The ‘crazy cat lady’ is a cruel stereotype often applied to female cat owners – but contrary to previous research, owning a cat isn’t bad for your mental health.
Previous studies had suggested that a parasite carried by cats was linked to depression in humans – and that people who had been bitten by cats were seven times more likely to commit suicide.
However the latest study looked at almost 5,000 people, following them until the age of 18 and concluding that children with cats are no more likely to develop mental health problems in adolescence.
Researchers from University College London followed 5,000 people to the age of 18 – and concluded that children who grew up around cats are no more likely to develop mental health problems.
Lead author Dr Francesca Solmi, from UCL, said: ‘The message for cat owners is clear – there is no evidence that cats pose a risk to children’s mental health.
‘In our study, initial unadjusted analyses suggested a small link between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at age 13, but this turned out to be due to other factors.
‘Once we controlled for factors such as household over-crowding and socioeconomic status, the data showed that cats were not to blame.
‘Previous studies reporting links between cat ownership and psychosis simply failed to adequately control for other possible explanations.’