Good news: Your cat is not making you mentally ill

Now you can scoff the next time someone calls you a crazy cat lady.

No joke. Researchers at the University College London have concluded there is no link between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms. Scientists have finally thrown cold water on suggestions that people who are raised with cat face a higher risk of mental illness.

A new study, published in Psychological Medicine, examines childhood cat ownership and the infection of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Cats are a known host of the parasite, which infects others warm-blooded animals such humans and causes a disease called toxoplasmosis. Which is why pregnant women are advised to steer clear from litter box cleaning duties.

But it turns out, cat ownership in pregnancy and childhood does not play a role in developing psychotic symptoms during adolescence.

The study followed nearly 5,000 people born in 1991 or 1992 for 18 years. Scientists looked at whether their mothers had cats while pregnant and if they grew up in a home with a cat.

Ajax was found frozen to a snowbank, but saved by two big-hearted garbagemen. CARMA Cat Rescue Maritimes/Facebook

“The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health,”  lead author Dr. Francesca Solmi said in a statement. “In our study, initial unadjusted analyses suggested a small link between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at age 13, but this turned out to be due to other factors. Once we controlled for factors such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status, the data showed that cats were not to blame.”

It seems, previous links between cat ownership and psychosis just didn’t account for other possible explanations.

Still, study co-author Dr. James Kirkbride said while cat ownership during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for later psychotic symptoms, pregnant cat lovers should still be cautious.

“There is good evidence that T. Gondii exposure during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects and other health problems in children. As such, we recommend that pregnant women should continue to follow advice not to handle soiled cat litter in case it contains T. Gondii,” he warned.

Main Photo Grumpy Cat

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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