Can cats get cancer? Unfortunately, yes they can — in fact, they are susceptible to a variety of types of cancer. My old kitty, Pogo, overcame so many health challenges that I thought perhaps he’d have a respite from his problems.
Then, on his last blood test, signs emerged telling us he had the onset of cancer. We hoped we’d caught it early enough, so tried to stop its progress. For a short time, it seemed as if it might work, but unfortunately, it was not to be. Finally, when his pain became intense, I sent him off to the Rainbow Bridge.
That decision did not come easily, but I couldn’t handle seeing him suffer. In his last week, he barely ate; nothing would tempt him to finish a meal — or even start it. He’d stop after a couple of bites. He’d had a couple of days when I could tell he was in extreme pain.
A cat can contract a variety of types of cancer. However, studies find that four varieties often come to the fore. As a matter of fact, cancer in cats is perhaps more common than you think, as statistics show that one in five cats gets cancer.
Why do cats get cancer? Researchers believe there could be a variety of possible causes. These include toxins in the environment and the feline leukemia virus.
The Four Common Types of Cat Cancer
You may learn of other, less common types of cancer in cats. However, these four represent the most common types of cancer a cat might contract:
1) Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cells, or white blood cells, can become tumors, seen as abnormal swellings. In many cats, these prove to be benign, but the only way to be sure involves making an appointment with your vet.
Though no one knows the cause of these tumors, we do know that higher instances of this type of cancer exists in Siamese cats.
This one is a type of blood cancer. If kitty’s lymph nodes swell, check with your vet to make sure kitty has no disease.
One way your cat could develop lymphoma could come from exposure to the feline leukemia virus. You can get a vaccination for kitty that will effectively help reduce the risk of this cancer.
3) Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of cell forms on your pet’s skin. Looking at them closely, you can see that they have tiny lines resembling fish scales.
Such cells call also be found in kitty’s internal passages of the respiratory or digestive tracts. These cells can develop into cancer. You might see sores in kitty’s mouth or on her body.
These, according to experts, can occur through exposure to second-hand smoke.
Sores developing on the skin that won’t heal could mark a form of squamous cell carcinoma. Take kitty to the vet to make sure he doesn’t have cancerous cells.
4) Bone Cancer
If you are concerned about the possibility of bone cancer, watch for these signs: lameness, swelling, and lethargy. Though this type of cancer is fairly rare, it tends to be aggressive. No evidence has been found as to what causes this type of cancer to develop, though we do know that you will find it more commonly in larger breeds of cats.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Foul odor — not normal for a cat, who usually smells quite good
- Sores that don’t heal — check on these with a professional
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding from an unknown cause
Though these symptoms are often the same for many health concerns, if you see any of them, you’d best get an explanation as to why the symptoms are occurring. You will find that external symptoms will prove to be subtle. The best course of action remains to give kitty a healthy lifestyle and get regular check-ups. These should occur at least twice a year, especially if the cat has reached the age of eight or older.
Treatment For Cancer In Cats
The treatment for cancer in cats will vary, of course, depending on the type of cancer. Sometimes the plan of attack will include surgery, or sometimes radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Your vet will put kitty on the program needed for his type of cancer.
Feline Mammary Carcinomas
This carcinoma represents the third most common type of feline cancer, and the most frequently diagnosed feline cancer in cats older than 10 years.
These tumors can form anywhere on the length of kitty’s belly, as cats have two chains or rows of mammary glands, four in each chain. Though the tumors originate in the mammary glands, they can metastasize to lymph nodes, adrenal gland, lungs, liver pleura and kidneys.
Remember that boy cats also have mammary glands, so don’t forget to check his belly as well.
These mammary carcinomas include these symptoms:
1) One or more masses underneath the skin in the area of the stomach
2) The area will feel warm to the touch and in some cases could be painful.
Cats spayed after one year of age have a higher risk of developing these tumors, and Siamese cats face twice the risk of this type of cancer than other breeds.
If treated early while the tumor remains in the mammary gland, a mastectomy which removes one or both chains of the mammary gland will be performed.
If the tumor has metastasized, time for chemotherapy. A good thing about chemotherapy: Side effects should prove minor. In 90% of the cases, kitty will have minimal to no side effects. Also, side effects from radiation therapy tends to be mild as well.
Early detection becomes the key to survival if your kitty develops cancer. The earlier you detect the cancer, the better the chance of effective treatment.
A monthly checkup will serve you well. Check your cat for lumps and bumps, feeling all parts of the body for anything out of the ordinary. If you find a lump the size of a pea or larger, check again in a month. If you still feel the lump, visit the vet to have it checked out.
Do remember to take kitty for regular check-ups. If the vet finds a problem, you can feel relief that you took your kitty in to the vet. With the vet’s know-how and your love and attention, you may help add years to kitty’s life.
References I used for this post:
icatcare.org/advice/cancer-in-cats/ catster.com/cat-health-care/cancer-in-cats petmd.com/cat/conditions/cancer/cancer-cats-symptoms-types-and-treatment-0 ravanimalhospital.com/resources/blog/cats/4-types-cat-cancer-and-their-common-symptoms petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_leiomyosarcoma_stomach_intestine