BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A study published in 2016 made a claim that was found alarming and devastating for all cat lovers. It suggested that cats were to blame for certain psychiatric disorders. However, a new study dethrones this claim.
The older research claimed to have found a link between the natural parasite found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, and the development of mental illnesses in children, such as schizophrenia and psychosis. The new study performed at University College London discovered that there is no link between the adorable felines and psychiatric disorders.
Francesca Solmi, one of the researchers, insisted on reassuring cat owners that their pets pose no danger for the mental health of their children. They stated that the first study showed a small link between cat ownership and some psychiatric symptoms around age 13, but they turned out to be caused by different factors.
After controlling other factors, such as socioeconomic status or a crowded household, they found that that the data did not point to the cat. The previous study could not account for the missing data and other possible explanations.
Thus, having a cat during pregnancy or keeping it around your baby during the first years of life will not cause the child to develop symptoms of mental illnesses. However, James Kirkbride, one of the authors of the study, warns mothers that exposure to Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy can cause birth defects or other health problems for the child.
Thus, his advice for pregnant women is to follow the old guideline and avoid handling soiled cat litter, so as not to contract the parasite. But why does everybody fear this parasite?
The parasite can cause toxoplasmosis in humans. About 60 million people in the United States might be infected with Toxoplasma gondii, but the symptoms are not always visible since the immune system can take care of the parasite.
If the immune system cannot handle it, the symptoms that might appear include muscle pain and the inflammation of lymph glands. Also, people can also experience blurred vision and red eyes. More severe cases can lead to brain damage.
Thus, the experts warn all pregnant women and people with a weak immune system to take care and be caution when handling their cat’s litter or foods or drinks that might have become infected with the parasite.
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