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Medicine Science

Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds (theverge.com) 249

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Cats host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that other research has linked to various mental illnesses. So, for some time, people have wondered whether cats are unsafe; for example, pregnant women are usually told to stay away from litter boxes. (They should still do this because transmission during pregnancy is very real.) In a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers looked at data that tracked 5,000 Brits born in the early '90s until they were 18. This included information about whether the kids grew up with cats, or whether there were cats around when the mother was pregnant. After the scientists controlled for factors like socioeconomic status, there was no link between developing psychosis and having owned a cat. The researchers suggest that previous studies that did show a link had relatively small sample sizes. In addition, many of these studies asked people whether they remembered having cats, which is not quite as accurate. That said, it's important to keep in mind that some mental disorders linked to the parasite -- like schizophrenia -- tend to be diagnosed fairly late in life, so only tracking until age 18 might limit the study.
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Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds

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  • Yup and its a trip when on shrooms and around them.

  • by SpankiMonki ( 3493987 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @08:57PM (#53914827)
    Mine likes to hide behind a door and then pounce on my leg as I innocently walk by in my bathrobe. He's EVIL.
    • Make sure you trim your cat's claws periodically (just use a human nail clipper to take the tips off but don't cut into the quick). Then the cat can play this way without any major issues (except maybe tripping you up).

      • They have teeth too... When my cat plays this game it's usually the teeth that have me running for cover.
      • A log in the house will do

      • Isn't trying to trim a cats claws just a preemptive way of making sure your cat has mauled you?

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        erm. No. Teach your cat not to scratch you (or things you care about).

        I have three cats, none of them scratch me. When they're playing with me they don't scratch hard enough to break skin, when they're pissed off with me (flea/worm treatment time usually) they growl, struggle but still don't scratch me, when they're doing anything else they don't scratch me or (most of) my furniture.

        Can't stop them going for the storage boxes under the bed. Turns out the fabric cover is heaven for cat claws. Oh well.

        They do

        • This is something that can depend highly on the cat--while thankfully pretty rare, there are cats who are a bit...bad about their claws, and all efforts to teach them not to use their claws inappropriately fail.

          The following information is assuming you have tried to teach your cat not to scratch inappropriately--or you have conclusive evidence that the problem is your cat got the short straw on paw anatomy, so your cat's just pretty much anatomically doomed to be lousy at velveting her paws. The latter sho

    • I think my cat has psychosis. She's normal, lets me gently pet her, then she growls and chomps my finger after random delays.

  • Other way? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @08:57PM (#53914829)

    Does mental illness lead to owning a cat, though?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nope. But it does lead to voting for a God Emperror Who Has No Clothes.

    • Re:Other way? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @09:51PM (#53915039)
      You don't have to be crazy to own a cat. It does help though.

      Also, you don't really own a cat. They largely tolerate your presence and decide to stick around.

      If you must really keep a cat, get two. They're mostly layabout, but if they get bored they'll wreck your shit and not feel slightly remorseful about it. Another cat will give them something to do when you're not around instead of causing random mayhem in your domicile.
      • We have seven cats. It's a good number. They have their whole social order arranged, and our responsibility is simply to watch.

      • They're mostly layabout, but if they get bored they'll wreck your shit and not feel slightly remorseful about it. Another cat will give them something to do when you're not around instead of causing random mayhem in your domicile.

        Two cats just means twice the damage. Perhaps more: our two cats love chasing each other with complete disregard for anything in their surroundings.

        • I have two young male tabbies and they chase each other around the living room, up the stairs to my bedroom and back down again. I bought a couple sets of Kitty City cat furniture and made them an L-shaped tower about eight feet tall. The post in the middle is sisal and they'd chase each other up to the top and sometimes fight to be on certain platforms.

          In addition to battling each other, they've also knocked over an end table and lamp, knocked their tower down by jumping from the top, pulled ceramic dis

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        If you must really keep a cat, get two. They're mostly layabout, but if they get bored they'll wreck your shit and not feel slightly remorseful about it. Another cat will give them something to do when you're not around instead of causing random mayhem in your domicile.

        Nope. I'm gonna mark this type of shit down like with what you'd see with dog owners. No such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner. Dogs can be trained, so can cats. Dogs are far easier to train then cats though, having trained both? If you think of a cat like a 3-4 year old which requires positive reinforcement to stop them from doing stupid things and the occasional punishment it all falls into place. You can train a cat just like a dog, to get you when they need something. Want to play, go outside

        • "...When I was a kid, there was a neighbor a block away who used to voice train and litter box train rabbits."

          If rabbits could vocalize, what would they talk about? I'm guessing, mostly sex.

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            Rabbits hiss, and thump their feet on the ground. You can train them to use those to communicate basic things using classical conditioning.

    • Does mental illness lead to owning a cat, though?

