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Reasons for Sick-animal Behavior in Healthy Cats

Cute Pet Kitten YawningResearchers at Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine have made a fascinating discovery about what happens when an indoor cat’s normal routine is disrupted.

In a study of 12 healthy cats and 20 cats with interstitial cystitis (IC), it was determined healthy cats can behave as if they’re sick when their routine is altered. Study results also indicate that cats with IC experience significant symptom reduction in an enriched environment.

Sickness behaviors like refusal to eat, vomiting and litter box avoidance tripled in healthy cats whose routines were disturbed.

In the cats with IC, symptoms improved by 75 to 80 percent when they were fed at the same time each day, their litter boxes stayed in the same place, and regular playtime was encouraged.

According to Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary clinical sciences professor at OSU and one of the authors of the study:

"This became a study of enrichment as an approach to therapy for these syndromes because there is no good drug therapy in cats, or in people, for that matter, with this disorder. What we found, in other clinical studies and with this study, is that by enriching the environment, you can reduce IC cats' syndrome burden by about 75 or 80 percent."

This is also good information for pet owners and veterinarians. If an otherwise healthy cat starts refusing food, vomiting, urinating or defecating outside the litter box, it’s important to consider changes to the animal’s routine and environment during diagnosis.