Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed their findings that around 12,500 people are diagnosed with cat scratch disease (CSD) each year, a sometimes fatal condition. Although the purpose of the study was to raise awareness of this more rare infection, it's important to remember that CSD is not the only condition transmitted from cats to owners.

Cats are known to carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii(T. gondii) in their feces, and if we accidentally come into contact with this parasite, it can cause an unpleasant condition known as toxoplasmosis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people never develop any toxoplasmosis symptoms, which are usually mild and flu-like. For infants born to infected mothers and for people with weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause extremely serious complications. The condition has been linked to miscarriage, fetal developmental disorders, and even blindness.

In addition, a 2015 study linked toxoplasmosis to mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. According to the research, having a cat during childhood is a risk factor for developing schizophrenia or other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder later on, and someone who was infected with T. gondii was twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those who did not have the parasite.

In a recent Ted Ed video, host Jaap de Rood explained a strange yet popular hypothesis that a T. gondii infection could actually be an explanation for the scatterbrained persona of the stereotypical cat lady as the parasite may be able to change the behavior and brain activity of its hosts. However, this is still just a theory and the science backing it up is still lacking.

To protect yourself from toxoplasmosis, the CDC recommends that pregnant women not touch a cat’s litter box, keep cats indoors, and wear gardening gloves when coming in contact with soil that might contain cat feces. Other precautions include cooking meat thoroughly, washing any unpeeled vegetables, and frequent hand-washing.

Unlike toxoplasmosis, CSD is caused by a bacteria, not a parasite. While the risk of contracting this disease isn’t high enough to suggest giving up your beloved kitty for adoption, Bruce Kornreich, DVM, an associate director at the Cornell Feline Health Center, does suggest taking certain precautions to keep you and your family safe.

“Taking appropriate flea control measures, keeping cats indoors, deterring cats from biting and scratching, not allowing cats to lick wounds, monitoring young children in their interactions with cats, and washing hands after interacting with cats will decrease the likelihood of cat scratch disease,” explained Kornreich in a recent statement.

Read More:

Cat Scratch Disease Is More Dangerous And Common Than You Realize, CDC Report Suggests: Read Here

Cat Bites Pose Risk Of Infection As 1 In 3 Patients Bitten Hospitalized; Teeth Inject Bacteria Into Joints, Tissue: Read Here