New Study Debunks 'Crazy Cat Lady' Myths

First Posted: Feb 28, 2017 03:44 AM EST

Previous studies suggested that living with a cat could trigger mental illness. However, a new study debunks those "crazy cat lady" myths.

CNN reported that a study from University College London disproves previous studies, saying having a cat for a pet could lead to schizophrenia, paranoia or hallucinations. Using data involving 5,000 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, researchers have found that children born and raised in households with cats were not at a higher risk of developing these psychotic symptoms.

"Our study suggests that cat ownership during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for later psychotic symptoms," senior study author Dr. James Kirkbride said. "However, there is good evidence that Toxoplasma gondii exposure during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects and other health problems in children."

Cats are the primary host of Toxoplasma gondii, Francesca Solmi said. She is the study's lead author and a research associate in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London. Being exposed to T. gondii infection is reportedly the main culprit of increased mental illness risks, which previous cat studies have failed to look at.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cats could attain these parasites when they have eaten contaminated raw meat or rats. When infected, cats could shed the parasite after two weeks. People can be contaminated by the infection when they accidentally ingest the cat's feces or other substances.

As per The Huffington Post, the CDC advises pregnant women to avoid having contact with cat litter. If not, they should at least wear disposable gloves and carefully wash their hands immediately after. It adds that pregnant women should wear gloves when gardening and handling soil as well.

Furthermore, CDC suggests fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before consumption. They should make sure they are taking the necessary food precautions.

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