Although cats have been getting a bad rap due to previous research suggesting that a parasite they often carry could lead to mental health issues, a new study seems to have cleared their name. In fact, there are many mental health benefits of having a pet, including cats. Here’s what the latest study shows.
Is There a Link Between Parasites and Mental Health Issues?
Toxoplasma gondii is the specific parasite that cats are known for carrying. This parasite is why it’s recommended that pregnant women do not handle cat litter, as there could be potential risks of birth defects in the case of fetal exposure.
However, claims that toxoplasma gondii could put you at risk for schizophrenia and other mental health disorders seem to be unfounded, according to a much larger study than had been previously conducted followed 5,000 children born in the 1990s until they turned 18.
Throughout the study, researchers asked questions about childhood cat ownership, as well as cat ownership during pregnancy. The results showed no evidence that living with a cat increased participants’ risk for developing mental health problems. Further, previous studies did not account for other factors that could have contributed to mental health disorders, outside of owning a cat.
Mental Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Pet ownership has long been touted as a healthy way to cope with a variety of mental and physical ailments, and these benefits certainly extend to your feline friends. In fact, owning a pet may help children and adults to better manage anxiety and stress, and may even help you quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight.