As a Veterinary Cardiologist, I hear this over and over when kitties come to see me for a heart check-up. The problem with cats is that they are sooooo smart that they can hide even the most severe forms of heart disease…until they find themselves in the emergency room. 

What does it mean that my cat has a heart murmur??  A murmur is a blowing sound that we hear when we listen to the heart. It may be from a birth defect, or it could be associated with a heart muscle disease that some cats develop. Sometimes, the murmur is described as being  “innocent,” meaning that there is actually nothing wrong with the heart, but the doctor hears a blowing sound because the kitty is really nervous. We can only confirm this with a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram).

When cat owners come in for a cardiology appointment, they often tell me their cat is “fine,” and they believe that. The problem is that cats are so good at hiding problems. The cat owner may not realize there is a problem with their cat until the cardiologist finds heart disease or a defect via an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) and we start treatment. The owner can be surprised to see the change in their kitty and realize their cat wasn’t feeling well only AFTER we start medication. Here are three heartwarming stories of kitties who became like “brand new” cats after treatment.


Ollie came in for an echocardiogram after his vet noted a heart murmur. The owner said he was “fine” with no symptoms. Then, the echo showed a significant issue that needed treatment. When Ollie came back for his recheck, the young man who owned him had a big smile on his face. He said, “Dr., before we came, Ollie had quit sleeping in my bed and started sleeping with my mom, so I thought he didn’t like me as much anymore. Now that we are treating his heart with medicine, he is sleeping with me again!!” The story was that the young man’s room was on the second floor, and his mother’s was on the ground floor. The kind of heart disease that this kitty had made his heart work really hard going up and down stairs, so he just quit doing it. The medication helped his heart, so he was able to go back upstairs and sleep with his owner again!!!!!


Mindy was urinating all over the house and not using her litter box when she came for her heart check-up and echocardiogram. Just like Ollie, it turned out that her litter box was in the basement, and because of her heart problem, it was just too much for her to go up and down the stairs. When we started treating her, she started going down to the basement again to use her little box. I did advise the owners, though, to put boxes on the other floors of the house, too.


Winston’s owner thought he was 100% normal until I started treating his heart disease. At the follow-up appointment, the owner said, “I thought he was fine, but now he is acting like he did when he was 6 months old (currently 5 years old). He is a new cat!!” 

I hear these stories over and over. If your cat has a heart murmur, the best thing is to have a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram) because sometimes these kitties are masters at hiding their heart problem until it’s too late. It is so rewarding to see a “new kitty” appear when we start treating a cat everyone thought was “fine”!

At Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, we want you and your pets to have a long, happy, and healthy life together. Our specialty veterinary services and advanced diagnostics are available to you with a referral from your veterinarian. Call (248) 334‑6877 or speak with your veterinarian to learn more.