HCM in male and female Bengal cats and humans, a comparison

HCM in humans and Bengal cats
HCM in humans and Bengal cats. A comparison. Image: MikeB
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I’ve spotted a peculiar anomaly in the story about HCM in Bengal cats. In case you didn’t realise it, Bengal cats are said to be predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Maine Coon cats have the same problem by the way as do some other cat breeds e.g., Ragdoll and British Shorthairs.

I will take what a Bengal cat breeder in Australia, Migaloo Bengal Cats, states as true but I haven’t verified their information.

They tell me that this heart disease is “common in Bengal cats (16.7%)”. They then go on to state that “it appears that males (20.4%) are more commonly affected than females (2.1%)”.

That’s a big difference. I have to question the validity of that data but I will take it on face value.

Interestingly, despite HCM being the most common inherited cardiovascular disease in humans, only 0.2% of humans suffer from it. That is one in 500. In Bengal cats it is around 1 in 6.

And it’s worth stating that in the general domestic cat population, HCM affects 14.7% of all domestic cats – source: the study mentioned below (another source states 10-15%). For an as yet unexplained reason domestic cats are far more likely to suffer from HCM than humans. Shouldn’t we know why? HCM affects a similar percentage of dogs.

Bengal cats NOT predisposed to HCM on this data

When people say that the Bengal cat is predisposed to getting HCM they are generalising (merging males and females) and indeed incorrect because on the numbers that I have presented on this page, it’s untrue because male Bengal cats have a slightly increased chance of getting the disease over the general population but female Bengal cats have a much lower chance of getting the disease.

Therefore, taken as a whole, we can’t say that Bengal cats are predisposed to HCM. In the past I’ve tended to restate what I’ve read on the Internet without digging around enough. I was wrong.

RELATED: An earlier (2008) page on HCM in Bengal cats.

A study, “Genetics of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy”, tells me that the phenotype of HCM in humans is very similar to that in cats. The word “phenotype” means physical appearance or observable characteristics. However, the difference is that in cats the disease develops much more quickly than in humans. Is that because the domestic cat lifespan is much shorter than for humans?

The study also states that there is a similarity in the genotype of the disease within humans and cats. This means that the genetics causing the disease in cats and humans are similar. Although scientists have identified far more genes causing HCM in people than in cats because more research has been carried out.

Link to the study: https://doi.org/10.1111/cge.13743

FYI – New York State University is “looking for DNA samples from Bengal Cats with a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or are at least 8 years of age and do not have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to advance our study to identify a gene for the disease”. Click this link to get involved if you can. Note: exterior links sometimes break.


For completeness here is a short mention on treatment for HCM.

Treatment for HCM can be divided into two phases: preclinical and clinical. During the preclinical phase, there are no signs of heart failure or blood clot formation, and the focus is on managing the disease and preventing complications from arising. Unfortunately, no preclinical therapy has been shown to slow disease progression or reduce ventricular hypertrophy in cats with HCM.

In the clinical phase, which may involve congestive heart failure (CHF) or arterial thromboembolism (ATE), the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Beta-blockers, such as atenolol or metoprolol, are commonly used to manage HCM, especially when there is left ventricular outflow tract obstruction. These drugs slow down the heart rate, reduce the force of contraction, and help to decrease oxygen demand.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as enalapril or benazepril, are also frequently used to treat HCM. These drugs reduce blood pressure, decrease the workload on the heart, and improve blood flow. Antiplatelet drugs, such as clopidogrel or aspirin, may also be prescribed to prevent blood clots from forming in the arteries.

There are also some promising novel therapies being investigated, such as sarcomeric modulating drugs, which target the underlying genetic mutations that cause HCM. The feline HCM model has already played a crucial role in bridging research between rodents and human clinical trials, with one such trial investigating a novel drug for cats with HCM.

Additionally, there is growing interest in studying the role of beta receptor and ACE gene polymorphisms in cats with HCM, as they may provide insight into the response to therapy and disease progression. This interdisciplinary research may lead to more personalized treatments for cats with HCM in the future.

Source for treatments: ChatGPT.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affects 10% of British Shorthairs

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