Objective: To compare sickness behaviors (SB) in response to unusual external events (UEE) in healthy cats with those of cats with feline interstitial cystitis (FIC).
Design: Prospective observational study.
Animals: 12 healthy cats and 20 donated cats with FIC.
Procedures: Cats were housed in a vivarium. Sickness behaviors referable to the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, the skin, and behavior problems were recorded by a single observer for 77 weeks. Instances of UEE (eg, changes in caretakers, vivarium routine, and lack of interaction with the investigator) were identified during 11 of the 77 weeks. No instances of UEE were identified during the remaining 66 weeks, which were considered control weeks.
Results: An increase in age and exposure to UEE, but not disease status, significantly increased total number of SB when results were controlled for other factors. Evaluation of individual SB revealed a protective effect of food intake for healthy males. An increase in age conferred a small increase in relative risk (RR) for upper gastrointestinal tract signs (RR, 1.2) and avoidance behavior (1.7). Exposure to UEE significantly increased the RR for decreases in food intake (RR, 9.3) and for no eliminations in 24 hours (6.4). Exposure to UEE significantly increased the RR for defecation (RR, 9.8) and urination (1.6) outside the litter box.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: SB, including some of the most commonly observed abnormalities in client-owned cats, were observed after exposure to UEE in both groups. Because healthy cats and cats with FIC were comparably affected by UEE, clinicians should consider the possibility of exposure to UEE in cats evaluated for these signs.