Dangerous Cats? No, Just Dangerous News Reporters

A scientific study currently doing the media rounds claims that a common cat parasite causes mental problems and suicides. And cat owners are at risk!

‘Women who own cats are more likely to have mental health problems and commit suicide because they can be infected by a common parasite that can be caught from cat litter, a study has found.’

Indeed, it’s a great study – a study in media deception that is.

Let me demonstrate just a few of the ways in which this news report deceives:

  • Toxoplasa Gondii is a parasite which infects about a third of all humans on the planet. It is spread not just by having cats but also by contact with soil (gardening) or raw meat (cooking).
  • There is no evidence that Toxoplasmosis causes depression or suicide, in fact millions of people carry it harmlessly (you could be infected and not know it).
  • Women are at no greater risks then men.

In fact a more probable causation is:

  • More women then men own cats.
  • Depressed people are more likely to own animals as a way to cope with the illness.
  • Many women also happen to be infected with Toxoplasma Gondii.

But that wouldn’t sell too many papers, would it?

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

3 comments

  1. Bobbi

    It’s more sinister than that. There is a campaign to associate of multiple cats owners with mental illness. Cat owning, when many cats are owned has been called ‘Cat hoarding’ and has been made a mental illness. In did not used to be. Interestingly, homosexuality used to be classed a mental illness, and has now been removed from the list of types of Mental illness. It is as if all the scapegoating and hatred towards gays did not disappear, but has simply found a new focus.

    • I agree with some of what you say but the fact is, I have met many dog hoarders (I worked for RSPCA for many years) and many of them do have a concurrent diagnosed mental illness. In addition, I believe that owning many cats without the ability to properly care for them is an animal welfare offence.

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