Unfortunately, cancer is a very common disease in cats. It’s important to know what signs to watch for so your cat can get an early diagnosis. Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, but the sooner it is detected, the higher the chances of successful treatment and recovery. 

Below, we take a look at the most common types of cancer in cats, along with their symptoms and how to lower the risks for your pet.

Five Types of Cancer to Watch for in Cats

1: Lymphoma

This blood cancer called lymphoma is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in cats. It affects the lymphatic system, which is key in cleansing the body of toxins and promoting a healthy immune system. 

Symptoms of feline lymphoma include:

  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea and vomiting 
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Lymphoma cannot be prevented, but you can lower your cat’s risk of developing this cancer by vaccinating them against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Feline leukemia is an infectious disease that severely weakens a cat’s immune system and can lead to lymphoma. 

2: Mammary Cancer

Cats are also frequently diagnosed with mammary (breast) cancer. Mammary tumors often spread to other parts of the cat’s body, including the lymph nodes and lungs. Some cat breeds, including Siamese cats, have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer. 

Symptoms of feline mammary cancer include:

  • Lumps or swelling along the mammary chain (either side of belly)
  • Redness, sores, or discharge from the nipples
  • Weight loss
  • Systemic infections

The best way to prevent mammary cancer is to spay your cat before they get their first heat cycle. This happens when female cats are around three or four months old, so it’s better to spay your cat sooner rather than later. A study has shown that cats spayed before they are six months old reduced their risk of mammary cancer by 91%, while cats spayed before a year old had only an 86% risk reduction.  

3: Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cells help form the surface of your cat’s skin, as well as the linings of their respiratory and digestive organs. This type of cancer is most common in the mouth, but it can also affect other parts of your cat’s skin, such as the eyelids, nose, and ears. 

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in cats include:

  • Sores, raised bumps, or growths resembling cauliflower that don’t go away 
  • A mass in the cat’s mouth
  • Drooling, especially bloody drool
  • Difficulty eating
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath

Prolonged exposure to UV rays has been associated with squamous cell carcinoma in cats. To reduce your cat’s risk, make sure to limit their time in the sun. If they love to lounge on window sills, try adding a UV-blocking sun shade to protect your cat. 

4: Fibrosarcoma

Fibrosarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer that can affect cats. This type of cancer can occur at injection sites, so it’s important to monitor your cat after vaccinations, microchipping, sedation, or other injections. 

Symptoms of fibrosarcoma in cats include:

  • A skin mass that doesn’t seem to bother the cat
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of appetite 

While this cancer is associated with injections, it is an extremely rare complication. Your cat still needs their core vaccines to prevent other deadly diseases that have a far higher likelihood of occurring than fibrosarcoma. One way you can lower your cat’s risk is to choose oral medications instead of injections whenever possible. 

5: Oral Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma, fibrosarcoma, and many other types of cancer can affect a cat’s mouth. Oral tumors can develop on a cat’s lips, gums, hard palate, or soft palate. It’s important to have bumps in or around the mouth checked out by a vet. Even if they look small, they can extend deep down under the skin and affect the bone. 

Symptoms of oral cancer in cats include:

  • Lumps inside the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Facial swelling

Taking care of your cat’s oral hygiene, preventing their exposure to tobacco smoke, and taking your cat to the vet for regular oral exams can all help lower their risk of developing oral cancers. 

Cat Wellness Exams in Gilbert, Arizona

In cats, the symptoms of cancer are often subtle. It’s essential to visit the vet at least once a year for a wellness exam to screen for signs of cancer. 

At Anasazi Animal Clinic, our compassionate team is well-trained in spotting the early warning signs of all feline cancers. If your cat is due for a checkup, or if you have any concerns about your cat’s health, give us a call at 480-497-0505 to schedule an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/12/2023). Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash