Cat scratches, not bites, are associated with unipolar depression - cross-sectional study. - PubMed - NCBI

 A recent study performed on 1.3 million patients showed a strong association between being bitten by a cat and probability of being diagnosed with depression. Authors suggested that infection with cat parasite Toxoplasma could be the reason for this association.


A cross sectional internet study on a non-clinical population of 5,535 subjects was undertaken.


The subjects that reported having been bitten by a dog and a cat or scratched by a cat have higher Beck depression score. They were more likely to have visited psychiatrists, psychotherapists and neurologists in past two years, to have been previously diagnosed with depression (but not with bipolar disorder). Multivariate analysis of models with cat biting, cat scratching, toxoplasmosis, the number of cats at home, and the age of subjects as independent variables showed that only cat scratching had positive effect on depression (p = 0.004). Cat biting and toxoplasmosis had no effect on the depression, and the number of cats at home had a negative effect on depression (p = 0.021).


Absence of association between toxoplasmosis and depression and five times stronger association of depression with cat scratching than with cat biting suggests that the pathogen responsible for mood disorders in animals-injured subjects is probably not the protozoon Toxoplasma gondii but another organism; possibly the agent of cat-scratched disease - the bacteria Bartonella henselae.

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