Health And Wellness

How Your Cat Might Be Making Your Kids Stupid, According To Research

Photo: gornostay / Shutterstock
cat staring at child

For years, scientific studies have warned pregnant women about the possible effects of toxoplasmosis (a disease found in kitty litter) on their unborn child. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that toxoplasmosis can lead to serious illnesses such as blindness, hearing loss, mental disabilities, and psychosis.

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled microscopic organism that causes toxoplasmosis. It's very similar to the parasite that causes malaria. So, it's a parasite, not a bacteria or a virus.

It is estimated that about 40 percent of cats in the United States are infected with this parasite.

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But according to a 2015 study by the University of Iowa and Florida International University, the scary news doesn't stop there. Toxoplasmosis also affects your child's mental health and can even lead to learning difficulties later on in life. 

Researchers stated, "The results suggest that Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity is associated with poor reading performance and impaired verbal memory. [It can also] trigger a flu-like illness in those infected, but in many patients, it can go on to form cysts in brain cells."

The study went on to say that there's a chance that taking plenty of vitamin E is a great way to combat this disease: "Serum vitamin E seems to modify the relationship between the parasite and verbal memory with greater Toxoplasma-associated memory impairment found in participants with lower vitamin E level."

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Toxoplasmosis Symptoms

Most children do not show symptoms of toxoplasmosis. If they show any symptoms, they usually include swollen lymph glands, fatigue, and muscle aches.

In teens, it can cause chorioretinitis, which is a rare symptom that consists of blurred vision and dark spots floating in front of your child's eyes.

You should see a doctor if your child has the following symptoms:

  • Swollen glands (especially those in the neck)
  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Blurred vision and dark floating spots in their vision
  • If your child has a weakened immune system and the symptoms above

Toxoplasmosis Facts

The crazy part is that researchers say toxoplasma also makes men more prone to aggression. The fact that kitty litter can drastically change someone's personality and mood is insane.

In another strange turn, the study mentions that women who come into contact with parasite are more likely to cheat. 

But some believe toxoplasmosis does not cause mental illness. Newer studies have come out since 2015 that argue that toxoplasmosis from cats does not cause mental illness.

RELATED: Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You

Does Toxoplasmosis Cause Mental Illness?

A 2019 study really looked into the long belief that the gondii parasite plays a major role in mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. Researchers compared more than 100 studies and found that there is no correlation between this parasite and mental illness.

A previous 2017 study also argued that cats do not harm children's mental health. In fact, having a cat has many mental health benefits, such as reducing anxiety, and stress, and improving a person's psychological well-being.

According to Dr. Francesca Solmi, "Once we controlled for factors such as household overcrowding and socioeconomic status, the data showed that cats were not to blame. Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations."

So, studies do contradict what scientists originally thought, which means it's less likely that cats cause mental health issues in children.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in June 2015.

Emily Francos is a writer who covers relationships, pop culture, and news topics.

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