Study Suggests Cat Ownership Before 25 Could Double Schizophrenia Risk

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Is it possible that owning a cat raises the risk of schizophrenia? According to a recent evaluation of 17 studies undertaken by academics from the University of Queensland in Australia, the answer is yes.

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Who conducted the study?

cat ownership

The team conducted a meta-analysis of existing studies published over the last 44 years and encompassing 11 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, in its comprehensive analysis. 

What did the study discover?

They discovered that people who were exposed to cats before the age of 25 had roughly twice the risk of developing schizophrenia. 

The scientific basis for this association is a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, or T. gondii for short, which is typically seen in pet cats. This parasite has the ability to enter the human body via a cat bite. One of the studies included in the study, which included 354 students from the United States, found no direct link between cat ownership and schizotypy scores.

When those who had been bitten by a cat were compared to those who had not, the bitten group scored higher on the schizotypy scale. This scale is essentially a questionnaire designed to assess features associated with unusual and chaotic patterns of thought, which are frequently used in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. 

Why can people be at risk of schizophrenia?

It can invade the central nervous system and alter neurotransmitters in the brain once inside. This, in turn, can result in personality changes, the onset of psychotic symptoms, and the development of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. 

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How will the symptoms affect people?

Positive symptoms are disturbances that are “added” to a person’s personality, such as hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disorders with odd or abnormal thinking processes. 

Negative symptoms include the loss of some personality abilities, such as “flat affect” (limited emotional expressiveness through facial expressions or voice tone), decreased pleasure in everyday life, and difficulties initiating and maintaining activities.

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