New study suggests having a pet cat increases the risk of schizophrenia – experts say it could be due to toxic parasites that pets carry
Could owning a cat double your risk of schizophrenia?
That’s the conclusion of a new review of 17 studies by researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia.
The team conducted a meta-analysis of existing research from 11 countries, including the US and UK, published over the last 44 years.
They found individuals exposed to cats before the age of 25 had approximately twice the odds of developing schizophrenia.
In the paper, scientists pose that the link is likely due to a parasite found in pet cats called Toxoplasma gondii, also known as T. gondii, which can enter the body via a bite.
They say the parasite can enter the central nervous system and affect neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to personality changes, psychotic symptoms and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.