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Detecting and Treating Cancer in Cats: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Signs of Cancer in Cats

Cats are often considered low maintenance pets, but just like humans, they are susceptible to developing illnesses, including cancer. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more likely it is to be treated successfully.

However, detecting cancer in cats can be challenging, as they are masters at hiding symptoms of illness. In this article, we will discuss the general signs of cancer in cats and explore the types of cancer that are commonly seen in felines.

General Signs of Cancer

Cancer in cats can present itself in various ways, some of which are subtle and can be easily overlooked. Some of the common signs to look out for include:

– Weight loss: Cats tend to hide sickness, so drastic weight loss may only become apparent as the disease progresses.

– Lack of appetite: Loss of interest in food or not eating could be a potential sign of cancer in cats. – Lethargy: If your cat is no longer interested in play or general movement, cancer may be a possibility.

– Changes in behavior: Cats that are typically friendly can become reclusive, aggressive, or excessively vocal when they are unwell. – Persistent sores: It is wise to closely monitor any wounds on your cat’s skin that remain unhealed for over a week as they maybe a sign of skin cancer.

– Changes in bodily functions: Diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, difficulty urinating or blood in feces or urine are all possible signs of cancer. If you have noticed any of these symptoms in your cat, it is recommended that you see a veterinarian as soon as possible for a diagnosis.

Types of Cat Cancer: Signs and Symptoms


Lymphoma is among the most common types of cancer in cats. It affects the lymph nodes and lymphatic system, which play an essential role in the function of the immune system.

Symptoms of lymphoma vary depending on the type, but they can include:

GI Lymphoma

GI Lymphoma, affecting the gastrointestinal tract is the most common type of lymphoma in cats. Signs of GI lymphoma include difficulty passing stool (constipation), having diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

Chronic Disease

Cats with chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are at higher risk of developing lymphoma.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

As lymphoma affects lymph nodes, swelling can be a sign of this type of cancer. Swollen lymph nodes can appear under the jaw, in the armpits and groin areas, and behind the knees.

Skin Wounds

Due to an increase in the production of white blood cells, the skin on cats with lymphoma may be easily injured, resulting in non-healing wounds.

Change in Iris or Pupil Shape

In cats with intraocular lymphoma, also called eye lymphoma, there may be an enlargement of the pupil or changes to the iris’ appearance.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that affects cats. Its primary cause is exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, and it is more common in white cats with pink noses and ears.

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

– Lesions on the skin: These may appear as small bumps or grow in size over time. – Ulcers or scabs: These may be a sign of a lesion that has deteriorated.

– Loss of pigmentation: The color of the nose’s skin may change in response to sun damage, with cancer cells detected in a white patch.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors are cancers that arise from mast cells, a type of white blood cell found in connective tissues. These tumors can appear on the skin or internal organs, with symptoms such as:

– Skin Lumps: A lump may appear on the surface of the skin.

– Stomach Upset: Internal tumors can cause discomfort, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. – Anemia: Mast cell tumors often release histamines that can cause low red blood cell count, leading to anemia.


Sarcoma is a term used to describe a type of soft tissue tumor that can form in the fat and muscle tissues of cats. Symptoms of sarcoma include:

– Swelling: A lump may be seen in the areas affected by the tumor.

– Limping: If the tumor is affecting the leg, your cat may limp or avoid using the leg altogether.

Mammary Cancer

Mammary cancer is tumors that form in the mammary glands of cats. Female cats have eight mammary glands, and male cats may develop mammary cancer, too.

Symptoms of mammary cancer include:

– Swelling: Lumps felt around the mammary glands indicate mammary cancer. – Discharge: Mammary cancer may cause a discharge around the affected gland.



Intraocular sarcoma is cancer that affects the eyes. Symptoms of intraocular sarcoma include:

– Bulging Eyes: The affected eye may appear larger than usual or bulge as a result of the growth.

– Vision Issues: Sight may be affected when intraocular sarcoma occurs in the eye.


Osteosarcoma is a specific type of bone cancer that is seen in cats. Symptoms of

Osteosarcoma include:

– Lameness: A limp due to the affected bone.

– Swelling: A visible lump or swelling on or near the affected bone.


Cats can develop cancer just like humans, and the earlier it is detected, the better. Knowing the general signs of cancer in cats and what to look out for is critical.

