Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

A cat only remains alive thanks to the unrelenting efforts of just one muscle: the heart. Unfortunately, cats’ hearts are vulnerable to a serious condition called Cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a form of the disease, has been identified as relavent to Ragdoll cats. It appears that some bloodlines are carrying the disease.

As Ragdolls can be fairly lethargic animals for much of the time, the earliest symptoms of heart disease – notably tiredness – are often missed, even by the most diligent owners. Untreated Cardiomyopathy is deadly. To try to identify it early, all Ragdoll cats should undergo a basic heart evaluation as part of routine annual veterinary health checks.


Cardiomyopathy is the most significant cause of heart failure in cats. There are a number of different types of the condition, the most common of which is known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This is associated with a marked thickening of the heart-muscle mass that encloses one of the heart’s two larger chambers, the left ventricle. This muscle mass is responsible for pumping blood through the aorta, which is the body’s largest artery.

Another form of this condition is called Dilated Cardiomyopathy. It is associated with weakness of the heart muscle and is less common in Ragdolls.

Notice the difference in the X-rays shown above. Compare the top image of a healthy cat’s heart with the bottom one showing a cat with Cardiomyopathy. As you can clearly notice, on the bottom X-ray, the heart is much larger and clearer to see on the film, than on the top one (where the heart looks like a faint, lemon within the X-ray).


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy may be the result of various problems, including high blood pressure due to renal failure and hyperthyroidism. However, in most cases the cause of the condition is unknown.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy occurs in cats who do not eat enough of a specific amino acid (a building block of protein), called taurine. This condition is extremely unusual nowadays, as most cat food manufacturers are including taurine in their products.

Is This Serious?

Cardiomyopathy may be life-threatening but, if a specific cause is identified and resolved, many or all of the changes in the heart can be reversed. Even if the cause is unknown, treatment can alleviate symptoms for long periods of time.

One serious complication that is associated with cardiomyopathy is that of blood clots settling in the arteries to the hindlegs. This can be difficult to control and cure. Some cats with cardiomyopathy die suddenly and unexpectedly.

Cats At Risk:

Cardiomyopathy occurs mainly in cross-bred cats – especially in those with long hair – for unknown reasons. Research shows that as many as four times more male than female cats seem to suffer from this condition, and it may affect kittens as young as five months old.

What To Do?

If your cat demonstrates several of the the following symptoms, alert your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms to look for: difficulty breathing, lack of appetite, lethargy and weakness, fainting, weight loss, abdominal swelling, vomitting, and inability to use the hindlegs.

Your veterinarian is likely to carry out X-ray and ultrasound investigations, ECG recordings and blood tests. An assessment of your cat’s current dietary regime may also be appropriate.

When The Diagnosis is Cardiomyopathy:

A cat diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy will be treated with medications. At home, you must administer any medicines prescribed by your veterinarian and follow his or her recommendations as to your cat’s general management. For example, if your cat’s heart is in failure, you must keep him indoors and well-rested.

Tender-loving-care is something that I prescribe with any disease. A sick cat will sense the power of love and affection and will respond to it very positively. Cardiomyopathy is indeed a treatable disease and it is important that you accept the diagnosis and help your cat live with it as comfortably as possible.

If your cat is a Ragdoll and is diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy be sure to let the breeder know. Also, contact us here, at RCN. Isolating the bloodlines that may be carrying this deadly disease is the key to keeping Cardiomyopathy from being the Ragdoll’s worst enemy. The rise in cases of Cardiomyopathy in Ragdolls is becoming a concern that all Ragdoll lovers should focus on eliminating!