Friday 30 June 2023

Effect of stress on cats with feline idiopathic cystitis and healthy cats

Feline idiopathic cystitis is linked to stress and it is very painful for domestic cats to suffer from this disease. A study evaluated the behaviour and physiological responses of cats with feline idiopathic cystitis and cats that were healthy.

The way they achieved this was to look after the cats in a controlled environment for about a year. They had the same people looking after the cats and everything was stable. And then suddenly they destabilised the situation by feeding the cats at different times by different people. The whole husbandry of the participating cats was messed up with the deliberate purpose of stressing the cats concerned.

And when they did this there was a clear indication that there were specific sickness behaviours as a result such as vomiting, diarrhoea, anorexia or decrease food and water intake. There was also lethargy, fever, somnolence and enhanced pain-like behaviours. There was decreased general activity and the cats cared for themselves less actively and to the same standard. They socially interacted less often. In short, there are many signs of unhappy stressed cats in their health and in their behaviour.

They concluded that stresses which are short-term can lead to a significant increase in "sickness behaviours" both in cats with feline idiopathic cystitis and those cats that are healthy.

They further concluded that humans can assess stress responses and overall welfare of cats through monitoring of their sickness behaviours.

In detail - this is provided by Chat GPT

The purpose of the study was to investigate the behavioral and physiological responses of healthy cats and cats diagnosed with feline interstitial cystitis (FIC) when exposed to a five-day stressor. The researchers conducted the study at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center (OSUVMC) vivarium, where ten healthy cats and 18 cats with FIC were housed. 

All cats had been living in enriched cages for at least one year before the experiment, receiving daily playtime, socialization outside of the cage, food treats, and auditory enrichment. The cats were cared for by two familiar caretakers, following a consistent daily schedule. During the test days, the cats were subjected to multiple unpredictable stressors. These stressors included exposure to unfamiliar caretakers, an inconsistent husbandry schedule, and discontinuation of playtime, socialization, food treats, and auditory enrichment. 

The researchers monitored the cats for sickness behaviors (SB), which included vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia or decreased food and water intake, fever, lethargy, somnolence, enhanced pain-like behaviors, decreased general activity, body care activities (grooming), and social interactions. SB occurrences were recorded daily. In addition to monitoring the behavioral responses, the researchers also collected blood samples from the cats before and after the stress period to measure various physiological parameters.

These included serum cortisol concentration, leukocytes (white blood cells), lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), neutrophils (another type of white blood cell), neutrophil-to-lymphocyte (N:L) ratio, and mRNA levels of the cytokines interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). The results of the study showed that both healthy cats and cats with FIC exhibited a significant increase in sickness behaviors when exposed to the short-term stressors. 

However, specific physiological changes, such as lymphopenia (reduced lymphocyte count) and alterations in the N:L ratio, were observed only in the cats with FIC. The researchers concluded that monitoring cats for sickness behaviors can be a noninvasive and reliable method to assess their stress responses and overall welfare, especially when they are housed in cages. By studying the behavioral and physiological responses to stressors, the study provides insights into the impact of stress on cats with FIC and highlights the importance of managing stress in these animals for their well-being. Regenerate response

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