“A happy arrangement: many people prefer cats to other people, and many cats prefer people to other cats.” ~ Mason Cooley
Interesting fact of the day – early childhood exposure to cats infected with a bacteria called Toxoplasma gondii could be a factor in the development of schizophrenia in later life.
The bacteria can be present in soil and raw animal carcasses. If a cat eats prey that is infected with Toxoplasma gondii it can develop a condition called toxoplasmosis. Exposure to the infected cat, particularly its feces, can then transmit toxoplasmosis on to humans.
It seems that while any animal can contract toxoplasmosis, it is only cats that are able to transmit the disease on to humans. This appears to be a very cat-centric illness, as it has been found to make rats less fearful of cats. The rats are then more likely to be eaten by the cats, allowing the bacteria to infect the cat; the inside of a cat being Toxoplasma gondii’s favoured environment.
Studies have shown that groups of patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia contained a higher percentage of people who also tested positive for antibodies to Toxoplama gondii than in the patients studied who displayed no symptoms of schizophrenia. Having Toxoplasma gondii antibodies being evidence of that one has been exposed to the disease at an earlier time.
Patients treated for acute toxoplasmosis where also statistically more likely to present with symptoms of psychiatric disturbance, delusions, and hallucinations, as well as to be diagnosed as being bipolar.
In addition, the article explained, Toxoplasma gondii is an important cause of abortions and stillbirths in infected pregnant women; as well as causing birth defects in the children of infected mothers.
If you don’t believe me, read this: Torrey EF, Yolken RH. Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia. Emerg Infect Dis [Vol. 9, No. 11] Nov 2003. Available from: URL: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/11/03-0143.htm
So, you see, keeping cats can actually make some ladies – and gentlemen – crazy if they’re not too careful.
If reading this has made you scared of your cat, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers some reassurance. Their website states that cats infected with toxoplasmosis are only infectious for up to two weeks after contracting the disease, which can be treated through a course of antibiotics.
They advise anyone who has an infected cat to keep it away from children, other pets, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system. It’s bedding and litter box should be cleaned twice a day, by someone wearing disposable gloves, for the duration of the infection.
Symptoms of the disease can range from mild diarrhea and loss of appetite in those who already have immunity, to problems in the lungs, liver, and nervous system in those who do not.
If you don’t fancy contracting toxoplasmosis, it should also be noted that human cans develop the disease through unhygienic handling of raw meat, contaminated drinking water, or handling soil in which an infected cat has defecated. So, be careful of those things as well.