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What Heart Rate Is Normal for a Cat? Vet-Reviewed Advice

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

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If you are cuddling with your cat and you feel their heart beating fast or slow, you may wonder if something is wrong. After all, what is a normal heart rate for a cat, and how do you know that they are healthy?

The normal heart rate for a cat is between 140 and 220 beats per minute (bpm). A healthy cat’s heart rate should be regular and consistent, with no skipping or extra beats. However, there are some instances in which a cat may have either a low or high heart rate, as well as an irregular one. Let’s learn more about a cat’s normal heart rate, and when you should be concerned.

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Low Heart Rate in Cats

In cats, a low heart rate (or bradycardia) is defined as anything below the normal range of 140 to 220 bpm. This can happen due to certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, congestive heart failure, or even exposure to certain medications. Signs that you may notice if your cat has a low heart rate include lethargy, weakness, and breathing difficulties.

male vet examining a cat with stethoscope in clinic
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

High Heart Rate in Cats

In cats, a high heart rate (or tachycardia) is defined as anything above the normal range of 140 to 220 bpm. This can be caused by certain medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, fever, or even exposure to certain medications. Signs that you may notice if your cat has a high heart rate include restlessness, panting, and an increased respiratory rate.

Irregular Heart Rate in Cats

An irregular heartbeat (or arrhythmia) is when your cat’s normal heart rhythm becomes inconsistent or unpredictable. This can happen due to certain medical conditions such as heartworm disease or cardiomyopathy. Signs that you may notice if your cat has an irregular heart rate include fainting, weakness, and difficulty breathing.

bengal cat lies on knitted sweaters in the closet
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

Signs You Should See Your Veterinarian

If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior or physical condition, it’s important to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some signs that might indicate a problem with your cat’s heart include:

  • Decreased energy levels
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing or wheezing

Your veterinarian will be able to perform a physical examination to determine the cause and provide the necessary treatment or lifestyle changes to help your cat live a healthier life.

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The Top 10 Types of Feline Heart Disease Explained

1. Cardiomyopathy

This is a type of heart disease in which the heart muscle becomes weak or unable to contract properly.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups
Veterinary doctor measuring heart rate of cute cat
Image Credit: Denys Kurbatov, Shutterstock

2. Congestive Heart Failure

This is a type of heart disease in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body and fluids build up in different parts of the body.

Cause: Congenital defects, high blood pressure, heartworm disease
Signs: Lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, swollen belly and legs
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups

3. Pericardial Disease

This is a type of heart disease in which fluid accumulates inside the sac surrounding the heart.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Restlessness, difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups
vet holding a senior cat
Image Credit: Alice Rodnova, Shutterstock

4. Arrhythmias/Electrocardiogram Abnormalities (ECG)

This is a type of heart disease in which electrical signals that control your cat’s heart rate become irregular, making the heart beat too fast or too slow.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Fainting, weakness, difficulty breathing
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups

5. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

This is a type of heart disease in which the walls of the left ventricle become thickened due to an increase in muscle fibers.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort, lethargy
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups
nebelung cat in vet clinic
Image Credit: Juice Flair, Shutterstock

6. Valvular Disease

This is a type of heart disease where one or more valves within the heart are not functioning properly.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Weakness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or discomfort
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups

7. Pulmonic Stenosis

This is a type of heart disease caused by the narrowing of the pulmonary valve which prevents blood from flowing normally between the left ventricle and the lungs.

Cause: Congenital defect or unknown
Signs: Rapid breathing, exercise intolerance
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups
tortoiseshell cat check by-vet
Image Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock.

8. Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

This is a type of heart disease in which an opening remains in the fetal circulatory system that should close after birth. It can cause a high pressure in the lungs and heart, causing congestive heart failure.

Cause: Congenital defect
Signs: Rapid breathing, lethargy
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups

9. Aortic Stenosis

This is a type of heart disease in which the aortic valve does not properly open and close, causing an obstruction in blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.

Cause: Congenital defect or unknown
Signs: Weakness, fainting, difficulty breathing
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups
vet holding the scottish fold cat in a veterinary clinic
Image Credit: Alice Rodnova, Shutterstock

10. Degenerative Valve Disease (DVD)

This is a type of heart disease caused by the deterioration of one or more valves in the heart. It’s uncommon in cats.

Cause: Unknown
Signs: Lethargy, difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort
Prevention: Regular veterinary check-ups

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Adopting a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle for Your Cat

In order to maintain a healthy heart rate in cats, it is important to adopt certain lifestyle changes such as providing regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and regular veterinary check-ups. Additionally, if your cat has been diagnosed with a heart condition, it is important to follow any instructions given by your veterinarian regarding lifestyle changes and medications.

cat at vet with owner and veternarian
Image Credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

10 Ways to Get Your Cat to Exercise More

Exercise is important for cats just as it is for humans. Regular exercise can help keep your cat’s heart healthy and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Here are 10 ways to get your cat to exercise more:
  • Make use of interactive toys such as laser pointers or string toys
  • Install a cat tree or scratching post
  • Schedule daily play sessions
  • Place toy mice or balls around the house
  • Provide access to an outdoor enclosure
  • Create a stimulating environment with multiple levels and perches for your cat
  • Set up a window perch so your cat can enjoy the views
  • Organize scavenger hunts with small treats or toys
  • Take your cat for a walk with a harness and leash
  • Offer puzzle toys that require your cat to work for treats

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Conclusion

Cats are known for their amazing ability to purr and show affection. It is important to keep an eye on their heart health as well so that they can continue living long and happy lives. Knowing the normal heart rate range for cats and being able to recognize signs of heart conditions will allow you to take the necessary steps to ensure your cat’s well-being. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as providing regular exercise and veterinary care, will help your cat maintain a healthy heart rate for many years to come.


Featured Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

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