If you see any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan. With regular check-ups and vigilance, you can help your feline friend live a happy and healthy life.








Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer commonly seen in cats that are primarily exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. It affects cells in the outermost layer of the skin and can spread to other parts of the body if not treated.

This type of cancer is more prevalent in white cats with unpigmented skin and areas such as ears and noses.

Symptoms of

Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Ulcerated growth:

One of the most obvious signs of

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the presence of an open, ulcerated growth on the outer layer of the skin, which can be crusted or irritated and may bleed. 2.

Mouth cancer:

In rare cases, squamous cell carcinoma can affect a cat’s mouth, making it difficult for them to eat or drink. Signs that their mouth may be affected include drooling, bad breath, oral bleeding, or difficulty swallowing.

3. Foul Odor:

A cat affected by

Squamous Cell Carcinoma may exude a foul odor, which typically signals a sore or open wound around the affected area.

4. White cats:

Cats with white coats and pink non-pigmented skin are more susceptible to Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

This is because they have less melanin, which is a natural pigment that protects the skin from UV radiation. 5.

Sun exposure:

Sun exposure is a significant risk factor for Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cats that like to sunbathe or are frequently exposed to direct sunlight are more likely to develop this type of skin cancer.

6. Tobacco smoke:

Studies suggest that exposure to tobacco smoke may increase the risk of

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in cats.

Smoking in houses or enclosed environments also puts pets at risk of developing this cancer, especially if they have prolonged exposure.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Getting prompt veterinary care is crucial in diagnosing Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

A veterinarian will examine the affected area, take a skin biopsy, and use diagnostic imaging techniques to determine the extent of the cancer. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as lymph nodes, liver, or lungs, the veterinarian may recommend additional tests.

Treatment of

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Various treatment options for

Squamous Cell Carcinoma depend on the extent and severity of the cancer. 1.


Surgical removal of the affected tissue is the most common treatment option for Squamous Cell Carcinoma. 2.

Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy may be used in conjunction with surgery to kill remaining cancerous cells. 3.


Cryotherapy is a technique where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze cancerous tissue and promote healthy skin cell regeneration. 4.

Topical chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy combined with topical creams can be an effective treatment option for squamous cell carcinoma. The ideal treatment for

Squamous Cell Carcinoma depends on the success rate, your cats health, and the location and extent of cancer.

4) Mast Cell Tumors

Mast Cell Tumor is a type of cancer that arises from mast cells, a type of white blood cell in the body. These cells are found throughout the body, particularly in tissues that are close to the surface of the skin like ears, nose, and other peripheral locations.

Mast Cell Tumors tend to grow slowly and can appear in the form of raised nodules or masses. Most of these tumors are benign, but some may behave aggressively and turn malignant.

Symptoms of Mast Cell Tumors

1. Raised Nodules

The most common sign of

Mast Cell Tumors is a raised bump on the skin that may appear red, pink, or white in color.

2. Itchiness:

The site where the Mast Cell Tumor develops may itch or irritate the skin and provoke the cat to scratch frequently.

3. Ulceration/Bleed:

Mast Cell Tumors can ulcerate or open, causing the skin to bleed. Any visible sign of bleeding should prompt a vet visit to evaluate the progression of the tumor.

4. Swelling:

Lymph nodes in the adjacent area may swell if the Mast Cell Tumor cancer cells migrate to other areas in the body.

5. Gastrointestinal Symptom=:

In rare cases,

Mast Cell Tumors may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite.

These can occur if the Mast Cell Tumor is internal and disrupts the digestive system.

Diagnosing Mast Cell Tumors

If you find a bump on your cat’s skin, it is essential to have it evaluated immediately by a veterinarian. A biopsy of the affected area will determine whether the bump is a mast cell tumor.

A histopathology exam can also provide useful information about a mast cell’s exact nature and level of malignancy. Blood tests may also be used to examine other parts of the body for signs of metastasis.

Treatment of

Mast Cell Tumors

Treatment of

Mast Cell Tumors depends on the severity of the cancer, and there are several treatment options available. 1.


The affected area will be surgically removed along with the surrounding tissues to prevent the spread of the cancer.


Radiation therapy:

Radiation therapy may be used to destroy cancerous cells that have not been removed surgically. 3.


Chemotherapy uses conventional drugs to kill tumor cells. This method is often prescribed for instances where the cancer has spread.

