness that emerge in teenagers. The disorder emerges between ages 18 and 25, so early signs would be detectable in the teenage years.
Alarmists like to spread untruths based on correlations, not facts, about cats making people crazy. The connection between cats and psychosis is not well understood. What is known for sure is the parasite, T. gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis infections in people does come from cats. It reproduces in cat intestines and is spread in feces. T. gondii infections are associated with psychosis. People can also get the infection from undercooked meat or contaminated water.
Having a cat in the house is not the only way that children might get T. gondii. Neighborhood cats are guaranteed to use your child’s backyard sandbox as a bathroom. Pregnant women should continue to avoid the litter box because T. gondii infections can cause serious birth defects and complications. Having a cat around the house is not any more dangerous than other sources of infection, such as dirty vegetables. At least cats are self-cleaning.
Brulliard, Karin. “Do pet cats cause schizophrenia? A new study suggests no.” Animalia. The Washington Post, 22 Feb 2017. Web. 24 Feb 2017.