WASHINGTON (WUSA)-- There's something lurking around in your cat litter box, and it's not just feces. It's a cat parasite named Toxoplasma gondii.
According to a new study published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, cat owners infected with the parasite may suffer undetected brain changes that lead to personality changes and mental illness.
The study tested 45,000 women in Denmark and found that women infected by the parasite were one and half times more likely to attempt suicide than those who weren't affected.
The the higher the levels of T.gondii antibodies found, the higher the suicide risk.
More than 60 million people in the U.S. carry the T.gondii parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But pregnant women should steer clear of changing cat litters, to avoid the parasite. They can pass the T.gondii onto their fetus, which may cause brain damage or stillbirth.
The parasite is found in cat feces and could spread through undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables.