The scientists who conducted the study said that this may happen because cats host a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.
This parasite, also known as Toxo, is one of the most common parasites and infects more than 60 million people in the United States every year.
The parasite can be found in many species of mammals and birds, but is especially fond of cats.
Toxoplasma gondii can only reproduce inside the body of cats but that’s a good thing, as this parasite helps the cats catch prey.
According to the scientists, when toxo infects a rodent, such as a mouse, it loses its natural fear of cats.
The parasite can get inside humans if they accidentally ingest cat feces when they change the litter box.
Also, humans can get infected with toxo if they don’t wash their hands after working with soil or eating unwashed fruits of vegetables.
Because cats rarely show any symptoms, their owners don’t know that their feline pets are infected with this parasite.
Usually most healthy adults and children are not affected if the parasite lives inside them, mostly because an individual’s immune system fights the parasite and prevents it from causing any illnesses.
Researchers believe the parasite becomes dormant and just lives inside the body without harming it.
However, pregnant women are more at risk if they get infected with toxo because it can cause miscarriage and birth effects.
A recent study suggests that the parasite can increase the risk of developing mental disorders.
The researchers who conducted the study compared previous studies and found a connection between cat ownership in childhood and the development of schizophrenia as adults.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the Hopkins University.
They said that the study suggests that individuals who owned cats as pets when they were children had an increased risk of becoming mentally ill later in life.
However, Dr. Hayden Schwenk, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, explained that parents whose children have cats as pets should not worry because this study only shows an association and not a cause-and-effect.
According to Dr. Schwenk, the study does not suggest a direct link between the parasite Toxoplasma gondii and mental illness and surely further research is needed to come to a conclusion.
Image Source: catster