Signs Your Cat is Trying to Say She's in Trouble

Health & Wellness

Can you do me a favor?

I need you think of all the ways a cat is just like you and I – human.

You’re probably thinking about being sassy and napping all the time – which, don’t get me wrong, that’s 100% my cat at home. And, though you’re right, that’s not entirely what I’m talking about in this article today.

The amazing yet scary similarities between you and your cat are what’s going on inside of you. Unfortunately, cats can develop diseases that are also common in humans, such as heart disease.

My name is Melanie Mariano, Lead Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Hospital Manager of one of Central California’s leading cat hospitals and urgent care providers.

I’m a professor at St. Gertrude University and have taught their Veterinary Assistant Program to hundreds of students – I also teach Advanced Neonatal Kitten Care and Cat Behavior. 

I’m also the director of Central California’s ONLY Neonatal Kitten Care Unit which specializes in caring for some of the most sick and injured newborn kittens who were orphaned and left to die in the streets. Our nursery saves close to One Thousand kittens a year – all of which would’ve been killed in shelters or on the street.

If only we could protect our cats from developing the same diseases as us humans.

Aging is the most common reason cats develop a heart condition, but other factors like parasites and a poor digestive system can also lead to heart disease. 

And today, I’m going to walk you through the who, what, and where of Heart Failure.

What are heart conditions?

The heart is the most important organ in your cat’s body.

It pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients through the blood vessels to the cells of the body.

Most heart conditions involve a decrease in the effective pumping of blood. This can lead to a buildup of fluid in the chest and abdomen.

There are two main types of heart conditions: one affecting the heart valve and the other the heart muscle.

Cats with either type can be successfully managed through nutrition, exercise and, if necessary, medication.

With the right diet, nutritional support, and advice from your veterinarian, your cat can continue to enjoy a happy, active life.

The two main heart conditions

Chronic Valvular Disease: A leaking heart valve reduces the quantity of blood that can be pumped around the body.

Myocardial Disease: In this condition, weakness or thickening of the heart muscle results in the heart pumping less efficiently.

What causes heart conditions?

Although there is no single cause, Nutritional Problems can play a major role in heart conditions. Other factors that can contribute include:

Body condition: Overweight cats are more likely to develop heart disease.

Age: Heart conditions in cats occur more frequently with increasing age.

Breed: In cats, Persian, Maine coon and American shorthair breeds seem more likely to suffer from myocardial disease.

Does my cat have a heart condition?

It can be difficult to tell if your cat has a heart condition because the signs can be similar to those of other disorders. Your veterinarian may check for heart disease using some of the following methods.

  • A stethoscope exam can reveal murmurs and fluid in the lungs
  • Palpation can reveal unusual pulses
  • X-rays reveal heart enlargement
  • An EKG can identify heart enlargement and irregular rhythms
  • Blood and urine tests can reveal heartworms and the condition of other internal organs

The following symptoms may indicate a heart problem in your cat.

  • A low-pitched cough that sometimes leads to gagging
  • Breathing difficulties that include shortness of breath
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Noticeable weight gain or loss
  • Swelling in the abdomen

IMPORTANT: A heart condition may not be obvious in the early stages. If you are in any doubt about your cat’s health, consult your veterinarian right away.

The importance of nutrition

Although there are currently no treatments to reverse heart disease, your cat can live a relatively normal life. The food and nutritional support your cat eats plays a very important role in her overall health and well-being.

When your cat has been diagnosed with a heart condition, it’s even more important to feed the right cat diet.

Heart disease typically causes the heart to enlarge, and this enlargement causes a loss of efficiency. The heart then begins to hold more fluid than it should and this is where the real problems begin. For this reason, veterinarians recommend feeding cats a low-sodium food that will help reduce fluid build-up and make it easier for their heart to work effectively. For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your cat’s heart health.

The next warning sign I’m going to go over with you is about your cat’s gut and how it relates to your kitty’s heart…