Scientists have discovered that a parasite found in most cats can cause mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in humans.
Researchers at the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) in the US analysed data collected from two previous studies regarding a possible connection between the development of schizophrenia and childhood cat ownership.
They found that exposure to cats in childhood could increase the likelihood of a person developing mental disorders later in life.
“Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness,” the researchers said.
The parasite called Toxoplasma gondii can be found thriving in most cat feces, ‘Tech Times’ reported.
People with the T gondii parasite do not often show symptoms of the infection, making early detection difficult.
SMRI researcher Dr. E Fuller Torrey recommends keeping pet cats indoors and keeping their sandbox covered when not in use to prevent the spread of the T gondii parasite.
The study was published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.