Heart Disease in Cats: Causes, Treatment, and Costs 

Four minutes
Mar 05, 2024

Any cat owner will tell you their kitty has a big heart. But do you know how healthy that heart is? Cat heart disease, while less common than heart disease in dogs, can still become a serious reality for many felines. Keep reading to learn more about heart disease in cats, how it’s treated, and how pet insurance could help keep your cat healthy.

What Is Cat Heart Disease?

Heart disease in cats refers to any condition that affects the form and/or function of the heart.1 This can include anything from malformed valves to an irregular heartbeat. It can affect both young and old cats, but it most commonly manifests as a cat ages. This falls into the category of adult-onset heart disease, one of the two general types of heart disease in cats.1

Let’s take a closer look at the two different types of cat heart disease.

What Causes Heart Disease in Cats?

The cause of heart disease in cats determines which type of heart disease a cat has: congenital or adult onset, also known as acquired heart disease.2 The main difference is the origin of the defect that’s causing the disease.

Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease in cats is caused by a defect in the heart that was present from birth. Because of this, congenital heart disease is most commonly seen in kittens. It’s fairly rare, however, affecting only 1% – 2% of all kittens.2

Cats with congenital heart disease typically have a malformed valve in their heart or a hole in the wall that separates the two sides of the heart, known as the septum.2 This can lead to blood flowing in the wrong direction or leaking between the ventricles (chambers) of the heart.2

Adult-onset heart disease

Adult-onset heart disease is usually an acquired disorder of the heart found in adult cats.1 Nearly two-thirds of cats with heart disease have what’s called cardiomyopathy: a thickening of the muscle that encloses the ventricles.2

Adult-onset cardiomyopathy can be further divided into three categories: hypertrophic, restrictive, and dilated:2

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: A thickening of the muscle around the left ventricle, it’s usually caused by hereditary conditions. This is the most common type of acquired cardiomyopathy, affecting approximately 90% of diagnosed cats.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy: This is a buildup of scar tissue on the inner lining of a ventricle. About 10% of cardiomyopathic cats have the restrictive form, and most of them are senior kitties.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy: This shows as an enlarged and weakened ventricle, leading to reduced blood flow. This form is rarely observed in cats with heart disease.

A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Cat Heart Disease Costs 

See What's Covered

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Cats

It’s important to know the early signs of heart failure in cats. Unfortunately, symptoms vary and could range from nothing at all (asymptomatic) to sudden death.3 Additional signs may include:1,3

  • A weak pulse
  • Heart murmur
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Low appetite
  • Distended abdomen
  • Pale gums
  • Low body temperature (cold extremities)
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stunted growth (in kittens)
  • Sudden collapse
  • Sudden rear limb paralysis

Any of these symptoms are a cause for concern. Bring your cat to the vet as soon as you suspect something may be wrong. The sooner you’re able to obtain a diagnosis, the sooner your cat can begin treatment!

What breeds are vulnerable to cat heart disease?

Heart disease can afflict any cat, regardless of their breed. However, some are genetically predisposed to congenital birth defects that can become heart disease, including:1

Diagnosing Cat Heart Disease

Diagnosing heart disease in cats can be an extensive process. Many vets will want to rule out other potential causes of your cat’s symptoms first, such as anemia and hyperthyroidism. This could involve multiple visits for blood tests, X-rays, electrocardiograms, and ultrasound scans.2 Ultrasounds in particular are the primary method vets turn to.2 It allows them to image the heart directly and detect physical abnormalities that could be causing the issue.

Cat heart disease diagnosis costs

At this point, you may be wondering how much it costs to diagnose cat heart disease. Unfortunately, the battery of tests usually results in a large bill. A single electrocardiogram could cost anywhere between $200 and $400, and that’s just one diagnostic method.2 The combined bill for diagnosing cat heart disease often comes out to $1,000 – $1,500.4

This is where a cat insurance policy could help. MetLife Pet offers reimbursement of up to 90% of the cost for covered procedures, including diagnostic tests.5 Check out our guide to see if pet insurance is worth it for you and your feline companion.

Treating Feline Heart Disease

Once you’ve received a positive heart disease diagnosis, the next step is treatment. What can a vet do about a cat with heart disease? It all depends on the type of feline heart disease and its level of advancement. Your cat may be given medication to help manage their symptoms and, ideally, give them a better quality of life. These medications may include:3

  • Beta blockers and ACE inhibitors: Help to regulate blood pressure and lower the amount of strain on the heart
  • Anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy: Help break down and prevent blood clots
  • Calcium channel blockers: Help to further relax the heart

Some cats may also require a special diet to help manage their symptoms, ensure they’re getting enough taurine, and keep their weight in check — since obesity can exacerbate heart disease in cats.1,6

Cat heart disease treatment costs

It can be daunting to get a list of medication and supplements for your cat, especially after spending so much money on diagnostic tests. Fortunately, the diagnosis is usually the most expensive part — treating heart disease is relatively cheap.4 For instance, beta blockers can cost as little as $0.19 per tablet.7 These costs can be further offset with a cat insurance policy, potentially making treatment even more affordable for you and your kitty.

How long can cats live with heart disease?

The prognosis for heart disease varies depending on the circumstances. Heart failure can have a prognosis of 3 – 18 months, but not all feline heart disease leads to heart failure.3 For those cats whose condition does not become quite so dire, the average life expectancy post-diagnosis is between 5 and 6 years.3

How Pet Insurance Can Help Cover Cat Heart Disease Costs

Heart disease in cats can be a scary diagnosis to deal with. It can be even more frightening if you’re not able to afford the care your kitty needs. That’s why getting pet insurance for your cat can be one of the most important steps you take toward securing their health and happiness. If the worst happens, pet insurance can help relieve some financial stress and give you the space you need to focus on what’s important.

That’s what MetLife Pet did for the owners of a two-year-old California cat named Grogu. His heart disease diagnosis resulted in an $875 bill, but Grogu’s cat insurance reimbursed his parents for over $820.8 Get a free quote today to see how much you could save with personalized cat insurance.

Help Protect Your Cat From Heart Disease

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Heart Disease in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals,

2 “Diagnosis: Heart Disease,” Cornell Feline Health Center

3 “Heart Disease in Cats,” PetMD,

4 “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Cats,” Great Pet Care,

5 Reimbursement options include: 70%, 80% and 90% and a 50% option for MetGen policies and a 65% option for IAIC policies only. Pet age restrictions may apply.

6 “Obesity in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals,

7 “Atenolol Tablets: Heart Medicine for Dogs and Cats,” VetRXDirect

8 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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