      Being a crack dealer seems to lead to owning a pit bull, so why not?

      Given the above, I'm proud to be a cat person. We must be nuts... why else would we put up with an egotistical, narcissistic, impatient, violent, snobby creature in our homes?

      Better to have such a creature in my home than in the White House.

    • The mice infiltrating my house were driving me crazy, which led me to acquiring a cat from the local shelter. Rodent problem solved. So, sure, maybe you could phrase it that way.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        You could of course just opt for the cheaper in the long run plan of properly physically securing your home against rodent infiltration. Though I guess if your house is made out of matchsticks that might be somewhat harder because they could in theory gnaw their way in.

        Anyway the chances of a rodent being able to get into my house through anything other than a door left open is precisely zero.

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          Mice get in through my catflap. I haven't seen this happen but I'm assuming they're usually invited in by the cats.

          Sometimes I get to invite them back out while they're still alive too.

    • Does mental illness lead to owning a cat, though?

      Yes [wikipedia.org]

    • by naris ( 830549 )
      I think not having a cat might lead to mental illness!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    But as the keeper of a Siamese I have to argue against this. He literally drives my wife crazy some mornings and that shit can't be good for her. It causes a lot of stress to be honest. I still blame her for caving to the cats whining because once you give in once, you just lost that battle forever more.

    She says she just loves him so much. Highest maintenance cat I've ever had and I've always lived with cats.

    • I still blame her for caving to the cats whining because once you give in once, you just lost that battle forever more.

      You may have lost the battle, but not necessarily the war. Stop rewarding the bad behavior, and be persistent. Things will get worse before they get better. [wikipedia.org]

      • by mrvan ( 973822 )

        Our cat was whining every morning, and seemed to have more patience than us at keeping up the game.

        We bought a spray bottle, and sprayed generously when he whined in the mornings. It didn't hurt him (obviously), but he completely stopped the behaviour after three applications.

  • by Strudelkugel ( 594414 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @09:33PM (#53914957)
    I heard this somewhere: "Dogs have owners, cats have staff."
  • I trust my familiar. I he says cats don't cause mental illness, I believe him.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why should we trust you witches? Your mumbo jumbo didn't do shit for Hillary

  • Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness among humans [added by me]

    I denounce the speciism displayed by Slashdot. What about the cats? Don't they need years of therapy after having been, gasp, owned by fugly, smelly, bizarre bipeds without feathers but with ample delusions of grandeur?

  • This study is meaningless because no one owns cats.

    However if they study "if being owned by a cat causes mental illness?" they will find overwhelming support. Delusional thinking that they actually own the cats is the most common symptom.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @09:59PM (#53915053) Journal

    This study is very limited; it goes only up to age 18. It says absolutely nothing about whether toxoplasma will turn you into a cat lady.

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      You don't need toxoplasma to turn you into a crazy cat lady. Three cats suffice.

      I'd prefer four myself, but that's not necessary for the crazy cat lady badge.

      • "You don't need toxoplasma to turn you into a crazy cat lady. Three cats suffice."

        The looniest women I ever met made a point of not having a cat, even though she had no problem being around the felines of others, on grounds that "If I die and am not found for a few days, my cat might eat me!"

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          context : random conversation about risky behaviour
          me: yeah, it might kill me. Shrug.
          friend: you don't care that the cats might starve if you're dead?
          me: they wont starve, they can eat me

          The cleaner would find whatever's left of me inside of a week, then the cats will be taken care of anyway. Who the hell cares about being eaten by a cat after they've died?

    • Absolutely, and I'm very concerned that the results will be misinterpreted as a result.

      I've known a number of people with schizophrenia and other psychoses, and most of them didn't develop full symptoms until their mid-20s or later. I believe this is also why the condition is not selected against as one might expect - it's very possible for someone to have children before going over the edge. Perhaps if it's caused by exposure to toxoplasma gondii, we're actually selecting for mutations of it that don't cau

  • bad study (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @10:22PM (#53915167) Homepage

    Sorry, tracking until age 18 isn't long enough. Schizophrenia will show up a bit later if it does. Also, *having* a cat in the house is one thing - how many kids are cleaning the litterbox? Because that's the danger zone.

    For those who are unaware, Toxoplasma gondii has a life cycle that relies on cats and their prey - typically rats or mice. In cats, it reproduces in the digestive system and gets crapped out. In rodents who come into contact with the cat crap, it infects their brain and makes them less afraid of cats, which benefits the parasite because it wants to end up in a cat's digestive system again.

    In humans, it definitely causes miscarriages. There have been studies suggesting a link to schizophrenia, but I don't believe that's the current consensus. Something like 50% of all humans have been exposed to it, so it would be scary if so. But it might also depend on other factors.

    It's conceivable that a parasite that has evolved to control host behavior could have adverse psychological effects on human hosts, thus the research into it.

