Cat Parasites Linked To Physical And Mental Illnesses
Data and estimates in 2012 put the number of owned cats at roughly seventy-four million in the U.S. alone — so anyone who wants solid proof of cats’ popularity certainly has it. Unfortunately, that might not always be for the best; in this case, simply owning a cat might hurt owners young and old in the long run. If studies prove conclusive, then there may be a chain of events that goes from cat ownership to severe mental illnesses.
The culprit here is the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which in the past has caused flu-like illnesses, blindness, miscarriages, problems with fetal development, and even death. Cats can become unknowing carriers of the parasite by taking in contaminants — raw meat, unclean water, or anything tainted with fecal matter — then breed those parasites in their intestines until T. gondii, in turn, infects those with weaker immune systems. The physical threats have been noted, but some studies, while inconclusive for now, point to the possibility that the parasite can cause schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It’s not a death knell for cat owners, however. A clean environment — well-prepared food and a regularly-cleaned litterbox — can help them avoid infection entirely, as can keeping watch over what they do and eat outside. It’s another incentive for pet owners to keep their furry friends clean and safe, and make sure the litter box is tended to. Directly linked or not, gambling with parasites is ill-advised.