Study finds link between cats and schizophrenia is real

Owning a cat could potentially double your risk of developing schizophrenia-related disorders, a new study suggests.

The study, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, analyzed data from 11 countries, including the United States and United Kingdom, spanning the past four decades, Science Alert reported.

The idea that cats could be linked to schizophrenia risk isn’t new. In 1995, a study proposed that exposure to the common parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can be found in cats, might be the cause. T. gondii is usually harmless and can be picked up from undercooked meat, contaminated water, or contact with infected cats or their feces. It’s thought that around 40 million Americans may have this parasite without even knowing it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the latest findings, scientists from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research found cat owners were roughly twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as non-cat owners. However, it is important to note that such correlational studies do not establish causation, according to Science Alert. The researchers also acknowledged some of the reviewed studies were not of the highest quality and findings were inconsistent.

The researchers note that more studies with larger groups of people are needed to better understand the relationship between cat ownership and mental health disorders. Although this research suggests there might be a link, more is necessary to say whether our furry companions could affect our mental health.

“Our findings provide support for the hypothesis that cat exposure is associated with an increased risk of broadly defined schizophrenia-related disorders; however, the findings related to (psychotic-like experiences) as an outcome are mixed. There is a need for more high-quality studies in this field,” the conclusion reads.

So, while it’s an interesting finding, there’s no need to give up your beloved feline just yet. The benefits of pet ownership, such as companionship and stress relief, may still outweigh any potential risks. If you’re concerned about your mental health, it’s always best to talk to your doctor.