New research suggests kids who have cats could be at higher risk of developing schizophrenia later on.
The study found that “cat ownership in childhood is significantly more common in families in which the child later becomes seriously mentally ill.”
The findings from Robert H. Yolken of John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Stanley Medical Research Institute academics E. Fuller Torrey and Wendy Simmons were published in the Schizophrenia Research journal.
Using a survey of 2,125 families from 1982, the trio discovered that more than 50 per cent of people with schizophrenia owned a cat in childhood. The experts claim this reinforces two earlier studies showing a similar pattern.
They offered the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that is capable of infecting all warm-blooded animals and transferring to humans, as a possible explanation for their findings.
One in five Canadians experience a mental health or addiction problem each year, figures from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health show.
Schizophrenia is one of the most serious mental illnesses in Canada. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and serious difficulty concentrating.
It affects almost 1 per cent of the population, according to the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society.
Cats are Canada’s most popular pets, marginally more prevalent than dogs. Around 35 per cent of Canadian households own at least one cat according to various studies.
Other research suggests close to 50 per cent of children aged three to five had a pet cat in 2013.