That crazy cat lady – yeah, you know, the one almost every community has – well, it might not be her fault.
Some new science is fingering the cats.
Yes, truly. A Tuesday study in Brain, Behavior and Science suggest cats can make you nuts.
The team of 17 Danish scientists and two colleagues from John Hopkins University and the Stanley Medical Research Institute in the U.S. use more politically correct terms, but that’s what they say.
The problem isn’t really the cat or cats per se, it should be noted; it’s the cat crap and the parasite Toxoplasma gondii usually found therein.
T. gondii was found to have a strong association with schizophrenia, the study said.
Some have been suggesting that maybe the crazy-cat lady problem isn’t the people but the cats for some time.
“When most people hear about animal hoarding, they recall shocking news stories about the ‘crazy cat lady,'” says the website of Anxiety and Depression Society of America. “They immediately side with the animals, rarely considering the life of what led to this behavior.
“(But) the term ‘animal hoarding’ refers to the compulsive need to collect and own animals for the sake of caring for them that results in accidental or unintentional neglect or abuse. Most animal hoarders fall victim to their good intentions and end up emotionally overwhelmed, socially isolated, and alienated from family and friends.”
Social withdrawal and alienation from family and friends are key signs of schizophrenia.
Mental health infections
“In recent years there has been a growing interest in the influence of infectious agents on human behavior and mental disorders,” the new study said. “Common infectious pathogens such as T. gondii and cytomegalovirus (CMV) have been associated with psychiatric disorders, cognitive deficits, suicidal behavior, and traffic accidents.”
CMV is a form of herpes that the study observes has already been linked to “visual impairment, hearing loss or cognitive impairment. Several studies have (also) shown that infection with CMV is associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and cognitive deficits.”
Looking for more definitive links between these pathogens and mental illness, the researchers turned to the Danish Blood Donor Study holding plasma and DNA samples for 110,000 people age 18 to 67.
They then began cross referencing that data with the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register, a computerized data base that records all admissions to Danish psychiatric hospitals since 1969 and all outpatient treatment since 1995.
The Danes also do a good job of cataloging deaths, hospital admissions and traffic accidents. As a result, the scientists found a lot of data to mine. They eventually found 2,591 people with psychiatric disorders – 151 of them schizophrenics – and started looking at their blood.
“We found that individuals with a T. gondii infection had increased odds of being diagnosed with schizophrenia disorders compared to those without infection,” they wrote. “Besides schizophrenia, T. gondii infection was not statistically significantly associated with any other psychiatric disorder.”
On the other hand, CMV was not associated with schizophrenia, but it was associated with neurotic and stress-related psychiatric disorders and with suicide or attempted suicide.
“This largest to date (blood) study provides evidence that exposure to T. gondii might be a contributing causal factor for developing schizophrenia and that exposure to CMV might be a contributing causal factor for developing serious psychiatric disorders,” the scientists concluded.
They suggested a number of biochemical pathways that could link T. gondii to schizophrenia and observed that “it has been shown that schizophrenic patients treated with anti-psychotic drugs have lower levels of antibodies to T. gondii compared to untreated schizophrenic patients. One could argue that the effect of anti-psychotic drugs in schizophrenic patients may be partly due to the inhibition of T. gondii activity.”
That said, they admitted that the Danish blood donor population is skewed toward upper-income Danes and married males.
“We cannot rule out that socio-economic factors could potentially account for part or all of the observed causal effect,” they wrote, although that appears unlikely among the generally affluent.
The costs of poverty
Socio-economic factors or SES (socio-economic status), as it is more commonly called, have been shown to have all sorts of as yet unexplained effects on health and never in a good way.
For instance, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) – a serious problem in Alaska – has been linked to low SES in study after study.
“One classic study of the influence of SES in the United States found that the risk of bearing a child with FAS was 15.8 times higher for women of lower SES even with comparable drinking levels,” a 2011 study in Alcohol Research noted.
“In most population-based studies, women with FASD children have lower levels of education and more frequently are unemployed or underemployed,” the authors of that study wrote.
“An overarching trait that may modify or enhance all of the above cofactors of risk is ‘weathering.’ Weathering is a concept put forth to explain the cumulative effect of poor living conditions, inadequate nutrition, and high levels of stress on childbearing.”
How these same SES issues relate to mental health is unclear, but they are unlikely to make people healthier.
The authors of what will be called the “cat-crap study” for ease of reference admitted “we did not control for socio-economic factors, which may have an effect on health outcome,” and yet they still found evidence pathogens appeared to be causing mental illness.
