How to know if a cat has cancer

As with humans, the registration of cancer cases in cats is an increasingly frequent occurrence. According to data from the Domestic Canine and Feline Neoplasms Registry, created in 1986, cancer affects 10% of kittens. It is not always easy to detect it in time and this has a negative impact on their survival and quality of life.

Leukemias and lymphomas are the most common types of cancer in cats. In a high percentage of cases, surgery, chemotherapy and the prescription of the appropriate drugs make it possible for the animal to succeed. If you are interested in learning how to know if a cat has cancer, continue with us. We reveal all the keys to you.

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What is feline cancer

Cancer is known as the set of diseases that trigger the abnormal and uncontrolled division of cells. These clusters of cells are tumors or neoplasms and they lodge throughout the body and can damage various vital organs. If there is no metastasis or spread throughout the body, they are benign tumors .

Little is known about the causes of this pathology. In fact, research is still ongoing on it. Specialists point to genetic predisposition, prolonged exposure to certain factors such as, for example, chemicals declared as carcinogenic or viral infections as the main triggers.


Symptoms and types of cancer in cats

Given the diversity of types of cancer that exist and that in its initial phase it tends to evolve slowly, it is common for its symptoms to be confused with those of other minor and common diseases. This makes it difficult to undertake early intervention. It is essential that you pay attention to the changes you observe in their behavior.

Going to your veterinarian’s consultation as soon as possible can make a difference in the survival and quality of life of your pet. Keep it in mind. Among the signs of feline cancer, the following deserve your attention :

  • Hard, growing or ulcerating lumps or nodules.
  • Bleeding
  • Wounds that do not heal.
  • White skin on ears, nose, mouth or extremities.
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating.
  • Excessive salivation
  • Weightloss.
  • Apathy caused by muscle weakness.
  • Limp.
  • Snoring and / or persistent cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Jaundice.
  • Abdominal distension.
  • Vomiting and / or diarrhea.

Types of cancer in cats

Regarding its typology, the casuistry, as you will see below, is also very broad:

  • Lymphoma . It is the most frequent, especially the one that affects the digestive system of the elderly population. The cellular abnormality can originate in the blood, bone marrow, lymphoid tissues, or lymph nodes. The feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses are its cause.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma . This skin cancer is not very prevalent in cats and does not metastasize, so it is not particularly aggressive. It usually affects the nose and ears and begins as a wound that takes time to heal.
  • Intestinal adenocarcinoma . It causes diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight. It evolves rapidly through the large or small intestine, covering its entire length.
  • Breast carcinoma . Although it can manifest itself in spayed and male cats, it is more common among non-neutered cats. There are lumps or swelling in the mammary glands.
  • Osteosarcoma or cancer of the bones . The kitten will refuse to move because of the pain caused by moving or will walk with difficulty. Fractures are usually recurrent.
  • Fibrosarcoma or soft tissue sarcoma. It attacks the fibroblasts of the skin, forming hard nodules that gradually increase in size.
  • Mastocytoma . It develops in mast cells or cells of the immune system that are present throughout the body. The bumps can become ulcerated.
  • Respiratory carcinoma . Cancer lodges in the nose and lungs, making it difficult for air to pass. The cat will gasp for breath.

How is it diagnosed?

Many times, the general examination is not enough and the veterinarian must resort to ultrasound scans, blood tests and X-rays to determine the location and extent of the neoplasm. Biopsy or removal of part of the suspicious tissue for laboratory analysis is often used to confirm the diagnosis.

In the most severe cases, if metastasis has occurred, other complementary, more complex tests are usually used, such as CT, electrocardiogram or magnetic resonance imaging.

Is cat cancer treated?

Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the most established treatments. Immunotherapy is beginning to be used, but it is still in an initiation phase and its effectiveness is not sufficiently proven.

The selection of one or another therapy will depend on multiple factors (type, extension and location of the cancer, existence or not of metastasis, age of the cat, financial resources of the owner, etc.). It may be the case that the specialist advises against treating you because doing so your quality of life would be substantially reduced.


It consists of removing all or part of the tumor. Sometimes it can be combined with radio or chemotherapy. Postoperative care and the intake of analgesics is inherent to this therapeutic practice.


Radiation is applied to the tumor in order to eradicate cancer cells, but also healthy ones. The sessions usually last for 3-5 months and its side effects (hair loss, vomiting or skin rashes) require medication to mitigate them.


The purpose is the same, but this time pills or injections are used. It usually causes hair loss and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Cats treated for cancer require special care that involves maximizing the quality of their diet, providing them with a shelter or secluded space where they can rest and the intake of analgesics, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, as directed by the veterinarian. Keeping a daily record of your evolution will help the specialist a lot.

Can it be prevented?


The most effective way to prevent feline cancer is by observing the behavior of the animal and visiting a specialist if you find something unusual. Age is an agent of great protagonism when we talk about cancer in cats, with the exception of leukemia, which is more typical of young specimens.

We hope we have contributed to dispel your doubts about how to know if a cat has cancer. An early action, following medical indications and the love that only you can provide will, without a doubt, facilitate a happy outcome.



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