Health Issues in the Persian Cat: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: Page 2 of 2


Heart Beats

Ronan succumbed to multi organ failure in August of 2012 at the age of thirteen, a long life for a cat with well established cardiomyopathy, and was euthanized. His heart, and that of a cat who was normal (no evidence of HCM) at the time of euthanasia, were harvested by her veterinarians Rosemarie Williams, DVM and Jennifer Rockwell, DVM at The Sound Cat in Wilmington, North Carolina for the comparative research. These veterinarians have also contributed to this research endeavor with diagnoses based on exams, results from cardiac ultrasounds, and by sending samples of both hearts. By the beginning of 2013 the experience Dr. Williams has had with Persian cats has revealed an incidence rate of HCM in about 40% of the breed. She has been in practice now for over 30 years. Dr. Williams and her associate, Dr. Rockwell, have devoted their careers to that of a “cats only” veterinarian practice.

Jeanne O'Donnell conversed with Dr. Cothran shortly after her veterinarian submitted the specimen on Ronan's heart to verify that he had received it. A diseased heart is what they were hoping for to provide the genetic data they needed. Dr. Cothran told her there has been set back in the research. The program was moving right along until he lost his "fellow" who was helping him on the project.

5/14/2013 Update
Subsequent to the submission of this article by Jeanne O'Donnell to, she spoke to Maureen Walsh at the Winn Feline Foundation to find out why, yet again, funding for HCM had been bypassed in the Persian breed and given to research in the Norwegian Forest Cat breed. She was told that the breeders banded together to fund the research. In her relentless quest to see the current research through in Persian cats, she inquired further to find that the Winn Feline Foundation has a special fund called the Ricky Fund, which is allocated solely to HCM research.

Jeanne O'Donnell is being sent brochures about the Ricky Fund to send out to the Himalayan breeders listed in the world directory. For Persian breeders interested in a brochure, they can be requested directly by email at . When making donations to the Ricky Fund, they should indicate that the donation is for research in the Persian breed and that they would like the funds to be allocated to the study being conducted by Texas A&M University's researcher, Gus Cothran, DVM. Dr. Cothran does the current genetic testing for the Cat Fanciers Association at which is also accessible through the CFA web site.

Hoping that this facility would be the first to discover the genetic marker for this disease, Jeanne O’Donnell had participated enthusiastically. She was hoping to be the first breeder to know the genetic HCM status of all cats from Donegal Cattery who have been included in the study. Sadly, as of late 2012, these hopes have been challenged. Due essentially to funding, the HCM Persian research study has taken a step back. To say that Jeanne O'Donnell was crushed after all the effort, time and expense she invested (mailing homemade testing packets to previous clients, shipping DNA samples with pedigrees, paying for cardiac ultrasounds and necropsies with biopsies of her cats) would be an understatement. She was "heart broken."

Maine Coon breeders banded together in the face of HCM and were conscientious in funding the discovery of the gene for their breed. As small as that breed is, it puts Persian breeders to shame as Persian cat owners account for the greatest percentage of purebred cats. Many breeders have ceased breeding because of the cost of screening for HCM and the heartache associated with this disease.

Yet there are still many Persian breeders with the financial capabilities to contribute. Because it is the most popular breed, Persian breeders have the greatest potential for monetary contributions to this endeavor and a MORAL OBLIGATION for seeing it through. If we don’t get behind this, more breeders will cease breeding because of the heartache associated with such a high percentage of a loss of cats at a premature age. Then the breed itself may come to an end with too small a gene pool to keep its vigor. Or worse, the breed will develop a reputation of having a “lethal” gene.

YOU, an obvious Persian cat lover, can leave a “paw print” in the medical history for Persian cats. YOU, especially BREEDERS, can and should help by making a generous donation to project: "Ronan's Big Heart"

If the genetic marker can be discovered for Maine Coons and Ragdolls, it can be discovered for Persian cats as well. Jeanne O’Donnell can provide you with contact information for the researcher and you can reach her through the Contact Us page on Donegal's site. You will need to provide your email address and/or phone number and put Contribution to Ronan’s Big Heart in the Comments section. You will be making your donations directly to the research facility, not to Donegal Cattery. Your participation can add miles to this research endeavor and help to ensure the future of the Persian cat breed.

Article Author: 

Jeanne O'Donnell