Getting our blood pressure checked is such a routine part of doctor’s appointments it may barely register to us when the doctor puts the cuff around our arms.
A cat is much more likely to notice — and probably get a little freaked out about it.
Some people have a white-coat effect, which may cause their blood pressure to elevate at the doctor’s office. Cats are even more prone to this. Though a cat’s typical blood pressure is about 120 to 130, Dr. Jeff Werber doesn’t blink if one of his feline patient’s blood pressure is 160 during a check-up.
“A blood pressure of 150 to 160 … is normal for a cat under pressure,” says Dr. Werber, chief veterinary officer of Airvet, a national pet telehealth app that has over 45,00 vets on call.
But if it’s lower than 120 (which is rare) or more than 160, Dr. Werber says it could be a flag that something else is wrong. Dr. Werber discusses what high or low blood pressure may indicate, symptoms to watch out for and how to take your cat’s blood pressure at home.
High blood pressure in cats is common, particularly as they age. It’s usually a sign of another underlying disease or issue.
“One of the main diseases with older cats is kidney failure,” Dr. Werber says. “With kidney failure, they can get hypertension.”
If the cat is drinking more water or peeing more than usual, the cat may have kidney failure and potentially hypertension.
Cats with kidney failure and hypertension may also lose their eyesight.
“One of the things we check for [if the cat is blind] is retinal detachment because high blood pressure causes that,” Dr. Werber says.
Low pressure is not nearly as common as high blood pressure, Dr. Werber says. Cats may experience low blood pressure if they are injured and losing blood, though.
“If a cat has low blood pressure, trauma would be one of my first thoughts,” Dr. Werber says.
If your cat’s blood pressure is too high, the vet will likely run additional tests like a blood test to see if there are any underlying causes.
“The blood test may show elevated kidney enzymes,” Dr. Werber says.
If your cat has heart or kidney disease, the vet will begin treatment for that. They also may prescribe amlodipine to help regulate the cat’s blood pressure.
Dr. Werber believes it’s actually better if you check your cat’s blood pressure than the vet.
“It’s much easier to have it done at home by the owner than it is to have it done on an already stressed cat at an office,” Dr. Werber says.
You can get a blood pressure monitor with a cuff online. Dr. Werber suggests putting it around the cat’s tail if possible.
If you don’t have a monitor, you can still be on the lookout for high or low blood pressure symptoms in your cat. They include behavioral changes, such as out-of-character hissing or growling, increased thirst and urination, lethargy, weakness and vision problems.
If you’re concerned about your cat’s blood pressure, Dr. Werber suggests calling the vet for a full examination.