Featured image for post: Schizophrenia Misconceptions Around Cats

Schizophrenia Misconceptions Around Cats

It would seem that there’s a 50/50 split between those who love cats and those who hate them. There are plenty of odd reasons that people come up with for thinking that cats are the worst. For example, they think humans are stupid (they don’t) or that they were the cause of The Great Plague (they weren’t) or that they’re pure evil (they’re not).

Among all these reasons, thinking that cats can directly cause schizophrenia in humans (they can’t) is arguably the most ridiculous.

Now, let’s unpack this irrational fear of cats.


Why Do People Think Cats Cause Schizophrenia?

The “link” between schizophrenia and cats date back to the 1970s when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey found out that dog viruses might trigger multiple sclerosis in humans. He then took an interest in animals and which infectious agents they were potentially hosting, which led him to Toxoplasma gondii, which is a common parasite found in warm-blooded animals.

Specifically, cats.

Torrey also looked into previously published research finding studies showing that individuals with schizophrenia often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies. From there, he decided to survey a bunch of people with schizophrenia about their life history, finding out that many of them lived with cats.

However, many of his studies lacked hard analysis of its control groups, leaving out important facts about mental health history, living conditions, and so on.

To this day, there’s a whole lot of conflicting “evidence” on whether cat poop can cause schizophrenia in susceptible individuals.


The Truth About Schizophrenia and Cats

The true cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, although the mental health and medical communities believe that it’s a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors that alter the brain’s neurotransmitters.

Toxoplasmosis, which comes from the Toxoplasma gondii bacteria, can be transferred to humans through eating raw or undercooked meat, unwashed produce, or inhaling kitty litter dust. However, if the cat in question is an indoor cat that does not eat rodents, birds, or raw meats (which is how they become infected) then there’s virtually no chance of them passing it on to their humans.

One thing that scientists do know is that when it comes to the infectious bacteria, there is an associated risk of psychosis. This risk correlates with the possible inflammatory triggers behind schizophrenia. However, establishing cat poop as a direct cause of schizophrenia is extremely difficult because scientists don’t know a whole lot about the disease’s biological or genetic roots, which means there’s no determination of how the parasite would trigger schizophrenia to manifest.

Plus, while toxoplasmosis is very rare here in the United States, especially for those with healthy immune systems, it also exhibits symptoms in other prominent forms to worry about that are not schizophrenia.

The consensus here is that correlation is not causation. Having said that, the cat’s still in the bag as to whether there’s a direct link between cat poop and schizophrenia. However, we can assure you that your cat is NOT out to get you, and as long as you’re healthy, your cat’s litter box shouldn’t affect you.