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Pandora Syndrome in Cats

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Almost everyone is familiar with the story of Pandora’s box. Zeus had given Pandora a locked box with a key, but she was instructed never to open it. Her curiosity got the better of her and when she unlocked the box, all the evils in the world escaped.

In 2011, a study was done at the Ohio State University, led by Dr. Tony Buffington. The research revealed that when it comes to feline urinary issues, it was more than just being about the bladder. There was a connection between the urinary recurrences and stress. Dr. Buffington coined the term for these urinary issues, Pandora Syndrome, after the Greek myth of Pandora’s box. The research connects the cat’s big enemy, stress, to frequent recurrences of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis.

Feline urinary tract problems are difficult to diagnose and treat. Urinary tract problems used to be labeled under the umbrella term FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) or FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis).

FIC, is labeled so when no identifiable cause can be found for the chronic bladder inflammation. The condition waxes and wanes. The research out of the Ohio State University shows FIC to be one result of many problems of the body triggered by stress.

quote from dr. haug

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The cats who are most susceptible are the ones who are more nervous, fearful, and sensitive in general. It is believed these cats have an abnormal stress response system. They startle more easily than other cats and stay hyper alert. As a result of cats remaining in stress alert, systems of the body (immune, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and so on) are affected and that sets the cats up for various illnesses. It’s not unusual for cats with Pandora Syndrome to also exhibit other sickness behaviors such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.

Diagnosing Pandora Syndrome

Diagnosis of Pandora Syndrome is difficult since there are many causes for the problem. A thorough exam, along with urinalysis and bloodwork are performed. A thorough behavioral history is needed as well. Your cat’s veterinarian needs to know about the home environment, stressful events or any trauma. Did something happen in the cat’s life that was traumatic and as a result, the cat remains in a state of stress, even in the absence of any threat?  It’s also important for the veterinarian to know whether the cat was orphaned, if the cat was socialized as a kitten, as well as anything else that will help put the pieces of the puzzle together.