Growing up with a family cat is a significant if improbable commonality among people who develop schizophrenia.
“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,” wrote the researchers behind a new study published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.
Researchers looked at an unused 1982 questionnaire that had been distributed to 2,125 families and found that 50.6 percent of people who developed schizophrenia owned a cat in childhood. Researchers theorize that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which is found in cats and can be passed on to humans, could play some role in the development of the mental illness however further study is needed to ascertain how big the link between cats and schizophrenia actually is.
Owning a cat comes with plenty of benefits. According to a 2008 study from researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute, cat owners are 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack. Plus, spending time with pets eases feelings of loneliness.