Healthy cats were just as likely as chronically ill cats to refuse food, vomit frequently and leave waste outside their litter box in response to changes in their routine, according to the Ohio State University study.
Veterinary clinicians refer to these acts as sickness behaviors.The researchers documented sickness behaviors in healthy cats and in cats with feline interstitial cystitis, a chronic illness characterized by recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and often both an urgent and frequent need to urinate.
When the cats experienced what were called “unusual external events,” such as a change in feeding schedule or caretaker, the healthy cats were just as likely to exhibit sickness behaviors as were the chronically ill cats. The two groups had the same number of sickness behaviors in response to unusual events, and both groups were at more than three times the risk of acting sick when their routines were disrupted.
Previous research has indicated that a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, known as IC, in cats is strongly associated with a number of other health problems. The fact that healthy cats exhibit some of those same problems in the face of stress suggests that veterinary clinicians should consider cats’ environmental conditions during assessments for health problems, researchers say.
The study is published in the Jan. 1, 2011, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.