Facts About a Cat’s Heart

Cats and heart disease – what you need to know


The cardiovascular system includes:

  • The heart
  • Blood vessels

The cardiovascular system performs the functions of:

  • Pumping blood
  • Carrying blood to the rest of the body

The body needs oxygen-rich blood. The heart makes sure this blood gets around. Then, once the oxygen-depleted blood goes through the lung fields, the cycle repeats.

A cat’s heart is a small yet impressive organ which works around the clock. In fact, their little hearts beat rapidly, which is surprising, since cats seem calm and confident most of the time. Each human heartbeat roughly converts to three cat heartbeats.

The heart relies on messages from the nerves and hormones as well as muscle cooperation to function at its best. Despite all of these delicate and complicated processes, cats don’t get sick often, but they can still suffer from heart disease.


Cats often disguise discomfort and weakness because of their instinct to hide from predators. It’s often difficult to tell when a cat is sick. Here are some signs that may help pick up heart problems:

  • Weakness/fatigue/inactivity
  • Fainting/collapse
  • Shortness of breath/fast breathing during sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Panting and/or coughing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Loss of or decreased appetite
  • Unable or unwilling to exercise
  • Sudden paralysis (usually of the rear legs)


Since a heart problem or heart disease is not obvious or even visible, you need to take your cat for regular, thorough checkups. A stethoscope won’t always cut it, but a new heart murmur could be a clue. To get answers, there are numerous tests to turn to:

  • X-rays
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood thyroid hormone test
  • Heartworm test
  • Blood chemistry analysis
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Echocardiogram: echo, 2D echo, cardiac ultrasound & echocardiography (especially 2D)


Unlike dogs, cats are not often born with heart problems or malformations (congenital anomalies) and murmurs in kittens are usually harmless and short-lived.

In cats the most common heart disease is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which literally means disease of the heart muscle. This cardiac condition causes a thickening and/or stretching of the heart’s walls. When the heart’s pumping chamber becomes thicker, less blood can enter the chamber; therefore, less blood is ejected out to the rest of the body. 

Other heart diseases include:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM)
  • Intermediate cardiomyopathy (ICM)

Related Article

Enlarged Heart (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) In Cats Read Now
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