You love your cat and treat them like the treasured family member that they are. That’s why you’re researching how to support cat heart health. Your cat’s heart health plays a role in everything your cat does, from pouncing and playing to stalking and running. Keeping your cat’s heart healthy will support your precious cat’s overall health. While you can’t do anything about your kitty’s genetics, there are many factors like nutrition and oral care that are more under your control. In this article we’ll discuss how your cat’s heart works, ways to support cat heart health, and signs of heart disease.
Understanding How a Cat’s Heart Functions
Your cat’s heart is very similar to yours. It’s built like yours, with four chambers and it works as the pump that circulates blood through your cat’s body. Blood carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s organs and tissues and takes waste like carbon dioxide from the organs and tissues back to the lungs to be exhaled out of the body. Your cat’s heart has a right and left side. Each side has a ventricle and an atrium. The atrium acts as a holding place for blood, and to keep blood from being pumped the wrong way. Low-oxygen blood returns from the body to the right atrium. After being briefly stored in the atrium, the blood moves into the right ventricle where it is pumped through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. There the blood picks up fresh oxygen to take to the rest of the body. From the lungs, the newly oxygenated blood flows to the left ventricle. This is the largest part of your cat’s heart, which pumps the oxygen-rich blood to its whole body.
Feeding your cat a high-quality, high protein diet helps your cat’s heart stay healthy. Since your cat is an obligate carnivore, that means they need to eat meat, and lots of it to survive. Choosing a higher quality cat food supports your cat’s overall health as well as the health of its heart. Look for real meat or mostly real meat in your cat’s food. Some animal byproduct is ok for cats since cats eat the whole animal carcass in the wild. However, you do want mostly real meat in your cat’s food, so look for meat names in the top three ingredients of your cat’s food. Carbs are ok for cats, but in smaller amounts than in dog foods. Good carbs for cats are oats, rice, and potatoes. Good grains for cats include quinoa, brown rice, barley, bulgur, farro, and kasha. Remember, whole grains like these are much different from commercially produced corn, for example. Look for ingredient splitting on your cat food labels. This is a common practice to disguise a main ingredient by listing it in parts. This lands each part lower down on the ingredient label. For example, “corn” becomes “cornmeal” “yellow cornmeal” and “corn gluten”.
One way to support your cat’s heart health and keep the pounds off is with healthy treats. Here is a list of healthy foods for cats that you can use as treats. These are more nutritious and often more delicious than regular dry treats. By taking away calories and adding nutrients, healthy snacks help your kitty’s heart stay healthy by keeping off added pounds. Remember, everything in moderation, but that’s true of any treat. These treats have the advantage of offering your cat healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. And, they are often cheaper than cat treats with the bonus of likely being foods you already eat regularly. This makes prep a snap.
- Fish. This makes sense-cats love fish and fish is full of healthy protein and fats, including valuable omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Feed your cat fully cooked fish like salmon, or canned fish like sardines or mackerel. If you don’t want to deal with a smelly can, then you can purchase freeze-dried fishy treats for your kitty.
- Spinach. This nutrient-packed green vegetable offers your kitty vitamins A, C, and K along with minerals iron, and calcium. Add some steamed and pureed spinach to your cat’s food and see if they’ll eat it. Spinach is a common ingredient in commercial cat food.
- Cooked eggs make a good treat for kitties. They are an excellent source of protein and B vitamins, which help your cat’s cells make energy.
- Cantaloupe is a sweet, healthy treat for cats. It is hydrating and high in antioxidants like beta carotene.
- Cooked poultry, like chicken or turkey, makes a great, heart-healthy treat for your kitty. You can also use it as a food topper for dry food.
- Bananas are rich in nutrients like potassium and healthy fiber. Offer your kitty cut-up banana chunks for their next treat.
- Oatmeal is another healthy food for kitties. Full of B vitamins and energy making carbs, oatmeal is good for cats. Serve it to your kitty unsweetened, with fruit that your kitty likes.
- Similar to oatmeal, bread offers carbs that your cat can turn into quick energy for pouncing and playing.
- An apple a day keeps the vet away. Try offering your cat small pieces of hydrating apple. Apples are a rich source of healthy fiber and antioxidant vitamin C.
- Blueberries are another antioxidant-rich fruit that is healthy for cats. Slice blueberries in half to prevent choking.
- Peas are high in protein, fiber, and vitamins A and C. This is another food that is commonly used in cat foods.
Another good way to support your cat’s heart health is with supplements like EFAs and CBD. Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 EFAs, and is good for their heart, skin, and nervous system.. CBD, or cannabidiol, from the hemp plant, supports your cat’s optimal health. CBD promotes healthy heart function by supporting a normal heartbeat. It also supports normal heart and vasculature function. You can combine both of these heart-healthy supplements in Pet Releaf’s Liposome Hemp Oil 100, which is full-spectrum CBD mixed with sustainably sourced Wild Alaskan Red Pollack fish oil. Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the beneficial compounds hemp has to offer including other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Your cat is sure to love its fishy taste.
Keeping your cat at a healthy weight can be a struggle, so it’s understandable if your kitty is a little overweight. Exercise is important for all cats, whatever weight they are at. Cats at a healthy weight need to maintain it, and overweight kitties can shed pounds with some regular play sessions with their person. Invest in cat toys and make a commitment to daily playtime with your kitty. 20 minutes is plenty and can be divided into two sessions. There are many interactive and puzzle toys for cats that can keep their bodies and minds active. However you keep your cat active will benefit their heart health. Extra weight makes your cat’s heart work harder, which is why helping your cat get to or maintain a healthy weight is so important. If your cat is overweight, talk to your vet about a healthy weight loss plan. Do not suddenly cut down food intake, this can be dangerous for your cat. It’s unhealthy for cats to lose weight too quickly, so you need to take it slow for their safety.
Veterinary Exams and Checkups
Taking your cat in for its regular vet checkups will allow any developing heart disease to be diagnosed early. This will allow for treatment to start sooner. It’s likely though your cat will sail through its vet appointment with flying colors and you can know that you are taking proper preventative care measures for your cat’s heart health.
The other essential vet appointments your cat needs are dental cleanings. Oral health is important to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy. It also supports the overall health of your cat, including their heart, because the bacteria that grow with gum disease can damage organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys. Gum disease in cats is both preventable and reversible. You can train your cat to tolerate toothbrushing or use dental sprays and water additives (as long as your cat will still drink the water!). Many specialized tools make brushing manageable, like silicone finger brushes and chicken-flavored toothpaste.
Watch Out for Heart Disease Symptoms
While cats don’t get heart disease as often as dogs do, heart disease in cats is more difficult to detect. Cats tend to only show symptoms once the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Cats with heart disease don’t have the tell-tale dry cough that dogs develop in the early stages of the disease. Cats also rarely do sustained physical activity with their owners, so exercise intolerance can be difficult to detect. As the disease advances and physical activity becomes more difficult, cats will tend to pull away and hide under the furniture to sleep. Here are some of the symptoms of cat heart disease. Here are the most frequently seen symptoms of heart disease in cats:
Loss of appetite. If your kitty seems to be eating less than usual, take note.
Weight loss generally follows the loss of appetite and can be a sign of heart disease.
Lethargy. This is when your cat is very low energy and sedentary.
Increased breathing and difficulty breathing.
If your cat collapses out of nowhere.
Rapidly occurring hind leg paralysis along with pain from blood clots—known as saddle thrombus.
Stunted growth in kittens.
Reach out to your vet if you see one or more of these symptoms.