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Study shows strong link between cat bites and depression

Posted by Doug Saffir  February 20, 2014 01:29 PM

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Cats are jerks. They're the type of mean-spirited animal that will kick you while you're down and not even have the decency to apologize.

At least, that's one way to take a new study featured in Popular Science that found over 41 percent of the people treated for cat bites were also treated for depression.

The study looked at 1.3 million people over 10 years, and researchers were honest: they can't say for certain whether cats are jerks that just like biting depressed people. Instead, they came up with three theories as to why cat bites and depression are so closely linked.

There's the "depressed people are more likely to own a cat (thus exposing them to a higher probability of being bitten)" approach, the "depressed people are more likely to exhibit behavior that cats don't like" theory, and a third, more science-y hypothesis relies heavily on the bacterial composition of cat poop.

You see, a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, commonly found in cat feces, might be infecting the brains of cat owners. The study explains: "The Toxoplasma parasite has been linked to prenatal depression, and a case report from 2004 discussed a patient with depression who was not responsive to anti-depressant medications until the parasite was eradicated. It has also been suggested that the inflammatory cytokines released during a T. gondii infection in the brain may be the cause of depression in some patients."

That sounds like serious stuff, and researchers went so far as to recommend that doctors screen cat bite victims for depression, just to be safe.

Oh, and it's also worth noting that that, of people who were both depressed and bitten by a cat, 86 percent were women. So all those cat lady stereotypes are definitely true.

(H/T Fark)

Reach me at douglas.saffir@globe.com. Follow me @dougsaffir

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