12 Warning Signs of Cat Cancer Every Owner Should Know
Let's face it—the thought of your sweet kitty friend ever developing cancer is terrible. Cancer in cats used to be a death sentence, but with recent advances in veterinary medicine, it may be possible for your cat to be with you for several more years.
The best way to protect your friend from this disease is to be knowledgeable about feline cancer symptoms so you can catch it early.
12 Warning Signs of Cancer in Cats
- Weight loss, even if your kitty seems to be eating the same amount as ever.
- Unusual lumps or swellings anywhere on your cat's body, especially if they're getting larger or changing shape.
- Swollen lymph nodes are a symptom of lymphoma. The lymph nodes behind the knees and under the jaws are easiest to find.
- Difficulty eating, swallowing, or digesting. The clue might be a loss of appetite.
- Discharge or unexplained bleeding from the gums, mouth, nose, penis, vagina, or any other place. Sores that don't heal are a cause for concern.
- Chronic digestive problems, including vomiting or diarrhea.
- Coughing or trouble breathing. A persistent, dry, non-productive cough can be a symptom of lung cancer.
- Bad breath may indicate oral cancer, although it's also a symptom of a sinus infection.
- Straining to urinate or defecate. If your cat's litter box habits change, it may be a sign.
- Loss of stamina and general tiredness. Does your cat seem stiff or lethargic? Some owners mistakenly assume their cat is just getting older.
- A sudden change in temperament, especially if your kitty suddenly gets grouchy and wants to be left alone. He may be in pain.
- Reclusiveness. If you formerly friendly companion suddenly hides herself away, this may be a survival mechanism. A sick cat will hide from predators until it recovers.
What Kinds of Cancer Do Cats Get?
- Lymphoma (Blood cancer, most often affecting the intestines, lymph nodes, nasal cavity, kidneys, or liver).
- Soft tissue sarcoma (an aggressive malignant tumor that develops in fibrous connective tissue anywhere on the body, sometimes at the site of an injection).
- Squamous cell carcinoma (a kind of skin cancer that most often affects exposed (hairless) skin, i.e., on the nose, ears, and eyelids).
(These are the three most common types, although cats also get leukemia, mammary cancer, and other types.)
Symptoms of Common Cat Cancers
Type of Cancer
What to Look for
Lethargy, progressive loss of appetite, weight loss. Other signs depend on which organ is affected, but you may notice diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Detected as a firm lump or mass. Symptoms depend on the location and degree of the tumor. If in the mouth: Bad breath, loss of appetite, weight loss. If in the gastrointestinal tract: Diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Suspicious sore(s) on a hairless area of the body (and often inside the mouth); excessive salivation (drooling), bad breath, appetite loss, weight loss, swelling of the jaw.
How to Check Your Cat for Lumps
We all enjoy petting and stroking our feline companions. While you're at it, take the time to check for suspicious lumps on his back, legs, mouth, and under his neck. If you have a female cat, watch for lumps on her belly, which could be a symptom of feline breast cancer.
If you should find a lump, make note of the following:
- If it's soft or hard
- Where it's located (make a drawing if you need to)
- If your cat exhibits discomfort when you touch it
- How it looks and smells. Does it have a bad odor? It is ulcerated, or oozing, or bleeding?
Any lump should be examined by your vet. Benign tumors in cats usually grow slowly and have well-defined edges, while malignant ones grow faster and may cause bleeding or pain.
Nobody likes the thought of their kitty ever getting cancer, but ignoring the situation won't help. The best way you can protect your feline companion from this disease is by knowing the symptoms. Treatment is more effective when cancer is caught early.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.