Cancer in Cats: Types, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment
WebMD veterinary expert answers commonly asked questions about cancer in cats.
Q: What’s causing the high cancer rates in our cats?
A: We really don’t know what causes most cancers. There are a few, like the
feline leukemia virus, which is the big player in cancer etiology in cats. But
I don’t know that we have the answer for what causes most cancers in cats.
We do know people are keeping cats longer. Cats are living longer, so of
course we see more cancer in cats just because we see more cats. But even in
older cats, cancer is more sporadic than it is in dogs.
Q: Can household chemicals or other common items, like bug sprays, cause
cancer in cats because they walk through the residues and then lick their
A: There may be environmental causes. There have been some studies looking
at secondhand smoke. There have been issues of cats grooming themselves developing
oral cancers. But they really don’t know if it’s because they’re taking some
toxins from the environment into their body that way or not. There are still a
lot of questions about environmental issues.
Q: Are some cat breeds more prone to cancers than others?
A: No, we don’t really recognize breeds of cats being at increased risk of
cancers like in dogs. However, white varieties of certain cat breeds are more
prone to squamous cell carcinoma,
usually on their ears and face.)
Q: If my cat has cancer, does that mean she’s going to die?
A: No, but many of the cancers we see in cats are more aggressive than those
we see in dogs. So early detection and treatment are very important.
Q: What are the treatments for cats with cancer?
A: We have surgery, which is the most common treatment for any kind of lump
or bump that needs to be removed. Chemotherapy is used most commonly in the
management of lymphomas. But it’s also used when we have aggressive tumors that
have spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
We use radiation therapy in situations where we can’t remove the tumors, for
example brain tumors and nasal tumors.
Q: Are we seeing advancements in the treatment of feline cancers?
A: Yes, but because historically people tended to do less for cats than they
did for dogs, the advancements have been slower. But we’ve had advancements
with radiation therapy, new and novel chemotherapy approaches, and new surgical
approaches as well.
But we haven’t seen as many drug advances for cats as we’ve seen for dogs. A
lot more of the research dollars go to dog cancers than go to cat cancers.
Q: How much does it cost to treat a cat with cancer?