Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Healthy Pets

Font Size

Sometimes Healthy Cats Can ‘Act’ Sick

Study Shows Change in Cat’s Routine Can Cause Symptoms Such as Vomiting or Refusing to Eat
WebMD Pet Health News
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Jan. 10, 2011 -- A cat that appears unwell by vomiting hairballs or refusing to eat may actually be healthy but just feeling out of sorts, according to a new study.

Researchers found that even healthy cats will appear sick when their routine is disrupted by a change in feeding schedule or caretaker. But restoring their routine and letting them feel somewhat in control may be all that's needed to make them feel frisky again.

The study showed that healthy cats were just as likely to appear sick as cats with a chronic urinary tract illness called feline interstitial cystitis, when their normal environment was altered.

“A healthy cat -- or any healthy mammal -- can feel the stress of environmental disruption and exhibit sickness behaviors as a result,” says researcher Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University, in a news release. “You get the environment right and they’ll recover.”

“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,” says Buffington. “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.”

Effects of Disrupting Routine

In the study, researchers compared the number of sickness behaviors, such as vomiting, not eating, or refusing to use the litter box, among 12 healthy cats and 20 cats with feline interstitial cystitis, a chronic illness that causes recurring discomfort and pain in the bladder, following a change in their environment or routine.

During the weeks when the cats' routine was unchanged, both the healthy cats and the cats with interstitial cystitis displayed few of these sickness behaviors, with an average of 0.4 events among the healthy cats and 0.7 among the cats with cystitis.

But during weeks when the cats' routine was altered or normal caretaker was changed, the number of sickness behaviors more than tripled among both groups of cats. The healthy cats averaged 1.9 sickness behaviors and the cats with interstitial cystitis averaged 2.0.

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
Get the facts about prevention.
Woman holding puppy
Sad dog and guacamole
Siamese cat eating from bowl
cat on couch
Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Kitten playing
Orange cat nuzzling woman
German shephard reading a book