Geriatric Medicine: Heart Disease


Heart disease may occur in cats of any age. When it develops in an older cat it may be overlooked until the heart is in severe failure and the animal is in a crisis situation. The first outwardly visible compensation a cat may make for decreased heart function is reduced activity that many owners attribute incorrectly to the aging process, thereby overlooking the signs of heart disease.

If you suspect heart disease in your elderly cat, count his or her heart and pulse rates. Heart rates slower than 100 beats per minute, above 160 beats per minute in a relaxed, resting cat (above 200 in a slightly agitated cat), or heart rates that are irregular and/or are unaccompanied by an equal pulse rate should prompt you to have a veterinarian examine your cat. Do not attribute any unexplained decrease in activity to the aging process alone until a thorough medical workup rules out other causes. For more information on heart disease in cats.


Iris atrophy is a degenerative condition of the iris that is not uncommon in old cats. The normally solid-looking iris tissue takes on a “moth-eaten” or “Swiss cheese” like appearance due to the breakdown of the iris fibers that is followed by the development of actual holes. Iris atrophy causes no problems for affected cats and needs no treatment.