Schizophrenia Can be Caused by Cats? Really?

Why regular vet care for your cat is critical

By Fransi Weinstein

Cats and Schizophrenia - Get Leashed Magazine

Nuclear weapons and terrorism aren’t the only threats facing us. We’re also on high alert for difficult, if not impossible, to treat viruses, like the zika virus, that start in far away places and find their way to our shores.

Much closer to home, though, a potential problem could be purring beside you on the couch right now.

That’s right. What no one talks about are the parasites our feline family members can transmit to us. One, in particular, the single-celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, can cause schizophrenia in humans. Yes, I’m serious.

Two illuminating articles in Psychology Today

In “Can You Really Catch Madness From Your Cat?” by Guy P. Harrison, I learned humans can “pick up Toxo from exposure to cat feces and cat scratches — and two to four billion people around the world may be infected.”

That got my attention so I Googled it and discovered it causes toxoplasmosis, an infectious disease that usually causes no symptoms, although if you’ve got it you might feel like you’ve got flu. It’s very risky for pregnant women because, among other serious maladies, it can result in prenatal brain damage.

Cats get exposed to Toxoplasma gondii from killing and eating infected prey. Which is why I’m relieved my cats’ explorations take them no further than the deep, dark recesses of my closet, the top of the fridge and the tunnel one of them has burrowed in my box spring.

Catching Madness,” by Harriet Washington was equally enlightening. Ms Washington writes about E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who’s been studying the connection between cats, parasites and mental illness and claims that “U.S. schizophrenia rates rose sharply when cat ownership became popular.”

Cats can cause schizophrenia - Get Leasehd Magazine

Before you vow never to let another cat into your life…

My intent here is not to scare you into giving Ollie or ShaSha or Max up for immediate adoption. Most cats become immune to the disease through exposure to the parasite. And if they do get toxoplasmosis there are antibiotics that are effective in treating it.

Which is a not so gentle reminder that when it comes to our friends and family we do everything we can to make sure they live long, happy, healthy lives. We’re diligent about self-monitoring and visiting doctors and dentists regularly, exercising and eating well.

We owe it to ourselves, and our pets, to take equally good care of them. After all, they’re family too.

NOTE:  Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. Please take your cats to the Vet sooner rather than later if you notice anything unusual.