Pet Cancer In Cats
Your cat isn’t just a furry, friendly roommate, your cat is a beloved member of your family. When a cat is diagnosed with cancer, it can be devastating. Did you know that more than 6 million cats are diagnosed with cancer every year? Cancers, like lymphoma, can be treated if caught early, giving our feline friends good quality, longer lives. Cats that have feline leukemia virus (FeLV) have a 33% chance of developing cancer. Thankfully, fewer cats have FeLV as more cats are strictly indoors, limiting their exposure to this contagious disease. 5
Would you know if your cat was suffering from feline cancer? Many cat owners don’t, and we want to help.
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Feline Tumor Risk Factors
Unlike dogs, by nature cats tend to hide their clinical signs if they are not feeling up to snuff. This can make it difficult to know about health concerns in a feline. Interestingly, risk factors for cancer in cats are very similar to those in humans. Exposure to tobacco smoke, asbestos, prolonged sunlight, and lack of exercise have often been linked to increased risks of cancer development in both cats and humans.3
Keeping your cat indoors can keep your cat healthy and prolong their life. Indoor cats have an average lifespan almost three times that of outdoor cats.6
Cat Cancer Varieties
There are many types of cancer in cats, including:
- This is the most common form of cancer in cats. While it can be genetically spread in dogs and people, it is much harder to identify genetics as a cause as many families get their cats as strays. Lymphoma can result in GI disturbances (vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss) or can occur in the chest cavity or lymph nodes. This cancer type is very responsive to chemotherapy, and 90% of cats have no side effects from such treatment.
- Nasal tumors. This type of cancer often presents like typical upper respiratory signs one sees in cats when they have a virus. Cats are typically 10 years of age or older when they develop nasal tumors; symptoms include a history of nasal discharge, sneezing and weight loss that does not get better with medications and time. Radiation therapy is often the treatment of choice and can produce a remission of one to two years.
- Mast cell tumors. These are the most common malignant skin tumors seen in cats. Some cats may only get one small lesion and hence surgery is often curative. Other cats will develop a couple to numerous skin and subcutaneous lesions which surgery cannot cure. At times, this disease can also show up in the spleen, stomach and/or intestines.
- Oral tumors. Oral tumors are typically seen in older cats; 90% of these them are squamous cell carcinomas. Cats often present with a decreased appetite, foul-smelling breath, drooling and having some difficulty eating. Other types of oral tumors are fibrosarcomas, adenocarcinomas and ameloblastomas.
- Injection-site sarcomas (ISS). Injection-site sarcomas are malignant cancers triggered by injections of material placed under the skin, causing chronic inflammation. People and dogs get injections all the time but don’t often get this cancer — it is the cat’s inflammatory reaction to the injection that makes it more likely in this species. Thankfully, this cancer is decreasing since it was first noted decades ago. While the rabies vaccine, feline distemper vaccine and the FeLV vaccine are more commonly associated with this disease, any injection has the (small) possibility of being an issue. Even still, only 1 in 10,000 to 30,000 cats are afflicted with this cancer. Typically this cancer has a 20-25% chance of metastasizing, or spreading. Be sure to watch for a persistent swelling or lump in the area of the injection and have your veterinarian evaluate the region on your cat after any injections.2
- Mammary cancer. This is another form of cancer in cats, but fortunately, this variety is one that can often be prevented by spaying. Cats spayed before six months of age are seven times less likely to develop mammary tumors than cats spayed after six months of age.4
- Bone cancer. This type of cancer in cats can impact the limbs, spine, skull, pelvis, and or any bone in the feline skeleton. These tumors can be primary (such as solitary tumor within the bone, like osteosarcoma) or diffuse, or spread to an adjacent site, like multiple myeloma of the bone marrow or metastastatic lesions from a distant tumor site. Thankfully, primary bone tumors are uncommon in cats. Though osteosarcoma is also the most common bone tumor in cats, the behavior of this tumor type is less aggressive than in dogs.7
- Brain tumor (meningioma) is more common in male cats than female cats. Meningiomas are primary brain tumors and account for 56-69% of all brain tumor types in cats. They are typically slow-growing tumors in cats. Other primary brain tumors include pituitary tumors, gliomas, ependymoma, choroid plexus papilloma, medulloblastoma, olfactory neuroblastoma, and gangliocytoma. Clinical signs can be mental dullness, seizures, walking in circles or having difficulty walking. Radiation therapy has a good chance of reducing these lesions for a good 1-2+ years. 8
Symptoms Of Cancer In Cats
As a cat owner, you should always be observant of any changes in your cat’s physical appearance and behavior. Not all cancer warning signs are apparent right away, with some changes developing over time.
