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Recent research suggested that cat ownership might contribute to mental disorders because cats are hosts to the parasite Toxoplasma Gondii (T. Gondii).

And scientists previously suggested those bitten by their cat should be screened for depression.

House cats are recognized as the principal host of T. gondii, which infects numerous warm-blooded animals, including humans. A new study of about 5,000 children in the United Kingdom found no evidence that cat ownership during gestation or childhood was associated with psychotic experiences that can be early signs of mental illness - such as hallucinations or delusions of being spied on - when they were teenagers.

It's also possible that hygiene practices surrounding cats' litter boxes have generally improved over time ― meaning there would be less of a risk that children born more recently would ever get exposed to the parasite in the first place, lead researcher Francesca Solmi told HuffPost.

"In our study, initial unadjusted analyses suggested a small link between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at age 13, but this turned out to be due to other factors", she added.

The "crazy cat lady" is a cruel stereotype often applied to female cat owners - but contrary to previous research, owning a cat isn't bad for your mental health. They also took into account other variables, such as maternal marital status in pregnancy and the number of moves the child endured before turning four.

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At the end of the study, the authors appended an unusual conflict-of-interest statement: They all own or have owned cats, but that did not affect their work, it said. Conducting thorough analysis at 13 and 18 years of age, the researchers did not find any clear association between mental health issues and cat ownership, as the subjects were all in flawless health.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid changing cat litter if possible. It included the results of periodic mental health evaluations, as well as information on whether the children's homes had cats, either when the mother was pregnant or when the children were growing up.

The researchers from the University College London had initially set on the study to look at childhood cat ownership and the risk of infection of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii for probable psychosis.

While this finding is reassuring, there is evidence linking exposure to T. Gondii in pregnancy to a risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, or health problems in the baby.

The researchers suggest that previous studies that did show a link had relatively small sample sizes.

But UCL researchers say prior research linking cat ownership to mental illness was seriously flawed. Those who have a strong immune system never develop the infection even though they carry the parasite.


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