Cats are adorable creatures. Snuggling a feline is something that most cat lovers love to do. But a new research warned cat owners that a parasite found in felines can make you physically and mentally sick. Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a parasite that is known to be found in cats and cause illness to humans. The parasite can be transferred to us humans “through feces”. 60 million Americans are thought to have carried the parasite. While some people don’t develop any symptoms those who has weak immune system are in danger of developing toxoplasmosis, an illness that can cause blindness, miscarriages, fetal development disorders and death, according to CBS News. Toxoplasmosis is also associated with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
Researchers have been studying the relation of T. gondii infection with schizophrenia for almost three decades now. One of the most recent study that was published in Schizophrenia Research “compared two previous studies that found a relation between owning a cat early in life and the development of schizophrenia later in life”. The findings were based on the unpublished mental health survey results that were done in 1982. According to the survey results, 50% of people that has own a cat in their childhood were diagnosed with mental disorder later in life. The second recent study conducted by A.L. Sutterland was published in the Journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. The study confirmed that T. gondii infection is related to mental illnesses, after analyzing results from 50 different published studies. The chance of developing Schizophrenia in people that are infected with T. gondii is almost doubled, according to the study results.
Cat lovers can still enjoy the company of their beloved pet by taking precautions such as cleaning the litter box every day and keep it covered because T. gondii becomes contagious a day to five days after it appears on the feces. It is also very important to wear gloves whenever you clean the cat litter box and wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after cleaning the box. Cat owners are also encouraged not to feed their feline undercooked or raw meat. Pregnant women are also cautioned to avoid contact with the litter box because toxoplasmosis is very dangerous to the unborn baby.
Image via Laurinha Lii at Flickr.com