Can Cats Cause Mental Illness?

The pets in our lives can lift us up when we are having the worst of days, but they can also make us go nuts. Owning a pet is a double-edged sword. There are good days and bad days, but when all is said and done, where would we be without them? We would be lonelier for starters and that is never a good thing. As the Huffington Post points out, “It’s a fuller life when we have other people in it. It’s a healthier and longer one, too. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when other people around you?” The same holds true for the pets in our lives. That said, we have to be vigilant when it comes to taking care of our pets, but more importantly, we also have to take care of ourselves.

What good are our pets if we are sick? We need to keep our eyes open, because sometimes our pets can get us sick in non-allergic ways, like with parasites carried by common house cats. One such parasite is the Toxoplasma gondii, which is a protozoan parasite that has infected up to 60 million Americans.

Charles Simmins of writes, “In humans, studies are showing a correlation between T. gondii infections and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. […] At this time, several things are known about toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia. Patients with a schizophrenia diagnosis test positive for a T. gondii infection at a much higher rate than the general population. Not all patients diagnosed with schizophrenia have toxoplasmosis. A toxoplasmosis illness alone does not appear to be sufficient to cause the mental illness.”

In addition to mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, toxoplasmosis can also result in miscarriages, fetal development disorders, blindness, and even worse. In some cases, adults diagnosed with schizophrenia or something else, grew up with cats. However, the results are not absolute and more research must be done. Although the parasite is linked with cats, that doesn’t mean you have to limit your interaction with your feline friends. You just have to demonstrate common sense, like changing the litter box daily and watching what they eat.

For any questions about toxoplasmosis or taking care of your cat, contact Powell Veterinary Service today.