We have spoken before about the horrifying possibility that your cat (or your 50 cats, depending on how seriously you're taking your cat lady duties) has infected your brain with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Previous research has shown that T. gondii, which is transmitted via cat feces, is linked to schizophrenia and other behavior problems, and now a new study has found that women infected with it are more likely to kill themselves. The research looked at more than 45,000 Danish women and found that those with T. gondii were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who didn't have the parasite. That is a very sad fact, indeed—especially since it's estimated that a third of the world's population has it.


Fortunately, it's not necessarily the cats themselves that can be blamed, since it's possible to get toxoplasmosis from any number of other sources like undercooked meat and contaminated vegetables. (Cook that meat! Clean those kitchens!) There's also not definitive proof that it's the parasites that are themselves causing the suicides. The study's lead author, Dr. Teodor Postolache, concludes,

We can't say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies.


The absolute risk of suicide is still quite small. Over the 30-year long study, fewer than 1,000 of the participants attempted to harm themselves, and only seven women actually killed themselves. While having T. gondii may have its negative effects, Postolache is quick to reassure us that we need not get rid of our cats because of the risk of getting it. And that's good news, since taking cats away from cat ladies (and anyone, really) is bound to be just as devastating—if not more so—to one's mental health than any mind-controlling parasite.

A Parasite Carried By Cats Could Increase Suicide Risk [NPR]
'Cat ladies' more likely to commit suicide, scientists claim [Telegraph]


Image via Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock.

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