I want to talk about a study released back in January 2019 that links common infectious pathogens with psychiatric disorders, self violence, and risk taking behavior.
There have been numerous posts floating around on F…book and Twitter with striking headlines like “cats cause schizophrenia in humans.” The best thing to consider when seeing headlines like this is the source. If you saw it on F…book it must be true, right, and no one on Twitter ever lies (see D. Trump).
So to begin with let’s look at the study itself before we get into how this relates to your cat. The blood pathogen study was conducted in Denmark and included 2,591 individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis, 655 who attempted or succeeded in committing suicide and 2,724 individuals who were in car crashes. Let’s point out that cat owners were not specified as participants in the study. So this tells us that the study is not about cats to begin with.
Samples from participants were studied for anti bodies against Toxoplasma gondii and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Without going into all the academic details of the study, the results indicated that there is a causal relationship between T. gondii and schizophrenia. Does this mean if you have a cat you will become schizophrenic? No.
The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids (semen, saliva, etc), from eating undercooked meat and from gardening soil (which usually contains feces of some sort).. It is a herpes virus that usually affects 80% of the population at some point in their lives. It can be transmitted through cat feces and for many years scientists and professionals have informed pregnant women to refrain from cleaning litter boxes. It is the cat feces transmittal of the virus that has everyone worked up over the schizophrenia link. According to an article from PetMD, you are more likely to acquire the virus from unwashed vegetables than from your cat.
It all comes down to precautions. Wash hands after digging in the soil, cleaning your cat boxes, and handling raw meat and vegetables. But, spread the word of truth…cats do not cause schizophrenia. Watch the video below.