If you notice any of these symptoms of cancer in your cat, contact your veterinarian to check things out as soon as possible. Depending on the cancer type and stage, your cat’s health can deteriorate very quickly, so it’s always best to get an exam. When in doubt, get it checked out.
- Enlarged or changing lumps and bumps
- Sores that do not heal
- Chronic weight loss or weight gain
- Change in appetite
- A persistent cough
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Unpleasant odor from the mouth
- Difficulty breathing, eating or swallowing
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Bleeding or discharge from any opening
Regular wellness exams will provide your veterinarian the opportunity to check for signs of cancer, but you can take a more proactive approach to your cat’s health by looking for these warning signs regularly.3
Just like for our own health, wellness exams can help catch any potential problems early – sometimes with lifesaving results. The same kind of lump and bump check can be a life-saving routine for our cats too.2
What to Do If Your Cat Has Cancer
Oncology for cats is available! If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer, contact our Pet Advocates at (833) 738-4376 or your local PetCure Oncology center. Our veterinary cancer experts are ready to help answer your questions.
Our client care representatives can help you understand all fees and payment options relating to your pet’s cancer treatment. They are also available to assist with submitting claims for insurance or to apply for financing. Many pet insurance companies provide coverage for cancer care, although the policy must be in place before a cancer diagnosis is made. The PetCure Oncology national network also offers financing options through CareCredit.
RELATED: What You Should Know About Cancer in Cats, Tips for Caring For A Cat With Cancer, Tips For Traveling With Your Pet for Cancer Treatment, 7 Pet Cancer Myths Debunked, How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain, When to Euthanize A Cat With Cancer
1. Disease Information on Individual Canine Cancers, published by the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research. Accessed July 25, 2018.
2. Your Cat’s Best Defense Against Cancer May Be Snuggling with You, published by the Morris Animal Foundation. Accessed July 25, 2018.
3. Pet Cancer Prevention Tips, published by Morris Animal Foundation. Accessed July 25, 2018.
4. Cancer in Cats: Symptoms, Types and Treatment, published by PetMD.com. Accessed July 25, 2018.
5. What Kinds of Cancers Are Most Common in Cats?, Originally published by damondbackdrugs.com. Content republished by wedgewoodpharmacy.com. Originally Accessed July 25, 2018 and updated December 12, 2023.
6. Cancer and Cats: What Every Pet Parent Should Know, published by Pet Health Network. Accessed July 25, 2018.
7. Bone Tumors in Cats and Dogs, published by American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Accessed August 8, 2018.
8. Feline Brain Tumors, published by Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology (VSSO). Accessed August 8, 2018. Content URL on site updated December 11, 2023
If your pet is displaying any symptoms of cancer or has been diagnosed with cancer, sort below by cancer type or tumor location to learn more about each cancer type and available treatment options for your pet. Click on the links for more specific information on treatment and real patient stories.
EXTREMITY TUMORS IN CATS
HEAD & NECK TUMORS IN CATS
PELVIC CANAL TUMORS IN CATS
- Anal Gland Adenocarcinomas in Cats
OTHER TUMORS IN CATS
CARCINOMA/EPITHELIAL IN CATS
- Adrenal Tumors in Cats
- Anal Gland Tumors in Cats
- Basal Cell Tumors in Cats
- Biliary Cancer in Cats
- Bladder & Urethra (Transitional Cell) Cancer in Cats
- Chemodectomas in Cats
- Ear (Ceruminous Gland) Cancer in Cats
- Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer in Cats
- Lung (Bronchogenic/Non-Small Cell) Cancer in Cats
- Nasal (Sinonasal/Paranasal) Cancer in Cats
- Neuroendocrine Carcinoma in Cats
- Pancreatic Cancer in Cats
- Perianal Cancer in Cats
- Kidney (Renal) Cancer in Cats
- Salivary Gland Tumors in Cats
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas in Cats
- Thymoma (Epithelioid) Cancer in Cats
- Thyroid Cancer in Cats
- Tonsillar Cancer in Cats
ROUND CELL CANCER IN CATS
SARCOMA/MESENCHYMAL CANCER IN CATS
- Brain (Astrocytoma) Cancer in Cats
- Brain (Choroid Plexus) Cancer in Cats
- Bone (Osteosarcoma) Cancer in Cats
- Brain (Glioma) Cancer in Cats
- Brain (Meningioma) Cancer in Cats
- Chondrosarcoma Cancer in Cats
- Ependymoma Cancer in Cats
- Fibrosarcoma in Cats
- Hemangiopericytoma in Cats
- Histiocytic Sarcoma in Cats
- Injection Site Sarcoma in Cats (FISS)
- Peripheral Nerve Sheath (Schwannoma) Tumors in Cats
- Multilobular Osteochondroma in Cats
- Oligodendroglioma in Cats