A new study says that the next time your cat vomits hairballs or refuses to eat, don't think she is being finicky, as she might just be acting sick because of the stress caused by changes in its environment.
Researchers at the Ohio State University documented sickness behaviours 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.
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.
The fact that healthy cats exhibit some of those same problems in the face of stress has suggested that veterinary clinicians should consider cats' environmental conditions during assessments for health problems, said researchers.
"For veterinary clinicians, when you have a cat that's not eating, is not using the litter box or has stuff coming up out of its mouth, the quality of the environment is another cause that needs to be addressed in coming up with a diagnosis," said Tony Buffington, senior author of the study.
"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.
"And what we've learned is that all cats need to have some consideration of environmental enrichment," he said.
He added, "A healthy cat - or any healthy mammal - can feel the stress of environmental disruption and exhibit sickness behaviours as a result."
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.