HCM in Bengal Cats is a Growing Problem

by Michael
(London, UK)

On reading about HCM from emails disseminated in various Yahoo Groups and having seen HCM testing take place at a cat show in America, my thoughts turn to the question as to whether HCM in Bengal cats is a growing problem for the breed and cat breeders specifically. Some would say it isn’t but neither enough testing is taking place nor is there enough open disclosure by breeders about the results of HCM testing on their cats. HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a heart disease) is a killer and it has a significantly detrimental effect on the quality of life of a cat before the cat dies of it. It is not, of course, confined to Bengal cats but there would appear to be a growing awareness of the damage being done to the Bengal cat breed by this inherited disease.

HCM testing at a cat show in Oklahoma
HCM testing at an Oklahoma, USA, cat show. PKD testing also took place. Ultrasound was used. Photo ©Michael @PoC.

It could be argued that the only way to begin to control this nasty disease is to (a) make it obligatory to HCM test all Bengal cats that are used in breeding programs and (b) ensure that all breeders disclose the disease with respect to their cats i.e. the testing is made public and (c) a body (perhaps a committee of a cat association) manage the whole thing to ensure that the process results in the long term elimination of the disease. This sounds daunting and is probably impossible to achieve on the basis of what I read. It may even be unrealistic. If so, the breed is in trouble.

Breeders are, on occasion, selling breeding cats to other breeders without either (a) testing their cats first – an omission or (b) testing their cats but keeping quiet about it – intentionally negligent. And as far as I am aware, it is impossible under the current situation to know which cat is responsible for passing on HCM even if one cat in a breeding line is known to have HCM. The breeders simply do not have a handle on the problem. And as the problem is largely ignored or is brushed under the carpet it gets worse.

The picture above is of an HCM testing station at a cat show. It was used but not as much as Helmi Flick’s cat photography studio, that was next door to it. The still photo is from a video I am making on this mobile testing service that was provided by PetSafe Diagnostics. The President is Jack Johnston RDMS, RDCS, RVT. Their details are: 144 Kingston Circle, Coppell, TX 75019, USA. Phone: 972-333-7067. Email: jjohnston@petsafediagnostics.com. As I remember it, the charge (at April 2009) was $80 for a test.

Website: (no longer active).

Mr Johstone (and the customer) were kind enough to let me video his work. The scan results were passed on to a lab and from there to the customer’s veterinary practice to allow the vet to discuss the matter further with the cat’s owner.

The fact that (as I saw the situation) more people wanted their cats photographed (a question of appearance) rather than HCM and/or PKD tested by PetSafe, indicates that priorities may be misplaced. The photography is very important but of equal importance are matters of the cat’s health and I sense that their is a way to go before HCM is tackled with enough vigor and commitment for it to be controlled. In the meantime HCM in Bengal cats is a growing problem.

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