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Even healthy cats act sick when their routine is disrupted
Date:1/3/2011

is that by enriching the environment, you can reduce IC cats' symptom burden by about 75 or 80 percent," Buffington said.

Another important finding: "A healthy cat or any healthy mammal can feel the stress of environmental disruption and exhibit sickness behaviors as a result," he said.

After the environment was stable for all of the cats, Stella observed them for another 77 weeks. The nature of the research changed again over the course of the observation. When Stella took a vacation and was replaced by substitute caretakers, or when she changed the feeding schedule for the cats as part of yet another project, it became clear that these changes had an influence on the cats' sickness behaviors. So she tracked those changes.

During the period of observation, these changes called unusual external events included a discontinuation of contact with Stella, the longtime primary caretaker; a combination of husbandry schedule changes, food removal, restraint stress and withdrawal of playtime and music; a three-hour delay in feeding time; and a dramatic change in caretaker personnel.

During control weeks, when the routine was unaltered, the healthy cats, on average, exhibited 0.4 sickness behaviors and the cats with IC exhibited 0.7 sickness behaviors virtually no difference. Similarly, during weeks containing unusual external events, those numbers increased to 1.9 sickness behaviors for healthy cats and 2.0 sickness behaviors for cats with interstitial cystitis. Overall, this translated to a 3.2-fold increase in the risk for sickness behaviors by all cats when their routines were disrupted.

The three most common sickness behaviors vomiting, urination or defecation outside the litter box and decreased food intake accounted for 88 percent of all sickness behaviors in healthy cats and 78 percent of sickness behaviors in the cats with IC.

Buffington noted that these three signs of illness are among those that often l
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Contact: Tony Buffington
buffington.1@osu.edu
614-292-7987
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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