Cat owners could be at higher risk of schizophrenia, study suggests

FILE-A woman cuddles with a cat. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Cats have a lot of benefits from offering emotional support to companionship. However, a new study suggests that these furry friends may impact long-term mental health for some. 

The report, released by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia, implies that individuals exposed to cats may have a higher risk of schizophrenia and related mental disorders. 

Researchers reviewed 17 studies published between 1980 and 2023, and they pulled data from science publications like Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and Web of Science to write their report. 

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All the studies focused on participants who owned cats in their first 25 years of life and experienced schizophrenia-related outcomes, according to the researchers.

The team also assessed estimates based on broader definitions like cat ownership, cat bites, and cat contact, and they combined that data with estimates using random-effects models and assessed the risk of bias, heterogeneity, and study quality.

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Based on their findings, the team found an association between cat ownership and increased odds of developing schizophrenia-related disorders. Their research focused on people who owned cats in their first 25 years of life and experienced schizophrenia-related results.

Study author Dr. John McGrath, a psychiatrist at Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, tells FOX News that there is proof connected to cat ownership and an increased risk of subsequent schizophrenia. 

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.  According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals with schizophrenia might seem like they have lost touch with reality.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are different from person to person but typically fall into three main categories: psychotic, negative, and cognitive. 

These symptoms can also make it a challenge to participate in usual, everyday activities, but there are effective treatments. 

Researchers concluded in their study that while their findings support the theory that cat exposure is connected to an increased risk of schizophrenia-related disorders, more research and reports on the topic are needed. 

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.