Categories: heart disease

Domestic cats that survive fires are more likely to die of a heart attack

I have come to the conclusion that domestic cats that survive fires are more likely to die of a heart attack. I think you have to come to this conclusion based on two sources. The first is that firefighters are at a higher risk of heart attack. There are several contributing factors such as being dehydrated creating sticky blood, blood vessels becoming less elastic, lack of oxygen and the stress of the job. There may be other issues. Research is still being carried out.

Cats suffered burnt paws and smoke inhalation in California wild fires. This cat is also more likely to have cardiovascular health problems in the future. Photo: Toby Canham

The other factor which supports what I’ve said in the title is a study which I have referred to before. Researchers studied 51 cats who were referred for treatment after the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa and the 2018 Campfire in Paradise both in California. They were well publicised.

Echocardiograms or heart ultrasounds found that the cats had significant “cardiovascular effects”. These include a much higher incidence of heart muscle thickening and blood clot formation. Half the cats in the study had heart muscle thickening. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a cause of heart attacks. Thirty percent had blood clots or had a higher risk of developing blood clots. During the study six of the cats died or were euthanised because of cardiac issues although 82 percent survived and were released.

What was most surprising to us was the vast number of cats that were affected and the severity of their condition – lead author Catherine Gunther-Harrington, assistant professor of clinical cardiology at University Of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

The study was conducted by researchers at UC Davis VMTH. They are the first to do work on the effects of the fires on cats and it has been published in the journal Scientific Reports and on websites ( to the best of my knowledge.

California’s wildfires have reignited in August 2020. Three hundred and sixty-seven wildfires are currently raging across California, reignited by thousands of lightning strikes and fe by dry and hot winds. The Northern California wildfires are overwhelming firefighters and threatening thousands of homes in what is California’s wine country.

Residents of Vacaville, between San Francisco and Sacramento, were told to move out of their homes early on Wednesday. More than 22,000 people were evacuated from counties south of San Francisco. The dry weather is expected to continue until next Tuesday. Residents with a wildfire near them should have their bags packed and ready to move quickly firefighters said.

Comment: I think the research is quite relevant to day-to-day living. Almost daily we read of reports of domestic cats surviving house fires or being killed in them. The survivors may suffer the sort of damage to their cardiovascular system described above and which risks the lives of firefighters.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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