LONDON — Cats may scratch you and rip up your furniture, but they won’t play a part in you developing a mental illness, a recent study finds. Despite research that suggests felines transfer mental disorders to humans via parasites, researchers at University College London say there’s no evidence of such an outcome.
Their study examined nearly 5,000 adolescents born in either 1991 or 1992 until adulthood, noting whether the child was exposed to cats in the home either before or after birth. Quite simply, the researchers found no causal link between cat ownership and the development of mental disorders in children.
“The message for cat owners is clear: there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health,” lead author Dr Francesca Solmi, a research associate in the university’s division of psychiatry, says in a release.
Solmi notes that there was a small correlation between the two variables at age 13, but it turns out that the increased prevalence in mental illness was attributable to unrelated factors, “such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status.”
This study is believed to be much more accurate than previous studies for a handful of reasons. First, the researchers’ reporting was conducted regularly over a period spanning almost 20 years with many more subjects than in previous studies. There were also no significant gaps in the data, a flaw that previous research efforts had incurred.
Furthermore, the participants were much less prone to having faulty memory — i.e. the researchers did not gather data years after the experience.
While the researchers did not test directly to see if feline-borne parasites cause mental illness, they were able to conclude that mere exposure to a cat does not significantly increase one’s risk.
The researchers’ findings appear in the journal Psychological Medicine.