Signs & Symptoms of Heart Failure in Cats

Updated February 21, 2017

Cats of any age can be prone to certain health problems, including heart failure. Some cats are born with this problem, while others develop it over time due to a variety of causes. The early symptoms can be subtle, so it's important to know what to look for in order to detect heart failure as soon as possible. If you miss those symptoms, the cat will develop more apparent problems as the heart failure progresses and takes a heavier toll on its body.


Heart failure in cats means that the animal's heart is unable to function properly. It can't pump enough blood throughout the cat's body, depriving its organs and tissues of oxygen and nutrients. This leads to retention of fluids in the cat's lungs and various body cavities. When heart failure reaches that point, the cat will start to show some distinct symptoms.


The early signs and symptoms of heart failure can be subtle, and many felines will try to hide them. The cat may be lethargic and fatigued, and you may notice gradual weight loss. The cat might also start coughing and appear to be short of breath. According to the Pet Place health site, breathing difficulties linked to heart failure are known as dyspnea.

Later Symptoms

As heart failure progresses in a cat and fluid builds up in the animal's body, the symptoms become more prominent. Some cats will have problems finding a comfortable sleeping position due to the fluid, so restlessness may show up as a late-stage symptom. Lethargy can increase to a point where the cat rarely moves except to eat or use the litter box. Eventually, the cat will even lose interest in eating.


There are a wide variety of causes for heart failure in cats. But, no matter what the type, they all produce similar symptoms. Some of the most common causes include heart muscle disease, degenerating heart valves, disease of the heart lining, and arrhythmia. Cats with uncontrolled hyperthyroidism or anaemia may suffer heart failure as a side effect of those illnesses.


The signs and symptoms of heart failure in cats can also mimic other conditions. If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian to get a positive diagnosis. The veterinarian can do an exam and other tests, such as x-rays, an electrocardiogram, and an echocardiogram, to indicate whether the symptoms are being caused by heart failure, or whether there is another problem.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."