"We are cautious about extrapolating these findings to the average home, but we will say that anyone who has a pet accepts the responsibility of understanding their pet's needs and providing them," he added. "And what we've learned is that all cats need to have some consideration of environmental enrichment."
The study is published in the Jan. 1, 2011, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This research project didn't begin as a study of cats' tendency to exhibit sickness behaviors. Ohio State's Veterinary Medical Center was housing 12 healthy cats and 20 cats with IC, including those at risk of euthanasia because their previous owners were unable to tolerate their sickness behaviors, for a variety of other research efforts, many related to better understanding the chronic disease.
Judi Stella, a doctoral candidate in veterinary preventive medicine, was the primary caretaker of this colony of cats. Based on previous work by Buffington about the benefits of environmental enrichment for cats that stay indoors, Stella spent months setting up a standardized feeding, play and cleaning schedule that seemed the least stressful for all of the cats.
And then she noticed that the cats with the chronic illness looked better: Their coats were shinier, their eyes were clearer and, perhaps most surprising of all, none of these cats missed the litter box or vomited for two weeks.
"At the time, we assumed the IC cats were always going to have these problems. When I started looking at the data, it was the lack of sickness behaviors that tipped me off. It was not expected," said Stella, lead author 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,
|Contact: Tony Buffington|
Ohio State University