“Our findings support the growing scientific evidence linking pathogenic infection with serious psychiatric disorders,” they concluded. “Routinely screening for T. gondii and CMV in populations with psychiatric disorders may identify novel stratification groups, which can be used to target treatment in combination with analysis of genetic risk factors. Likewise, targeting T. gondii or CMV infections can provide novel therapeutic approaches as well as potential biomarkers to identify individuals at increased risk. A detailed understanding of the origin, mechanisms and outcomes of these pathogenic infections in relation to psychiatric disorders, self-violence and risk-taking behavior is necessary in order to improve detection and treatment.”
They stopped short of suggesting getting rid of cats in favor of a dog, but that might not be a bad idea either.
Wow!! Thank you!!
So maybe we should say catshit crazy instead of batshit crazy?
Amazing information ! Awesome compilation of important knowledge!
That might NOT be a bad idea. You forgot “not” at the end
Great idea, interesting article
The term crazy cat lady is real ! Who knew . Awesome Craig !
Although cats were used as the example in this story,
Animal Hoarding goes on across N.A. with many dogs tied to stakes on short chains.
Remember Frank Rich?
I am also thinking of Dario Martinez and Melanie Gould who also walked away from large doglots of sled dogs who needed their help….
Luckily Gould was found hiding from authorities but was OK…
Not the same outcome for Martinez.
“Mushing guide and former Iditarod competitor Dario Martinez was found hanging from a tree in downtown Anchorage on Thursday, a day after Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage Animal Care and Control removed 12 malnourished dogs and one dead one from his tour business here.”
Suicide and mental health issues are a real problem. So many people in America struggle with it . I feel for them . Craig’s article appears to shine light on some of the causes. These tortured people need all the help they can get . Glad science is starting to get a look into the base problems .
I agree…hopefully our state can “turn the corner” on the mental health crisis, which is tied into failing local economies and the meth / opiate crisis throughout America.
Here is a good story by Craig on the Gould “disappearance” years ago.
“Hopefully Gould is getting counseling even if no one seems willing to admit she needs it.”
At one time these people were confined to institutions. Then it became clear they could be used for votes and the institutions were shutdown and they were released onto the streets. Excatly what is being done today with the illegals. Saw a show once called Horders. One cat lady was so crazy she had like 100 cats in her home. There was 8″ of cat chit covering her kitchen countertops. EVERYWHERE!!! So much so the ammonia blinded all the cats to the point their eyeballs were withering in their heads. She took the dead cats and put them in the freezer as she couldn’t get rid of them. Now imagine the parasites and toxins this woman had? I say let us bring back the mental institutions, get them the treatment they need, and staff the places with illegals. Win-Win!!!
I think that Craig is conducting an experiment to see how quickly the readers can take various articles and go political with our comments. In this case, it took 2 comments. It might be time to get a life…
Yes, and these off-topic, bullying, and mostly anonymous comments wreck an intelligent discussion and intimidate some from posting. The ADN comments have also experienced this to an even greater degree.
I’m so over the anonymous replies. I bet these comment section hijackers are a real hoot at parties. ‘Speaking of your daughters 3 grade play, did you see that Trump scratched his ass the wrong way and the liberal ‘news media’ are going crazy?’ Or, ‘Wow! It’s your anniversary? Did you see that Trump is really going to get impeached this time?!’ Man, it must be nice to have life figured out so well that all you need to do is attack or defend liberal America and your day is complete.
Speaking of “illegals”…
Looks like the federal data is correct and most illegal drugs are coming through “ports of entry” and not on the backs of “illegals”.
“On Thursday, the CBP made public that its agents in Arizona had found 254 pounds (115 kg) of fentanyl and 395 pounds (179 kg) of methamphetamine on a tractor-trailer transporting cucumbers from Mexico. The contraband was discovered by a CBP canine at the Mariposa port of entry in Nogales, just past noon on Saturday.”
This was a legal Mexican citizen driving the truck…right through the border crossing!
Damn Capitalism… MAGA!!
America Created 304,000 Jobs in January, Smashing Estimates. Blue collar jobs surpass White collar jobs.
By “Damn Capitalism”, do you mean that was a NAFTA truck full of Fentanyl and Meth at our legal border crossing?
I bet you are correct and I thought Trump was gonna “tear up NAFTA”…
Might need a wall to keep those Mexican cucumbers from hitting the streets!
“The good times are behind us and energy costs under my plan will necessarially skyrocket” – Baracuss Hu’insanous Obama
‘… and my button works!’. That’s our guy, eh, Brian? Just grab ’em by the pussy. Good luck with that…