Being a cat lady doesn't show poor mental health says UCL

The single-celled parasite is known to cause toxoplasmosis in humans.

Scientists indicated that they observed how children who were used to living with pets, especially cats, were not exposed to a high risk of developing psychotic symptoms when they reached adolescence or adulthood. Infants who are born to women infected with T. gondii during or just before their pregnancy are most at risk for developing severe toxoplasmosis.

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.

Previous research suggested that owning cats might be connected to mental disorders. And there's "good evidence", the study's authors write, that T. gondii infections are associated with psychosis. "It indicates that this parasite could be having significant effects on age-related emotions and behaviour in people with mental illness".

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The new study looked at almost 5,000 people in the United Kingdom who were born between 1991 and 1992 and followed them until the age of 18.

To tackle these limitations, we conducted a study using data from approximately 5,000 children who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children between 1991 and 1992. They stated that the first study showed a small link between cat ownership and some psychiatric symptoms around age 13, but they turned out to be caused by different factors. It included the results of periodic mental health evaluations, as well as information on whether the children's homes had cats, either when the mother was pregnant or when the children were growing up.

"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.

Dr. Solmi said that once they controlled the factors of their study, which includes socioeconomic status, as well as over-crowding of one's household, they found that cats were not to blame for the development of psychotic symptoms.

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Researchers followed families for nearly 20 years and found that if the parasite does increase mental illness risk, it "does not significantly increase exposure". Previous work also had smaller sample sizes and didn't consider other possible explanations.

Still, those involved with the new research recommend that pregnant women do not handle soiled cat litter in case it contains the parasite in question.

While this finding is reassuring, there is evidence linking exposure to T. Gondii in pregnancy to a risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, or health problems in the baby. Nevertheless, this parasite can also be contracted from eating unwashed vegetables or eating undercooked meat.

"Even if we are suggesting that you get it at, say, age 4 when you're playing in a sandbox, you don't have to own a sandbox to have a cat go to the bathroom in it". It's commonly found in soil and reproduces in cats' digestive tracts.

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