Cancer in Cats: Recognising the Warning Signs and Taking Action

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Table of Contents

  • Understanding Feline Cancer
  • Treatment Options for Feline Cancer
  • The Difficult Decision: Euthanasia
  • The Prognosis for Cats with Cancer
  • Conclusion

Welcome to our detailed and informative guide, designed to provide cat owners with a comprehensive understanding of cancer in felines. Cancer, also known as neoplasia, is a prevalent and devastating disease affecting cats worldwide. In this blog post, we will explore the types and signs of feline cancer, available treatment options, the difficult decision of euthanasia, and the prognosis for cats diagnosed with this disease.

Defining neoplasia

Neoplasia is a term used to describe the abnormal growth of cells in an uncontrolled manner, leading to the formation of tumours. In cats, neoplasia can affect various organs and tissues, including the skin, mammary glands, digestive system, and lymph nodes. Understanding the different types of feline cancer is crucial in identifying potential warning signs and seeking appropriate treatment.

Recognising the signs

Spotting the signs of cancer in cats can be challenging, as symptoms may vary depending on the type and location of the cancer. It is important for cat owners to be vigilant and attentive to any changes in their feline companions’ behaviour and physical condition.

Physical symptoms

One common physical sign of feline cancer is the presence of lumps or bumps. These masses may be felt under the skin or observed on the surface, and they should never be ignored. Weight loss, decreased appetite, and difficulty eating or swallowing are additional warning signs that warrant further investigation. It is essential to remember that these symptoms alone do not confirm cancer, and consultation with a veterinarian is crucial to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Behavioural changes

Behavioural changes can provide valuable clues as to whether a cat may be suffering from cancer. Cats with cancer often experience decreased activity levels, lethargy, and a withdrawn demeanour. Hiding in unusual places and avoiding interaction with humans or other pets may also be indicative of underlying health issues. Changes in litter box habits, such as increased or decreased urination or defecation, could potentially be linked to feline cancer and should not be overlooked.

Diagnostic tests

To confirm a cancer diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment approach, diagnostic tests are essential. Blood work, imaging techniques such as X-rays or ultrasounds, and sometimes tissue biopsies are commonly employed by veterinarians to assess the presence and extent of cancer in cats. These tests enable accurate diagnosis and help rule out other potential conditions that may present with similar symptoms.

Treatment Options for Feline Cancer

Surgical intervention is often considered the primary treatment option for many forms of feline cancer, especially for solid tumours that can be removed. Surgery aims to excise the tumour or as much of it as possible to eliminate cancerous cells from the affected area. The success of surgery depends on factors such as early detection, tumour location, size, and invasiveness.


Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs that target and kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. This treatment option is particularly beneficial for cats with cancers that have spread throughout the body (metastasized) or are difficult to surgically remove. While chemotherapy can offer hope and extend a cat’s quality of life, it may have side effects such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and temporary suppression of the immune system.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy employs high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. This treatment option is commonly used to shrink tumours and alleviate pain in cases where surgery is not feasible or has not effectively eradicated the cancer. It requires specialized equipment and techniques and is typically administered over several sessions. Radiation therapy may cause short-term side effects such as skin irritation and long-term effects in some cases.

Immunotherapy and targeted therapies

Immunotherapy and targeted therapies are emerging treatment options that show promise in the field of feline oncology. Immunotherapy stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells more effectively. Targeted therapies involve drugs that specifically target certain molecules or mutations present in cancer cells, inhibiting their growth and survival while sparing healthy cells. These advanced treatments are still being researched and are not widely available, but they offer hope for future feline cancer patients.

The Difficult Decision: Euthanasia

When faced with a cat diagnosed with cancer, cat owners inevitably face difficult decisions surrounding euthanasia. Assessing a cat’s quality of life becomes paramount in such circumstances. Observation and consultation with a veterinarian can help gauge whether the cancer is causing significant pain or suffering to the cat. Signs such as constant pain, difficulty breathing, severe weight loss, and the loss of enjoyment in normal activities may indicate that euthanasia is a compassionate decision to prevent further suffering. You can book a home visit appointment for a gentle goodbye for your companion, which will give them the dignity and peace they deserve.

Support for cat owners

Dealing with the decision of euthanasia is emotionally challenging for cat owners. During this time, it is crucial to seek support from friends, family, and veterinarians. They can provide guidance, offer compassion, and help address any concerns or uncertainties. Open communication with the veterinary team and seeking professional guidance can assist cat owners in making the best decision for their beloved companion.

The Prognosis for Cats with Cancer

Prognosis refers to the predicted outcome of a disease and takes into account various factors such as cancer type, stage, and treatment options. The prognosis for cats diagnosed with cancer varies widely, highlighting the importance of early detection and prompt initiation of appropriate treatment. Survival rates and life expectancy can vary significantly, and it is crucial to discuss these factors with the veterinarian to gain a realistic understanding of what to expect.

Palliative care and hospice

For cats with advanced stages of cancer or those whose prognosis is poor, palliative care and hospice play essential roles in providing comfort and maintaining an acceptable quality of life during the final stages. Palliative care focuses on managing pain, nausea, and other symptoms to improve the cat’s quality of life, while hospice care offers supportive end-of-life care, allowing the cat to pass peacefully and with dignity.


Understanding the signs, treatment options, euthanasia considerations, and prognosis of feline cancer empowers cat owners to make informed decisions for their beloved companions. While the journey with cancer can be challenging, it is essential to seek support, stay informed, and advocate for the best possible quality of life for our furry friends. By recognizing the warning signs and taking prompt action, we can strive to give our cats the best chance at a healthier and happier life.

You can book a home visit for a quality of life assessment with Vets 2 Your Pets, and when the time comes we can come to your home for a gentle goodbye.

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