The Silent Killer

RagaMuffin kitten

author Laurie Godshall                       High Country Cats


It is said that the only flaw in our animal companions is that they don’t live forever. Despite all of our human efforts to keep them with us as long as possible, there are some diseases that will still creep up. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or HCM, is one of those. This is a heart condition that causes the walls of the heart, specifically the left ventricle, to thicken. It is the most common heart disease seen in cats and also the most difficult to diagnose early, as cats rarely show clinical signs until the condition is in an advanced stage.


Though there is ongoing research, there is no known cause for HCM, which makes it difficult to know if we’re preventing it. HCM affects cats around the world and is seen more frequently in male cats than females, both intact or neutered.  Breeds such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Persians and Sphynx have shown to have a suspected genetic predisposition to HCM and are therefore more prone to developing it. It is unknown why these breeds are more likely to get HCM than others, but DNA mutations may indicate that a cat has a higher risk of developing it.


Most RagaMuffin breeders run a DNA test for the Ragdoll gene mutation on all of our breeding cats. However, echocardiography is the gold standard for diagnosing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats, so most breeders will have this performed on their cats prior to breeding, as well.


Annual physical veterinary exams are important, but several studies have shown that few cats with subclinical heart disease exhibit abnormalities during a physical exam. The presence or absence of a heart murmur doesn’t indicate that a cat has or doesn’t have HCM. The presence of a murmur should be followed up with an echocardiogram. If caught in the early stages, it is possible to manage HCM with nutrition and medication.


You can help keep your kitties healthy and hopefully decrease the likelihood of disease with nutritional support, supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids and annual vet visits.


Here’s to healthy kitties!