Description: So what is the first thing that pops to mind when you think of “cat people”? Crazy? Weeellll it’s a bit more complicated. Read this discussion by Andre Picard of an article suggesting that childhood cat ownership increases the chances that one will show symptoms of schizophrenia in adulthood.
Source: Andre Picard Column Globe and Mail
Date: June 16, 2015
Photo Credit: http://aragec.com/crazy+cat.html
While it is typical to talk about mental illness as reflecting a “chemical imbalance in the brain” an important not yet answered question involves how it is that such imbalances arise. If environmental influences are thought of as social (e.g., how your parents or peers treated you) it is hard to see how early social experiences could be related to later mental illness. (It is not impossible, however, as work of the role of early toxic stress on later developmental outcomes is making clear). But what about early exposure to things like infections or pathogens such as toxoplasma gondii, found in cat feces? Picard’s discussion points to the sorts of things that need to be sorted out before we start to worry about the implications of the kinds of pet or pets we had as children and their influence on our mental health. Base rates of cat ownership, other potential triggers, and, most importantly, an understanding of how such things influence the development of mental illnesses.
So don’t give your cat away just yet, there is much more research needed.
Questions for Discussion:
- How might cat ownership be related to the later development of mental illness?
- What are some of the things we should be cautious about before blaming cats for mental illness?
- What are some of the research questions that need to be answered before we can begin to seriously examine the relationship between cat ownership and later mental illness?
References (Read Further):
Torrey, E. F., Simmons, W., & Yolken, R. H. (2015). Is childhood cat ownership a risk factor for schizophrenia later in life?. Schizophrenia research, 165(1), 1-2. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2015.03.036
Cannon, T. D., van Erp, T. G., Bearden, C. E., Loewy, R., Thompson, P., Toga, A. W., … & Tsuang, M. T. (2003). Early and late neurodevelopmental influences in the prodrome to schizophrenia: contributions of genes, environment, and their interactions. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 29(4), 653-669.
Bushman, B. A. (2014). Dogs: Can They Help Promote Human Health?. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 18(1), 5-8.
Marsa-Sambola, F., Muldoon, J., Williams, J., Lawrence, A., Connor, M., & Currie, C. (2015). The Short Attachment to Pets Scale (SAPS) for Children and Young People: Development, Psychometric Qualities and Demographic and Health Associations. Child Indicators Research, 1-21.