Norwegian Forest Cat HCM DNA Research Project
Article on HCM & the Purpose of this Group
Written by: Cheryl Sarges / Winterfyre Cattery, USA
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic disease that affects the heart, thickening areas of the left ventricle muscle and making the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. It is the most common cardiac disorder in cats of all breeds, including cats of unknown ancestry. The signs of HCM are subtle; in many cases, affected cats may not show any symptoms. Some affected cats may become ill very suddenly, and others may experience sudden death, usually secondary to pulmonary embolism – a blood clot to the lung. HCM is a complex genetic disease that is autosomal dominant; if a cat is affected, up to 50% of its offspring may inherit the disease. Even if an affected cat shows no signs or symptoms, its kittens may have the disease to a lesser or greater degree. The disease can be controlled by medications, and cats affected may live relatively normal life spans if the disease is caught and treated early. However, because the disease is very difficult to detect, affected breeding cats may produce many affected kittens before being diagnosed.
A group of concerned Norwegian Forest Cat breeders in the United States recently formed a Yahoo mailing list (a link to that group can be found on the main page of this website) and this web site. These resources represent a gathering place for information relating to HCM in our breed. We are currently working closely with Dr. Meurs, a colleague of Dr. Kittleson, who recently discovered a gene responsible for HCM in Maine Coons. With Dr. Meurs’ help, we hope to find a similar gene or genes responsible for HCM in our breed with the goal of developing a DNA test to supplement the current recommended echocardiogram used to screen breeding cats for HCM.
DNA research requires time, dedication, and most of all, funding. Finding the gene in our breed will likely take several years, and the funding required may exceed $20,000 per year before a definitive test for that gene is developed. With the help of the Winn Foundation, the largest organization dedicated to feline research in the world, concerned Norwegian Forest Cat breeders, owners, and fanciers can join together to fight this disease with the goal of completely eradicating it from our breed.