Scientists: No link between cats and mental illness

Today I read of a study which concluded something very astounding.

Cats do not drive you crazy.

Cats may not drive you crazy but they could drive you to drink. National Archives/U.S. Information Agency

My reasoning as to why this astounds me stems from the fact that I never knew that anyone ever suspected a link between cats and mental illness. That is not to say more than one cat person has said in a faux exaggerated — okay, maybe no faux — manner something to the effect of “Oh that Whiskers. He’s driving me nuts!” I mean, seriously, where was I when such a parallel developed?

Research had established at one time that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii which may be transmitted through infected cat crap might cause mental illness. Of course, someone who eats cat poop might be suspected to have some sort of mental disorder. The study also said the parasite may also be spread to humans through undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables.

The previous study was found flawed by English researchers. The more recent survey studied 5,000 children who had cats in their households and dispelled the link with mental illness. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children through the University of Bristol tracked the health of people born in 1991-92 found no significant health risks of those studied. Nonetheless, the researchers could not rule out other health risks from the parasite.

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. In our study, we could not directly measure exposure to T. Gondii, owning a cat during pregnancy we recommend that pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter and other sources of T. Gondii infection, such as raw or undercooked meats, or unwashed fruit and vegetables. That said, data from our study suggests that pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for offspring having psychotic symptoms later in life, the study published in “The Conversation,” a website specializing in news for the academic and research communities concluded.

So you lovers of those furry little bundles o’ felinity may breathe easy. Your cat probably won’t cause you to wander off to the depths of insanity. You may, however, develop a strong affinity for balls of twine.