Disease: our cats can also suffer from cancer

Cancers are common in cats. Especially lymphoma which can come on suddenly and progress quickly. A disease that is hard to live with for the animal and a shock for its adoptive family. @freepik

Our cats are not immune to cancer, although we would like them to have nine lives as popular legend claims. In question, environmental factors such as pollution, toxic products, obesity, viruses, etc. What are the main cancers in cats and what precautions should be taken to avoid their appearance? Update with Dr Moignard, veterinarian at the Fauriel Clinic in Saint-Étienne (Loire).

What is a tumour?

A tumor is a more or less voluminous growth due to an excessive multiplication of cells. There are two types of tumours: benign (non-cancerous) when the masses remain localized and malignant (cancer) which spread to other organs. The most common cancer in cats is lymphoma.

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer that affects cells of the cat’s immune system (white blood cells) called lymphocytes. It can develop in all the organs provided with these cells and there are many of them! Indeed, lymphoid cells are present in almost the entire body. Digestive lymphoma is the most common form.

Lymphoma can start suddenly, mainly in older cats (from nine years old). Or in young cats after infection with feline leukosis virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), also known as cat AIDS.

How to identify a tumor in a cat?

Several signs can alert: abnormal fatigue, more frequent urination, diarrhea, increased thirst, difficulty breathing, bleeding or a wound that does not heal, lameness or a sign of pain, weight loss and loss of weight. appetite, a suspicious mass on palpation, etc.

As a preventive measure, a health check-up recommended every year

How to react ?

In the event of a change in behavior, it is advisable to make an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Indeed, if treated early, the prognosis of cancer can be better. The latter can be insidious and asymptomatic, it is important to do a health check of the animal once a year so that a professional can carry out a clinical examination.

In the event of suspicion, the veterinarian can take samples (cytology, biopsy, blood test) and/or imaging examinations (ultrasound, radiography, scanner) which will make it possible to establish the diagnosis.

What are the treatments to be expected?

It all depends on the tumor but generally, detected early, the latter can be operated on.

If the tumor has started to spread in the animal’s body, treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be carried out. These methods are much better tolerated in cats than in humans.

What are the contributing factors?

These are the same as those of humans: food that is too rich or of poor qualitya polluted environment (fine particles in the city, chemicals in the countryside, passive smoking), a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, etc.

Cancer in white cats: watch out for the sun!

What precautions to take?

Mammary tumors being frequent and most often malignant, it is advisable to sterilize young cats (ideally when they are less than six months old). The birth control pill is not recommended. Indeed, it promotes not only the appearance of breast tumors but also serious infections of the uterus.

It is also recommended to protect white cats from the sun with suitable sunscreen. Indeed, the latter can develop squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer is 13 times more common in white cats than in cats of another color. It often develops on the nose or on the edges of the ears.


Veterinary care being expensive, it is possible to take out a health insurance contract for cats. Thus, the insurer may intervene partially or totally in reimbursement according to its conditions. Comfort in case of unexpected expenses. Please note: the insurer will only cover the care that will be carried out for illnesses detected after the subscription of the contract and the possible waiting period. It is therefore necessary to insure your cat before it develops illnesses.

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