Cat Tips

Cancer in Cats

Cancer happens due to abnormal cell growth in the body that carries the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. There many different types of cancer with lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumor and bone cancers being some common types among cats. Sadly, 1 in 5 cats get cancer.1

One of the most feared diseases in humans and our pets, cancer, can affect any cat breed at any age. But there are ways to treat it and help prolong life when it is not completely curable in cats. Let’s dive into this article for a comprehensive guide to understanding the causes, symptoms, probable diagnosis, and prevention of cancer in cats.

Let us now understand cancer in pets; especially cats.

Cancer in cats

Cases of cancer in cats are increasing and it has now become one of the most common causes of death in older cats. Cancer can occur in various parts of a cat's body and can manifest in different forms but certain types of cancer are more prevalent than others.

Common Types of Cancer in Cats

Some of the most common forms of cancer in cats are -

  • Lymphoma: A form of cancer that begins in the white blood cells and is the most common form of cancer in cats. It affects the lymphatic system which includes organs like the lymph nodes, intestines, and other organs.

  • Mammary Cancer: Commonly seen in unspayed female cats, mammary cancer can manifest as tumors in the mammary glands. It has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cells are the cells that make up the skin. This cancer hence affects the skin, especially around the ears, nose, and eyelids. It can also occur in the mouth, throat, and other areas.

  • Fibrosarcoma: Fibrosarcoma is a type of soft tissue sarcoma that can develop at the site of previous injections, such as vaccinations or medications.

  • Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that can lead to lameness and pain in cats.

Causes of Cancer in Cats

The causes of cancer in cats are as complicated and complex as in humans. Several factors can contribute to the growth of cancer cells in cats. These include –

  • Environmental Exposures: Tobacco smoke, pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals.

  • Viral Infections: Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), etc.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Siamese, Abyssinian, Burmese, and Ragdoll are cat breeds that are more prone to cancer than other breeds.

  • Age: The risk of cancer in cats increases with age. Older cats are more likely to develop cancer.

  • Diet and Nutrition: Poor nutrition, exposure to certain dietary factors, and obesity can all increase a cat's risk of developing cancer.

  • Sun Exposure: Prolonged sun exposure can increase a cat's risk, especially in cats with light-colored fur.

  • Second-hand Smoke: Exposure to second-hand smoke can increase a cat's risk of certain types of cancers.

  • Toxic Ingestion: Consuming lilies, antifreeze, and other toxins.

  • Endocrine disorders: Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland, high calcium levels, and diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diagnosing Cancer in Cats

The signs and symptoms of cancer in cats include –

  • Lumps or bumps that are visible or palpable

  • Changes in appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy or decreased activity

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

  • Changes in urinary habits

  • Persistent sores or wounds that do not heal

  • Changes in behavior or temperament

If your cat is consistently displaying these symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian and schedule a checkup.

Diagnosing cancer in cats typically involves a physical examination, blood tests, imaging studies like X-rays and ultrasound, and tissue biopsies.2 A definitive diagnosis is essential for determining the type of cancer affecting your cat and developing an appropriate treatment plan.

How Do I Prevent Cancer in My Cat?

While there is no surefire way to prevent your cat from developing cancer, there are steps that you can take to help decrease their risk.2 These include –

  • Veterinary Check-ups: Routine vet visits including wellness exams and preventive care can help keep your pet healthy throughout their lives, and allow your vet to catch any condition that may develop, in its early stages.

  • Balanced Diet: Ensure your cat eats a balanced and nutritious diet that meets their nutritional needs by feeding them high-quality commercial cat food or a veterinarian-recommended homemade diet.

  • Weight Management: Making sure that your cat receives proper nutrition and exercise can help them avoid obesity, decreasing their risk of cancer. Here are a few tips on how to help your pet stay at a healthy weight.

  • Environmental Enrichment: Create a stimulating and enriching environment for your cat with opportunities for play, exploration, and mental stimulation to reduce stress and promote overall well-being.

  • Indoor Environment: Protect your cat from environmental hazards like traffic, toxic plants, wild animals, and prolonged sun exposure.

  • Avoid Second-hand Smoke: Do not smoke any kind of tobacco around your pet.

  • Vaccination: Follow the recommended vaccination routine diligently, especially for viruses like feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

  • Parasite Control: Protect your kitty from parasites using flea and tick prevention.

  • Spaying and Neutering: Spay or neuter your cat to reduce their risk of certain types of cancer, including mammary cancer and testicular cancer.

  • Regular Dental Care: Follow a proper dental hygiene routine to avoid oral cancers.

Treating Cancer in Cats

Treatment for cancer in cats can vary depending on the type of cancer, how far along it is, and the overall health of the cat. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.2


Our feline buddies are as prone to cancer as we are. With the advancements in medical sciences, however, cancer can now be detected at early stages and treated. But as a pet lover and parent, it is important to take all the precautions you can to help reduce your cat's risk of developing cancer.

  1. "4 Types of Cat Cancer..." RAU Animal Hospital,, accessed Jan. 22, 2024.

  2. "Cancer in Cats," PetMD,, Aug. 26, 2019.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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