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Can Stress Cause a Heart Murmur in Cats? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Brooke Bundy

By Brooke Bundy

A sad beautiful silver fold Scottish cat with huge amber eyes, full of stress

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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No one wants to hear that their cat has any type of problem with their heart. If your vet tells you that your cat has a heart murmur, you might immediately think it’s bad news, but that diagnosis doesn’t mean much by itself. A heart murmur can be an indicator of an underlying problem, such as heart disease, but it can also be innocent or benign.

Stress can cause many physiological sufferings on your cat’s body, and can contribute to the development of a heart murmur. Thankfully, these stress-induced heart murmurs typically go away once the stressor disappears. However, it’s vital to address the cause of stress as soon as possible because chronic anxiety can create other problems that are potentially life-threatening.

What Is a Heart Murmur?

A heart murmur is simply an abnormal heart sound. Once your vet has identified that your cat has a heart murmur, they’ll grade the condition on a scale from I to VI, with I being mild and VI being more severe. A heart murmur alone isn’t a good indication of your cat’s overall health; it’s merely a symptom of an underlying issue.

The next step for your veterinarian will be to determine the cause, as well as note any other abnormal signs that could lead to a more definitive diagnosis.

sick cat
Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Can Stress Cause Heart Murmurs?

A heart murmur can stem from physical, psychological, or congenital issues. Stress alters the way your cat’s body functions, wreaking havoc on everything from their digestive system to their personality. As your cat’s heart struggles to cope with stress, they may develop a benign or innocent heart murmur. Even visits to the vet may result in a heart murmur diagnosis due to the fact that your cat is stressed, and their heart is operating outside of its normal rhythm. Cats who have benign murmurs often see improvement once their stress levels go down, or the stressor disappears.

Kittens may develop temporary or benign heart murmurs. Usually, these innocent murmurs disappear by the time they’re 5 months old. Heart murmurs in kittens may also have physical causes, however. It’s always a good idea to have your kitten thoroughly examined to catch these preventable issues before they cause worse problems.

What Are Other Common Causes?

Unfortunately, stress isn’t the only thing that can cause heart murmurs. A heart murmur might also be an indicator of heart disease, or cardiomyopathy, especially if your veterinarian finds other signs such as a weak pulse. This is why your veterinarian might conduct a thorough physical exam complete with X-rays, an electrocardiogram (ECG), or an ultrasound examination of the heart (echocardiogram) to rule out more serious causes.

Hyperthyroidism is another common factor leading to the development of a heart murmur. You may notice other signs of this condition in your cat, such as excessive thirst, increased urination, and weight loss despite an increase in appetite. It’s important to note that these symptoms are nearly identical with the early signs of diabetes, so your vet may also need to rule that out as well.

Heart murmurs can also be derived from congenital diseases that aren’t preventable as such but may have treatments available.

How Are Heart Murmurs Treated?

Veterinary doctor measuring heart rate of cute cat
Image Credit: Denys Kurbatov, Shutterstock

Your veterinarian will need to perform tests and analyze all of your cat’s symptoms in order to determine the cause of a heart murmur. Prognosis and treatment vary depending on what they find.

For an innocent or benign murmur on a mild scale, your veterinarian will likely give you advice on how to manage your cat’s stress and then ask for a follow-up appointment later. However, if your vet determines that the heart murmur was caused by a disease such as cardiomyopathy or hyperthyroidism, they’ll likely prescribe medication and talk to you about further treatments.

How to Reduce Your Cat’s Stress

There’s a reason cats are commonly associated with toasty fires, cable-knit sweaters, and stacks of books piled up on a sunny window. Felines crave comfort even more than many domesticated species, and they thrive on routine. Depending on your cat’s individual temperament, anything from a slight adjustment to your living arrangements to a new house can throw them into a fit of anxiety and depression. It’s important to make more time to spend with your cat during transition seasons in order to reassure them of your love and make them feel like they’re a part of the new normal.

In extreme cases, your veterinarian may prescribe anxiety medication for your cat. This is more probable if the condition has progressed to the point of having physical symptoms such as developing a heart murmur or unhealthy eating habits. A seriously anxious kitty could have persistent vomiting, diarrhea, or negative behavioral issues associated with food, such as starving or stuffing themselves. These behaviors can have deleterious effects on your cat’s health in a small amount of time, so they’ll need to be addressed as quickly as possible.


Like in humans, your cat’s mental health impacts their physical health to the point that it’s actually possible for chronic stress to create a heart murmur. While stress-induced heart murmurs are typically only temporary, anxiety and depression create problems for your cat that can have serious consequences and may even be life-threatening. If your veterinarian discovers a heart murmur, they’ll likely conduct a thorough exam and may even order an X-ray, electrocardiogram, or echocardiogram in order to find the root of the problem.

Heart murmurs may also be caused by cardiomyopathy or hyperthyroidism, so it’s imperative to figure out what’s causing the issue. No matter what’s determined to be the underlying cause, you should always monitor your cat’s stress levels and try to sustain a peaceful environment as much as you can to keep them in their best mental and physical health. A content cat leads to a longer life!

  • https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/hyperthyroidism-cats-theres-fda-approved-drug-treat-it
  • https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/heart-murmurs-in-cats
  • https://www.dailypaws.com/cats-kittens/health-care/cat-conditions/heart-murmur-in-cats
  • https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/cardiovascular/c_ct_heart_murmur

Featured Image Credit: Lia Koltyrina, Shutterstock

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