Women that own cats could be at risk of mental health problems, according to a new study.
Researchers claim that a common parasite found in the faeces of cats is the cause of mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, schizophrenia and behavioural changes.
The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is spread through contact with cat faeces, eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables.
Approximately a third of the world's population is currently infected with the parasite and often do not experience any symptoms.
About a third of the world’s population is infected with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms.
A previous study has also suggested that Toxoplasma gondii can have therapeutic benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease.
However, researchers from Denmark, Germany and Sweden claim that Toxoplasma gondii has links to mental disorders.
Lead researcher Dr Teodor Postolache, from the University of Maryland, said: "We can’t say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies."
Read about support and personalised care at Barchester care homes for anyone with mental health concerns.