    • It's conceivable that a parasite that has evolved to control host behavior could have adverse psychological effects on human hosts, thus the research into it.

      My theory is that it modifies the behavior of human hosts, causing them to dismiss the idea that parasites from cats could modify the behavior of humans.

    • While it is true that *some* patient will have an age onset of psychopathology later in life (e.g. 40 to 50 is the number I see most popping up as secondary peak), the majority will have an age onset between 17 and 20, because that's the period of growth of the brain where it is vulnerable. Usually later in life it is poorly understood , as it seems to come from a different etiology. e.g. See here for onset statistic for example of schizophrenia as one psychopathology : http://www.schizophrenia.com/p... [schizophrenia.com] (A
  • by peterofoz ( 1038508 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @10:24PM (#53915175) Homepage Journal
    There is usually some truth behind a stereotype. The question is what came first - the crazy or the cats?

    A study is needed to survey 100 'crazy cat people" (let's be equal opportunity here), to see when and how they got started. Get a blood sample to test for the parasite. Just don't tell a crazy person they have bugs in their brain.

  • The study does not mention how many of the *researchers* own or were exposed to cats...

    My cat overlord orders me to add that the thought of cats causing mental illness is ridiculous. Humans are mentally ill naturally.

  • Owning a Cat Does Not Lead To Mental Illness, Study Finds

    The people who did this study never met the lady who lives on the end of my block. She's completely cuckoo and owns like a hundred cats. Sometimes they wander over to my yard just to get away from the old bat. I'll bet if I walk outside right now, there'll be one sitting on the cushion on one of my deck chairs. He likes to hang out with me when I sit outside at night and watch the basketball game. Wait, does that mean I own a cat? Holy shit. I

  • I want to see a study about exposure to the environment through outdoor animals like cats. Also a diferentiation as to their expose to cats: life long, only childhood, adulthood only, etc... as well as the persons lifelong heath history.

    Cats are always cleaning themselves and like dogs their mouths and saliva are super sterilizing if not antibiotic as compared to humans. But they do pick up some contaminants and so they do give you some expose. My guess is that on a whole it's actually beneficial to your

  • Toxoplasmosis infection makes rats lose their fear of cats. Beneficial to both the toxo and the hungry cats:
    http://www.nature.com/news/par... [nature.com]

    Toxo in people is associated with traffic accidents... slow reflexes? Lack of fear? Distracted by cat? Probably not psychosis, though:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]

    Dateline did a show about a missing woman who recklessly invited many dangerous men into her life, ignoring all the red flags her friends were trying to get her to see. She was a cat lady, too...

  • That, when you were standing, would sneak up behind you and climb your pants, your shirt, then perch on your shoulder. Hard on the clothes, and sometimes painful, but cute as hell.

    My sister had a kitten that would sit on your shoulder and suck your earlobe. A very weird feeling, but she was a hell of a kitten.

    My current cat? Takes a dump in the litter box, then while trying to bury it kicks it onto the floor. sigh.
  • Schrodinger owned a cat, did they call him crazy? I don't think so...

  • First, disproving "psychosis" is not as broad as disproving "mental illness."

    Second, a study that fails to find an association does not prove the lack of an association, as the summary title says. Imagine this: if I sell refined sugar, and I want to suggest it is not associated with tooth decay, I fund a _small_ study to test the hypothesis "sugar causes tooth decay." The study is too small to conclusively prove the hypothesis, and I can report "study fails to find link between sugar and tooth decay."

  • The title refers to 'mental illness', the summary adds 'psychosis' and finally links 'schizophrenia' to the bug. These are not interchangeable; each term is rather clearly defined in a science environment. Moving on to the actual study there are also vacillations between these terms. It's one of many things that casts doubt on the quality of the study.

    You may also find a report at WaPo: https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com] Where they have a lovely video of the rat/cat relationship that develops.

  • Apparently, they're conducting studies now.

  • all the schizo people i know have cats

  • many of these studies asked people whether they remembered having cats

    So the original studies asked crazy people if they ever owned cats? what did they expect?

  • But next week scientists will decide that cats will be responsible for the extinction of the human species.
  • The main way people get toxoplasma is from food, especially undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables. But the media makes you think it's from cats because the headline "Cats Make You Crazy" is much better clickbait than "Eating Undercooked Meat Makes You Crazy". Transmission from cats is much rarer. Also, cats get infected by eating infected mice. If you have indoor cats who eat Friskies instead of mice, they aren't at risk and neither are you. Unless you eat undercooked meat, of course, but the media

  • Unfortunately, no one could repeat the study [slashdot.org] to validate the claims.

  • Isn't there a test and a pill they can give to cats and people? Who wants these fricken parasites in them anyway.

  • Because trying to get pussy can drive a person insane.

    Oh... You meant a cat. Nevermind.

Where are the calculations that go with a calculated risk?