Heart Disease in Cats

author Sara Thornton DVM                                iCandy RagaMuffins

I recently had an inquiry from someone interested in acquiring a RagaMuffin kitten from me. Pretty typical email. When I responded with general information that I always respond with including waitlist information, price, genetic testing including echocardiograms on the parents, and other details, I got a surprising response.

It appears the inquirer got the impression that RagaMuffins have a significant amount of heart disease. Her background was in a dog breed that has terrible heart disease, so I can understand her concern. But, I didn’t want her to feel that RagaMuffins were in the same league as the dog breed she previously loved.

In fact, RagaMuffins are no more likely to have heart disease than any cat walking down the street. The odds are that around 15% of the general cat population has heart disease. By far the most common presentation is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy ( HCM). In some feline breeds, HCM is rampant. Gene mutations were identified in both Ragdolls and Maine Coons that can cause HCM. The good news is those genes can be tested for and findings can be used by breeders to eliminate that cause of heart disease in kittens that are produced. Since Ragdolls are in the background of RagaMuffins, I test every breeding cat.

In addition, I take the extra step to screen my RagaMuffin breeding cats with an echocardigram since many types of heart disease are not detectable via genetic testing. 50% of cats with HCM do not have a heart murmur. So, this means a routine auscultation by a veterinarian has only a 50% chance to suspect a problem. The echocardiogram is the gold standard utilized. Even that is not perfect. A cat can have a normal echo and then six months later develop heart disease. HCM is the top suspect in sudden death of a younger cat. That being said, it is not necessarily a death sentence. When detected, a cat may be monitored and live a normal span in some cases. I had a dear Domestic Long Hair that was diagnosed around three years of age. She lived to 14 with no issues, but then her heart failed.

The bottom line is, I do health clearances including echocardiograms to ensure that I am doing the best that I can to produce healthy RagaMuffin kittens.