The heart holds the monumental yet monotonous task of maintaining circulation. Although cardiac function is critical to other organs and to life itself, mammals are not equipped with significant natural capacity to replace heart muscle that has been lost by injury. This deficiency plays a role in leaving millions worldwide vulnerable to heart failure each year. By contrast, certain other vertebrate species such as zebrafish are strikingly good at heart regeneration. A cellular and molecular understanding of endogenous regenerative mechanisms and advances in methodology to transplant cells together project a future in which cardiac muscle regeneration can be therapeutically stimulated in injured human hearts. This review focuses on what has been discovered recently about cardiac regenerative capacity and how natural mechanisms of heart regeneration in model systems are stimulated and maintained.