Study: Cat Poop Raises Owners' Suicide Risk

Parasite infection linked to higher rate of attempts
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2012 4:53 AM CDT
Updated Jul 7, 2012 7:00 PM CDT
Cat Poop Raises Owners' Suicide Risk
People shouldn't ditch Fluffy because of the study, its lead author says.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

More bad press for cat poop: A parasite found in cat feces has been linked to an increased likelihood of owners committing suicide, reports NPR. The study of more than 45,000 Danish women over the course of 30 years found that those infected with toxoplasmosis (possibly from changing cat litter) were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide. But only seven of the women actually committed suicide. With that in mind, and since eating undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables can cause the infection, too, "people shouldn't give their cats away," the lead researcher says.

It's not clear whether the infection itself is behind the higher rate of suicide attempts, or whether "people with psychiatric disturbances" are more likely to be infected, the researcher notes. Toxoplasmosis, which lives in the intestines of cats, infects close to a third of the world's people. Earlier studies have linked the infection to higher rates of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. One biologist who has studied the infection for decades believes that it causes erratic behavior in humans in the same way that it works on rat brains to make them easier targets for cats, enabling it to reproduce itself. (More cat stories.)

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