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Everything you need to know about cat skin cancer

White cat with yellow eyes advice
© Pixabay

Skin cancer in cats is a serious disease that is very similar to the human version. Thankfully, cat skin cancer has a good recovery rate if the signs are spotted early. So it’s important to know the facts in order to be prepared

By G. John Cole

Your cat’s fur (if it has any) provides some protection from the sun. But those rays can still get through. There are additional causes of feline skin cancer, such as genetics, environmental toxins or regular exposure to cigarette smoke. Plus, cats who are genetically prone to cancer may be more likely to suffer the effects of the sun.

What is cat skin cancer?

There are different types of cancer that can affect your moggie’s skin. For example, squamous cell carcinoma is a common type that is caused by the sun. Skin tumours develop on or under moggo’s skin, and if they begin to spread it can become very serious. Spreading tumours are called ‘malignant.’

Can I prevent cat skin cancer?

There is no definite way to prevent your cat from getting skin cancer. The best you can do is to limit the probability of it happening.

When the sun is out, if you feel the need for sun cream on yourself then your cat should get the pet-friendly version too. Particularly on its ears, nose, and other areas where the hair is thin. This is especially the case for cats that have pale, thin, short, or patchy fur.

Of course, cats rarely comply with your plans, and puss might just lick the cream off when grooming. We probably shouldn’t have called it ‘cream.’ The best thing may be to keep your cat indoors on days like these. Or if it likes to stalk your garden, make sure there’s plenty of shade available.

This can reduce the odds of your cat developing cancer later in life. Cancer is particularly common among older cats.

What are the symptoms of cat cancer?

Feline cancer tends to show up in the form of lumps, bumps, sores, or lesions. It’s important to keep an eye on your cat and check its skin regularly for weird stuff.

Make a point of examining the areas you don’t normally engage with – even if there’s a good reason for avoiding them. Check your cat’s armpits, groin, and around her tail and anus. Sorry, nobody said having a cat was going to be pleasant!

What happens if I think I’ve found cat skin cancer?

If you find anything abnormal on your cat’s skin, it is important to take the creature to the vet ASAP. The quicker that cancer is addressed, the better the chances of survival, or at least a more comfortable decline.

Of course, these symptoms might not point to cancer. But the important thing is to get them checked out.

To diagnose your cat, the vet will use a fine-needle aspirate or biopsy (tissue extraction) to remove cancerous cells. The vet will put your cat under anaesthetic, either local or general, for the biopsy. Your cat’s vet will then examine the cells before drawing her conclusions.

How to treat cat skin cancer

If your cat is diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common starting point is to surgically remove the tumour. This can even be quite straightforward if the disease is caught early. Your vet will carefully observe and treat the area around the removed tumour, too, to try to ensure the cancer doesn’t re-grow.

If the cancer is too big to fully remove, or has spread to other organs, chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be the way to go. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs over a period of several months. As you’ll know from the human experience, it can come with a lot of troubling side-effects. In the case of your cat, you’ll need to balance the pain and discomfort of treatment against the likely outcome. In very serious cases, it may be best to have your cat put down.

However, cat skin cancer surgery is often very successful. Early tumour removal is an effective cure. Your cat may still live a long and happy life!

You should protect a cat who has survived skin cancer from the sun even more than you would an undamaged cat. And your little survivor will also need to visit the vet more often to look out for a resurgence of the disease.

The watchword with skin cancer is: vigilance! Keep a close eye on moggie throughout its life, and you can deal with potential incidences of skin cancer before it’s too late.