Turns out that “crazy cat lady” trope is totally not a thing – at least not scientifically.
There is actually no link between cat ownership and mental illness, according to a new study by researchers at University College London.
The scary part is that their research debunked a previously held theory that an infection from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii – of which house cats are the primary hosts – could be a risk for psychosis. Who knew that mean spinster trope actually had a scientific origin?
More than 60 million people in the United States could be infected with the parasite at any given time, but most don’t notice any symptoms because their immune systems keep it from causing illness.
Unfortunately, pregnant women and/or infants born to women infected with T. gondii are at risk for toxoplasmosis, which could cause damage to the brain, eyes and other organs. Undercooked meat, contaminated water and feces containing the parasite are also ways to contract toxoplasmosis. AKA – pregnant women probably should let someone else clean out that cat litter box.
The new study followed nearly 5,000 people in the United Kingdom – born between 1991 and 1992 – until the age of 18. They recorded whether or not the households had cats when the mothers were pregnant and when the children were growing up, and had participants brought to clinics between the ages of 13-18 to be evaluated for psychotic-like symptoms.
Other factors – such as household crowding, which has been associated with schizophrenia – aside, the cat study found that your four-legged friend has no role in whether or not you develop psychotic symptoms during adolescence.
A win for cats everywhere… not that they’d really be bothered to care about that. “The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health,” said Francesca Solmi, the lead author of the study and a research associate in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London.
Take that, you self-righteous dog owners! The crazy cat lady myth has officially been busted. Of course, if you have more than three cats or your house is full of Dolores Umbridge-style cat memorabilia perhaps that’s another story… But for now, go home and celebrate your furry, little friend with a hug – if they’ll let you – or maybe even a glass of wine?
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