Congenital or early life infection with Toxoplasma gondii has been implicated in schizophrenia aetiology. Childhood cat ownership has been hypothesized as an intermediary marker of T. gondii infection and, by proxy, as a risk factor for later psychosis. Evidence supporting this hypothesis is, however, limited.
We used birth cohort data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to investigate whether cat ownership in pregnancy and childhood (ages 4 and 10 years) was associated with psychotic experiences (PEs) in early (age 13, N = 6705) and late (age 18, N = 4676) adolescence, rated from semi-structured interviews. We used logistic regression to examine associations between cat ownership and PEs, adjusting for several sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors, household characteristics and dog ownership. Missing data were handled via multiple imputation.
Cat ownership during pregnancy was not associated with PEs at age 13 years [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.15, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.97–1.35] or 18 years (OR 1.08, 95% CI 0.86–1.35). Initial univariable evidence that cat ownership at ages 4 and 10 years was associated with PEs at age 13 years did not persist after multivariable adjustment (4 years: OR 1.18, 95% CI 0.94–1.48; 10 years: OR 1.12, 95% CI 0.92–1.36). There was no evidence that childhood cat ownership was associated with PEs at age 18 years.
While pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter, given possible T. gondii exposure, our study strongly indicates that cat ownership in pregnancy or early childhood does not confer an increased risk of later adolescent PEs.
Mason N McLary
|Publication Title||Psychological Medicine|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Cite this work||
Researchers should cite this work as follows: