TUESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Stress can cause even a healthy cat to appear sick, a new study reveals.

Ohio State University researchers found that healthy cats were just as likely as chronically ill cats to vomit frequently, refuse food and leave waste outside their litter box if there was a change in their normal routine, such as a different feeding schedule or caretaker.

The healthy cats were compared to cats with feline interstitial cystitis, a chronic illness that causes discomfort or pain and often both an urgent and frequent need to urinate. The condition is strongly associated with a number of other health problems.

The fact that stress can cause healthy cats to exhibit some of the same problems as cats with interstitial cystitis suggests that veterinarians need to considers cats' surroundings when assessing them for health problems, the researchers explained.

"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," study senior author Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences, said in a university news release.

The study was published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

More information

The American Veterinary Medical Association has more about cat health.