They are cute, fluffy and have that wide-eyed glare that few of us can resist; it is no wonder more than 95 million of us own a cat. But there may be a darker side to our four-legged friends. New research claims the animals could increase our risk of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Two studies published in the journals Schizophrenia Research and Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica attribute this association to Toxoplasma gondii — a parasite found in the intestines of cats. Humans can become infected with the parasite by accidentally swallowing it after coming into contact with the animal’s feces.

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