Does your cat have high blood pressure? That’s right. Cats can develop high blood pressure in the same way that humans can. Your veterinarian may call high blood pressure in cats “Feline Hypertension”. This measurement is not just important for its own sake, but also as an indicator that your cat may have an even bigger problem going on. Here are 5 facts that you need to know about your cat’s blood pressure.
#1 A Cat’s Normal Blood Pressure Is Higher Than A Human’s Normal Blood Pressure
A veterinarian takes a cat’s blood pressure in much the same way a doctor takes a human’s blood pressure. An inflatable cuff is placed around the cat’s leg or tail and the veterinarian listens for the cat’s heartbeat. Two numbers make up the cat’s blood pressure: the systolic blood pressure (measures heart beats) and the diastolic blood pressure (measures rests between heart beats).
A normal blood pressure reading for a human is 120/80 mmHg (source). For a cat, a normal blood pressure reading is closer to 150/95 mmHg (source). High blood pressure in cats is when the systolic blood pressure (the top number) is over 160.
Stress from going to the veterinarian’s office can make a cat’s blood pressure appear higher than it really is. For this reason, your veterinarian will take several readings and take your cat’s stress level into account when assessing your cat’s blood pressure. Getting an accurate blood pressure may require calming your cat down first.
#2 High Blood Pressure In Cats Is Almost Always A Secondary Condition
For cats, high blood pressure is rarely a stand-alone condition. In 80% of cases of high blood pressure in cats, there is another disease causing the cat’s blood pressure to be high (source). For this reason, if your veterinarian determines that your cat has high blood pressure, they will want to investigate further to see if there is an underlying disease.
Which diseases can cause high blood pressure in cats? The most common are Chronic Renal Failure and Hyperthyroidism. According to Cornell University, 60% of cats with Chronic Renal Failure have high blood pressure as do 20% of cats with hyperthyroidism (source). Other, rarer, causes of high blood pressure in cats include:
- Heart ailments
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Certain medications
#3 Risk For High Blood Pressure In Cats Increases As The Cat’s Age Increases
Cats of any age, gender, or breed can develop Feline Hypertension. However, it appears that the biggest risk factor is age (source). Older cats are at a much higher risk of having high blood pressure than are younger cats. This makes sense because older cats are also at higher risk for developing the underlying diseases that cause high blood pressure.
#4 There Are No Specific Symptoms for Feline Hypertension
If you think that your cat may be experiencing high blood pressure, it is important to contact your veterinarian and have them address your concerns. It is not possible to identify high blood pressure in a cat without testing for it.
There are no specific observable symptoms – particularly in earlier stages of the disease (source). In most cases, the symptoms that will be seen are those of the underlying disease and not the high blood pressure itself. A few of the indistinct symptoms that may be seen in a cat with high blood pressure are:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dull coat
When a cat’s high blood pressure goes untreated, it can cause small blood vessels to begin to leak or rupture. High blood pressure can affect a cat’s eyesight, nervous system, kidney function, and cardiac function. Severe symptoms include sudden blindness and strokes.
#5 If It Is Caught Early, Feline Hypertension Is Managable
Catching the disease early is the key! Regular check-ups at the veterinarian will make it much easier to catch high blood pressure in cats in its early stages. Since high blood pressure is usually a secondary condition in cats, the treatment will be focused on the primary disease. Resolving the primary disease may bring your cat’s blood pressure back down into the normal range without having to treat for high blood pressure specifically.
Your veterinarian may choose to use a human blood pressure medication (calcium channel blockers or ACE inhibitors) to help control your cat’s blood pressure if necessary (source). These drugs can be quite difficult to dose for cats, so make sure you follow your veterinarian’s instructions.
If you have access to a holistic veterinarian, there are nutritional options for lowering your cat’s blood pressure (source). Increasing your cat’s intake of Vitamin C and E, balancing Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s, and supplements like Olive Leaf Extract can make a difference. It is important to get a holistic veterinarian’s advice on how to make these nutritional tricks work for your cat’s specific situation.
What can you do at home? Manage the stressors in your cat’s daily life. This may mean giving your cat more peace and quiet, but it may also mean enriching their environment. Appropriate toys, scratchers, hiding places, high perches, and consistency in routine can make a big difference for your kitty! Also, watch your cat’s weight. A good, species appropriate diet and some exercise can go a long way.