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Is There Really a Link Between Owning a Cat and Mental Illness?

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Is there really a link between owning a cat and mental illness? Is it safe? Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock.com Francesca Solmi, UCL and James Kirkbride, UCL Over the past few years, cats have increasingly attracted media attention due to a number of scientific studies reporting that a Toxoplasma Gondii (T. Gondii) infection is linked with mental health issues, including schizophrenia, suicide and intermittent rage disorder. Since domestic cats are the primary hosts of T. Gondii – that is, they provide an environment within which this parasite can reproduce – it is often speculated that cat ownership may put people at increased risk of mental illness, by exposing them to it. However, only a handful of small studies have found evidence to support a link between owning a cat and psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. And most of these investigations have serious limitations. For instance, they relied on small samples, did not specify how participants were selected, and did not appropriately account for the presence of missing data and alternative explanations. This can often lead to results that are born out of chance or are biased. To tackle these limitations, we conducted a study using data from approximately 5,000 children who took part…

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