If you find yourself flying off the handle, it might be due to an infection you got from your cat.
That’s the surprising conclusion of a study just published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It looked at people with anger issues.
Scientists found that those with a condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) were more than twice as likely to be infected with toxoplasma. It’s a common parasite found in cat waste.1
More than 20% of the U.S. population has been infected by the toxoplasma parasite, according to the CDC. Researchers believe the parasite alters some people’s brain chemistry to cause behavior similar to road rage.2
The researchers studied 358 adults. Of the people with IED, 22% tested positive for toxoplasmosis. Only 9% of the non-IED group had the infection.
Cat-Borne Parasite Linked to Mental Issues in People
Earlier studies have linked toxoplasmosis to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicidal behavior. For years, pregnant women have been told not to empty cat litter boxes because toxoplasmosis can be dangerous to a fetus.3
Dr. Emil Coccaro, a professor and chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, was the lead researcher. He said his study clearly shows that exposure to the parasite “raises the risk of aggressive behavior.” However, he points out that out that not everyone who tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues.
A massive number of people are at risk since almost 40% of American households have a cat.4
Besides emptying cat litter boxes, humans can become infected by working in a garden where there is cat waste. Most people who become infected do not have symptoms. Nor do cats. Some people may have flu-like symptoms that last for a month or more.
How to Stop Toxoplasmosis
Here are ways to prevent infection:
- Wear gloves when emptying the litter box or gardening in soil that may contain cat waste. Wash your hands immediately afterward.5
- Have your veterinarian test your cat for toxoplasmosis. If your pet tests positive, get it treated.
- If your cat tests positive, get tested yourself. It’s a simple blood draw.
- You may not need treatment if your infection has run its course and you are otherwise healthy.
- Stop your cat from getting infected by keeping it indoors. They can get the parasite by eating infected prey such as rodents or birds.
- Never handle stray cats.
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In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch
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