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11 Interesting Cat Heart Facts – How Do Feline Hearts Compare to Ours?

A cat’s heart is, naturally, much smaller than that of a human, but it is just as important. It pumps oxygenated blood around the body while carrying carbon dioxide and other waste products away. Although much smaller than a human’s, a cat’s heart and a human heart is surprisingly similar and performs most of the same functions. However, while heart attacks are a major concern for a lot of humans, cats are much more likely to suffer a cardiac disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Read on for 11 interesting facts about cat hearts and how they compare to our own and to dogs’ hearts.

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The 11 Interesting Cat Heart Facts!

1. A Cat’s Heart Beats Around 100 Million Times Per Year

While a human heart beats approximately 70 times a minute, an adult cat heart beats approximately 150 times a minute and a kitten heart approximately 300 times. This means that an adult cat’s heart can beat more than 80 million times in a single year, while a kitten’s can beat as often as 150 million times. If a cat lives to be 15 years old, its heart will have beaten approximately 1.5 billion times.

cat microchip getting scanned at vet
Image Credit: Lucky Business, Shutterstock
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2. Cat Hearts Are Nearly Identical to Human And Dog Hearts

Cat hearts are very similar in their shape and function to human hearts. They have two pumps that push blood to the lungs, where it becomes oxygenated. The heart pump then pushes the blood throughout the body to distribute oxygen. It also collects waste from the lungs and other organs to enable them to function safely and properly.

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3. Heart Attacks Are Very Rare in Cats

Although heart disease is not uncommon in cats, heart attacks are very rare. Cats process fats differently to humans and this helps protect feline hearts from total failure. When they do occur, however, they tend to be fatal, and cats do suffer from other types of cardiac disease. Even cats on a high-fat diet tend to be resistant, although disease like diabetes can theoretically increase the risk of suffering one.

vet doctor examining cat in x-ray room
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock
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4. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Is a Common Feline Cardiac Disease

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or HCM, is the most common cardiac disease witnessed in cats. This occurs when the walls of the heart thicken and the efficiency of the heart declines. The condition is more common in certain breeds of cat, for example the Maine Coon and Ragdoll breeds.

Unfortunately, symptoms of HCM are very difficult to spot during the early stages of the disease. As it progresses, a cat may start to breathe with its mouth open and the cat may become more lethargic. Eventually, clotting can lead to paralysis of the rear limbs. Although there is no cure for HCM, medication can help manage the symptoms and relieve pain.

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5. Most Feline Cardiac Medicines Are Human Heart Drugs

Although 1 in 10 cats will suffer cardiac disease at some point in their lives, there are very few drugs and treatments designed specifically for cats. In most cases, cats are given medication designed for human use. Such commonly used medicines include Plavix, Atenolol, and even Aspirin.

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6. Coughing Can Be a Symptom Of Cardiac Disease In Cats

Although cardiac disease can be very difficult to identify in cats, there are certain symptoms to look out for. Early signs include a loss of or change in appetite, lethargy, and an increased heart rate. More advanced symptoms include collapsing and paralysis of the rear limbs. Diagnosing the problem as soon as possible can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment, so if you suspect your cat is suffering any form of cardiac disease, it is important that you consult a vet. They will be able to arrange x-rays, ECGs, and other tests.

cat cough
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay
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7. Cardiac Disease Can Cause Rear Leg Paralysis

A common symptom of HCM in cats is rear leg paralysis. There are other potential causes of this paralysis, however, including injury to the nerves. HCM rear leg paralysis occurs because blood flow to the limbs is severely restricted. Initially, this can cause pain the affected limb but may eventually lead to total paralysis. HCM diagnosis can slow the onset of this paralysis but cannot cure it.

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8. Kittens Can Have Heart Murmurs

A heart murmur is when the heart beats at an unsteady or abnormal rate. It is identified by listening to the heart and is commonly caused by unusual blood flow in the heart. Humans can suffer heart murmurs, and so too can cats. Most commonly, heart murmurs occur in kittens, emerging at around 6 weeks of age.

These innocent heart murmurs will usually disappear, on their own, by the age of 6 months. However, there are other, potentially more serious, causes of heart murmurs, and it is always best to have them checked out by a vet or animal hospital.

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9. A Cat’s Heart Weighs Around 20 Grams

A human heart weighs approximately 300 grams. A cat’s heart typically weighs only around 20 grams but certain conditions can cause the heart to weigh more than this.

yellow sad sick cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock
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10. Severe Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Can Cause a Cat Heart To Weigh 30 Grams

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is one such cause of an enlarged, heavy heart. Cats with severe HMC have a heart weight of more than 30 grams, and the heart can weigh as much as 35 grams or more.

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11. Cardiomyopathy and Other Heart Conditions Can Be Difficult to Diagnose In Cats

Cats are adaptable animals. When one suffers from a disease like HCM, it will naturally alter its activity levels so that its body and organs can cope. This can help slow the onset of the disease, but it means that identification and diagnosis of HCM can be very difficult, although it does mean that lethargy and reduced activity are among the most prominent symptoms of heart disease in cats.

Hypertensions, or a high blood pressure, is another fairly common symptom but this is not identified without a veterinary visit.

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A cat’s heart is physically and functionally very similar to that of a human or even a dog heart. While 1 in 10 cats will suffer some form of cardiac disease, it is very rare for cats to suffer heart attacks.

Because cats are adaptable and they will alter their physical activity levels according to their physical condition, it can be difficult to identify diseases like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the most common cardiac disease in felines. If you do suspect that your cat has any form of heart disease, it is important to get it diagnosed early, so you should consult with your vet to have a thorough and full check-up as soon as possible.

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

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