Cancer in Cats

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: January 14, 2022 - Author: Sara Beth Redding
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: May 19, 2021  
Author:  Sara Beth Redding

If your cat has a mass or seems not to be feeling good, this could be due to cancer. Just like with people as cats age, there is an increased risk for cancer in cats. While this is not the diagnosis that anyone wants to hear for their cat, there are some things that you can do to help your cat with cancer.

There are many different treatment options to help your cat live a long and healthy life, as well as supplements and over-the-counter supplements that you can give to your cat to help them feel much better.

Three Types of Cancer in Cats

There are many types and variations of cat cancer but there are three different types that are the most common cancer in cats.

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Soft-Tissue sarcoma, and
  3. 3
    Squamous cell carcinoma


Lymphoma is the most common cancer in cats out of these three.

This is commonly seen in cats who also have Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV). Cats can have lymphoma in any of the lymph nodes in their body. Lymphoma is commonly seen in the intestinal tracts causing vomiting and diarrhea. Depending on the location, severity, and treatment options will dictate the prognosis of lymphoma in cats. Your vet can discuss the prognosis with you.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Most soft tissue sarcomas are in the muscle or connected tissue of your cat. This can be associated with injection and is commonly called an injection site sarcoma. This cancer in cats can easily be surgically removed, and many cats will make a full recovery.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell carcinoma(SCC) is commonly seen in the mouth of cats.

Cats with SCC commonly are drooling, bleeding from their mouth, and not eating. Your vet can easily take tissues from your cat’s mouth to see if this is what is causing these signs in your cat. Usually, cats with SCC do have a poor prognosis due to the location and aggressiveness of the mass.


What are the signs of cancer in cats?

Many of the common signs of cancer in cats are very non-specific, meaning that they can resemble many other diseases.

Nevertheless, these are some of the symptoms of cancer in cats that you should be treating as a sign that something is wrong and needs veterinary attention:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipated
  • Not eating
  • Lethargic
  • Drinking more water

If you are noticing any of these signs in your cat, it would be best for your cat to see your vet. They can examine your cat and run tests to see if cancer is present in your cat.

How does my vet know that my cat has cancer?

While sometimes your vet may not know that your cat for sure has cancer, they have many signs pointing to cancer symptoms in cats that they can look to diagnose. Your vet will want to run many different tests to check your cat for cancer.

These tests are:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): This will check your cat’s white and red blood cell count.  This will show if your cat is anemic, has an infection, or low white blood cells that are seen in cat cancer patients.
  • Chemistry Panel: This will test your cat’s liver, kidneys, and other organs to see if they are properly functioning. This could help your vet rule out any other underlying issue such as kidney disease, diabetes, or thyroid issues.
  • Radiographs: X-rays can be taken to see if your cat has internal masses. X-rays are great to use to see masses in your cat’s lungs showing a likelihood of lung cancer in cats. It can also be used to detect large masses in their abdomen too.
  • Ultrasound: Your vet can perform an ultrasound of your cat’s abdomen to see if there are any masses in their abdomen. Some masses are very hard to find due to their small size.
  • Exploratory Surgery: If your vet thinks that there is a mass inside your cat’s abdomen causing all the issues that your cat is experiencing, they may recommend exploratory surgery. This is when they will open your cat’s abdomen and look for anything that would be causing your cat to show the signs that you are seeing. If they find any masses, they could possibly remove these masses too so that your cat will start to feel much better.
  • Aspirate of the mass: If your cat has a mass on its skin, your vet can take a needle and take a small aspirate of the mass. They can put these cells on a slide to see if your cat does have cancer. This may also help determine what type of cancer your cat has.
  • Histopathology of the mass: If your vet finds a mass in your cat’s abdomen, it would be best for your vet to send this mass to a pathologist for diagnosing. They can even take a small punch biopsy of the mass if it cannot be fully removed.

Treatment for Cancer in Cats

If your cat does have cancer, there are a few different treatment options depending on the type of cancer, how much the cancer has spread, and your cat’s quality of life.


With many types of cancer in cats, your cat may need chemotherapy. This would usually be done at specialty hospitals, but some general practice vets can also do these treatments. Your cat would need blood work and IV injections or other medications given to them every week, just like people get when they receive chemotherapy.

Surgical Removal

Many cats with cancer tumors can have them surgically removed. If your cat has a mass growing on their skin, your vet can quickly and easily remove these masses. Some cats will have masses growing inside. Lymphoma commonly invades the intestinal tract. This can cause a blockage in your cat’s intestines. If your cat’s intestines are blocked, the only way to help your cat is to surgically remove part of their intestines and this mass.


Some types of cat cancer tumors cannot be removed and do not respond to chemotherapy. In these cases, your cat may be able to receive radiation treatment. This is most commonly done in tumors on the face. Your cat would have to go to a specialty center for radiation treatment.

Palliative Care

If your cat has cancer all throughout their body and other treatment options are not an option due to other health conditions or finances, palliative care can help keep your cat comfortable.


How long will my cat with cancer live?

The prognosis of your cat with cancer will all depend on the type of cancer, if it has spread and how aggressively it is treated. Some cancers, no matter how aggressive you treat it, will continue to spread and have a very poor prognosis. Your vet can examine your cat and help you figure out the best treatment so that your cat can live as long and healthy a life as possible.

Final Thoughts on Cancer in Cats

While cancer in cats is never the diagnosis that anyone wants to hear for their cat, there are many different treatment options. Even if chemotherapy and radiation are not an option for your cat, they can still live a long and happy life with palliative care.

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About the author

Sara Beth Redding (née Ochoa), graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (‘DVM’) from St. George’s University Veterinary School in 2015, and has since worked at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her home life, she cares for four ‘fur kids’; two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.