4. Immunotherapy:

This treatment uses substances that bolster your cat’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

Immunotherapy does not treat the mast cell tumor directly, but it helps the cat’s immune system recognize and destroy it.


Early diagnosis and assessment of these cancers (

Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Mast Cell Tumors) will increase the chances of successful treatment. In all cases, prompt veterinary intervention is essential to prevent the cancer from spreading.

Being vigilant and keeping your cat from over-exposure to the sun, ensuring proper diet and exercise, and avoiding tobacco smoke exposure can reduce the risk of developing

Squamous Cell Carcinoma and

Mast Cell Tumors in your feline friend.

5) Sarcoma

Sarcoma is a type of cancerous tumor found in connective tissues like bone, cartilage, and muscle. Although relatively rare in cats, sarcoma can be incredibly aggressive and may spread to other parts of the body.

The exact causes of sarcoma are not known, and for many cats, it is often difficult to detect until it is in the advanced stages.

Symptoms of Sarcoma

Here are some symptoms to look out for in your cat:

1. Lumps and Bumps:

The most common symptom of sarcoma in cats is the presence of lumps and bumps under the skin.

These lumps can grow quickly or remain slow-growing, depending on the progression and type of the tumor. 2.

Lameness and Pain:

Sarcoma can cause your cat to experience difficulty when moving. Lameness, muscle stiffness, and pain in the affected area are typical symptoms related to the development of sarcoma.

3. Injection Site Fibrosarcoma:

In rare cases, injection site fibrosarcoma may develop, which is a type of sarcoma that can grow at the site where a vaccine, medication, or fluid was injected.

These tumors can be very aggressive and might require additional therapy other than surgical treatment.

Diagnosing Sarcoma

To diagnose sarcoma in cats, a biopsy is often necessary. A sample of the tumor is obtained for analysis, which provides an exact diagnosis of the type of sarcoma and how it needs to be treated.

Diagnostic imaging may also be necessary to identify how far the cancer has spread and enlighten informed treatment plans.

Treatment of Sarcoma

The most effective treatment for sarcoma depends on the tumor’s location and extent of advancement. The treatment options available for sarcoma include:


Complete Surgical Excision:

Surgical excision is a standard treatment for sarcoma. This technique entails the removal of the affected tissue and nearby tissues to ensure the total removal of the tumor.

2. Radiation Therapy:

Radiation therapy may be used where surgical excision is not possible or as an adjunct to aid in the destruction of cancerous tissues that could not be removed completely.

3. Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy employs drugs that are helpful in killing rapidly dividing cells, including cancerous cells.

Depending upon the type of sarcoma, chemotherapy may be offered as a sole treatment or as a treatment combined with surgery or radiation therapy. 4.


In some cases, amputation may be necessary to remove sarcoma that is not responding to other treatment methods. If the tumor is close to a limb, amputation may be the best course of action to protect the cat’s health.

6) Mammary (Adenocarcinoma)

Mammary cancer is a type of glandular cancer arising from mammary glands in both male and female cats. This type of cancer is mainly linked to hormones specifically, the effect of female hormones estrogen and progesterone on mammary gland tissues.

The earlier mammary adenocarcinoma is detected, the better the prognosis, and survival rates.

Symptoms of Mammary (Adenocarcinoma)

1. Hormonally Driven:

Hormonal changes influence mammary gland cells to divide and grow in female cats.

Unspayed females have a greater risk of developing mammary adenocarcinoma. 2.

Hard Beads:

Mammary cancer may appear as small, hard beads that can be felt under the nipples, eventually developing into large, hard masses. 3.

Large Mass:

Sometimes mammary tumors can become visibly large masses that are noticeable to the cat owner. If the mass has been growing for some time, it may appear to bulge or threaten to burst through the skin around the mammary gland area.

4. Spayed:

Spaying (neutering) a cat before sexual maturity is reached will virtually eliminate the chance of mammary adenocarcinoma developing in female cats.

5. Later Age:

Mammary tumors typically develop in older cats over the age of ten, and the risk of developing mammary adenocarcinoma increases for each additional year of age.

Diagnosis of Mammary (Adenocarcinoma)

Early detection and diagnosis contribute to a successful outcome in treating mammary adenocarcinoma in cats. After the initial physical examination, X-rays and ultrasound may be done to assess the extent of the cancer and rule out the presence of metastasis.

Treatment of Mammary

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