Caution: Cats may cause schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

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Image: Angry Pflümli

The cat is out of the bag after two journals recently published articles linking cat poop to mental illness. When the dog has an accident on the rug, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. But for a cat, it could literally drive you mad.

Studies show that growing up with a cat could put you at risk for several mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder later on in life.

Cats carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) inside of their intestines. It can be passed on to humans through any kind of contact with cat feces or if it’s accidentally ingested. Pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to infection. Most people who are infected are unaware but others may develop flu-like symptoms like muscle aches and pains. More severe infections can cause blindness and even death. T. gondii is not just exclusive to cats, it can also be found in unwashed fruit or vegetables, uncooked meat or contaminated water.

After looking at more than 50 studies, researchers from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam concluded that those diagnosed with an infection are twice as likely to develop a mental disorder.

In the other study, led by Dr. Robert H. Yolken of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the abstract indicates “the results were the same, suggesting that cat ownership in childhood is significantly more common in families in which the child later becomes seriously mentally ill.” The findings align with the results of a 1982 questionnaire which concluded that half of people who had a cat as a kid were diagnosed with mental illnesses later in life, compared to forty-two per cent of those who didn’t grow up with a cat.

According to Alberta.ca’s Consumer Corner: Canadian Pet Market Outlook 2014 findings, cats are more popular than dogs in Canada. Thirty-seven per cent of our households have one or more cats which equals to 7.9 million cats.

If you just avoid eating cat poo, statistically, you should be fine. But owners beware: the crazy cat lady is a real phenomenon and you could be next.

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Sarine Gulerian Sarine is an Editorial Assistant at the Vancity Buzz. Her interests vary from abstract philosophical concepts, politics, and social issues to brand new school supplies and Tina Fey.
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