I think that Dr. Torrey has acted irresponsibly. There are actual panels of scientists whose purpose is to do one thing: increase public trust in science. The average person is distrustful of new reasearch, and even of older, well-established research (evolution is one of those "older" theories; there is another thread on this, so let's not get into it here
). This is in part due to a lack of familiarity with science and partly due to how scientists themselves present their data to the public. This is a perfect example of the latter.
It is not relevent whether Dr. Torrey avoided conjecture and stuck with simple reporting of facts in the research paper itself. The general public will probably never read it. The only relevent issue is what he said to the reporter. Dr. Torrey ought to know that reporters will look for the more interesting story, and so you need to be VERY careful not announce research results prematurely; that is, before it has been rigorously tested and has a reasonably solid, verifiable foundation. And yet, Dr. Torrey has either forgotten this rule and was irresponsibly careless, or has irresponsibly elected to ignore this rule in order to get publicity and funding.
It does not matter that he said that it wasn't yet proved. Many people have selective reading, and given that news reporting has become a sort of entertainment industry, the reporters have selective reporting. So, the article contained the following: there is a 54% increase in the risk of getting schizophrenia among cat owners and "Personally I would not buy a kitten for a small child," he said. "I don't think we know enough to be able to say there's no risk." Many members of the general public (except die-hard cat-lovers, who will respond like members of this board!) will snatch at these two things, notwithstanding his statement that nothing is proved (because they don't understand that correlation does not prove causation), and the result will be a lot of parents dumping their cats at the shelter. In fact, far from assuaging concern, the statement about breastfeeding is probably going to make a fair number of expectent mothers panic unnecessarily!
IMO, he absolutely should not have reported his findings to the public yet AT ALL. If he wanted to, he could have discussed in general that he was researching the posibility that viruses and bacteria may be causing some well-known brain disorders, but until his results actually proved anything it was horribly irresponsible to report them to the news media. I hate to think how many cats will be dumped at shelters because of this.