Friday, November 5, 2010

Cancer In Cats, Guest Blog By Ingrid King

Ingrid's Beloved Feebee
With November being "National Pet Cancer  Awareness Month" I decided to turn to an expert on various topics pertaining to cats to address this most important issue. CAT CHAT is proud to present esteemed author/cat expert Ingrid King as our Guest Blogger today. Ingrid lost her beloved Feebee to lymphoma when he was 16. We now present, Ingrid King:

Cancer In Cats

While cancer in cats is not as common as it is in dogs, it is still one of the leading causes of death in older cats.  And because cats are masters at masking illness, it is often harder to detect.  Cancer used to be a death sentence for cats, but recent advances in feline cancer research have made treatment possible in many cases.  Just like with human cancers, early detection is key to successfully treating feline cancers.

Common cancers in cats

One of the most common forms of cancer in cats is lymphoma. Other frequently seen cancers are oral squamous carcinomas, similar to what people get.   Fibrosarcomas, or soft tissue sarcomas, are tumors developing in muscle or in the connective tissue of the body.  These are generally associated with injections and vaccinations.  Other forms of cancer are less common, but they do occur in cats:  lung tumors, brain tumors, nasal tumors, liver tumors.  There are fewer incidences of mammary tumors (yes, cats can get breast cancer, too) since more cats are spayed and spaying is one of the best ways to prevent this particular cancer.

Symptoms of feline cancer

People and cats both show similar symptoms when it comes to cancer:
  • Lumps, especially lumps that seem to be getting bigger
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Unexplained bleeding or a strange discharge from any body opening
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Lameness or stiffness that persists over a period of time
  • Bad odor
  • Having trouble eating or swallowing food
If you notice your cat showing any of these symptoms, take him to your veterinarian for a thorough examination.


Diagnosis will vary, depending on the presenting symptoms.  An exam will most likely include a complete blood chemistry, blood count, and urinalysis.  Your veterinarian may take x-rays, perform an ultrasound, and take tissue biopsies.  Depending on where the biopsies are taken from, this may require sedation, or full anesthesia.  Biopsies will be reviewed by a veterinary pathologist to determine the type of cancer.


Treatment options for cats are almost as varied as treatment options for human cancers, and will depend on the type of cancer.  Surgery is the most common treatment for any lumps or growths that need to be removed.  In some cases, surgery can be curative.  Other cancers may require chemotherapy or radiation.  Cats tend to tolerate chemotherapy much better than people, and can have good quality of life for many months and sometimes even years following treatment.  Radiation therapy may be used for tumors that can’t be removed.  This is a more stressful therapy for cats, since it will require sedation or anesthesia for each treatment.

There isn’t as much research into the causes of feline cancer as there is on the human side, but I don’t think it’s much of a leap to assume that some of the same environmental toxins that cause cancer in humans also cause cancers in our cats.  There have been some studies looking at secondhand smoke and feline cancers.  Vaccinations and other injections have been proven to be responsible for fibrosarcomas, and these findings have led to changing vaccine protocols for cats.


While some cancers are caused by genetic mutations, there are still things cat owners can do to lessen the likelihood that their cats get the disease.

A wholesome, species-appropriate, meat-based diet is one of the most important foundations for preventing cancer, or any other health problems in cats.  A balanced grain-free raw meat or canned diet provides the best nutrition for your cat.  As obligate carnivores, cats do not need carbohydrates in their diet.  In fact, commercial dry cat foods have been linked to many of the degenerative diseases we’re seeing in cats such as diabetes, kidney failure, and inflammatory bowel disease.  The latter is often a precursor for intestinal lymphoma.  The one best thing you can do for your cat’s health is to eliminate all dry food from his diet.

Environmental toxins and stressors are also linked to cancer in humans, and probably cause cancers in cats.  Avoid exposure to commercial cleaning products and use natural products instead.  Make sure your cat always has pure (bottled or distilled) water available.  Most municipal water systems are contaminated with anything from heavy metals to chlorine.  Don’t use chemical flea and tick products on your pets, use natural alternatives instead.  Minimize vaccinations, and if your cat already has cancer, do not vaccinate the cat at all.

Cancer is a devastating disease, but early detection, combined with ever increasing treatment options, makes it possible for cats to continue to live with good quality of life.

Ingrid King
Ingrid King is the author of Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.  She is a former veterinary hospital manager turned writer. Her online magazine News for You and Your Pet goes out to subscribers around the world. Her blog, The Conscious Cat, has been called “educational cat nip for the cat lover” and is a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health and happiness for cats and their humans.  For more information about Ingrid, Buckley’s Story, and The Conscious Cat, please visit or


  1. Aunty Caren,
    It's sad to hear about Ingrid's cat Feebee. Yeah..we all hope that no one in our family will be afflicted such. purrr....meow!

  2. @Angelina Jolie (???????) lol! I shouldn't laugh.
    Yes it is extremely sad about Feebee but so kind of Ingrid to give us such an informative piece about such an important topic xoxo

  3. It's an informative post, Caren. I wonder whether there are the same symptoms when it comes to dogs but I guess the answer is YES!

    So sorry to hear about Ingrid's cat! It's always sad when we lose our beloved ones. I think those who are at the other side of the rainbow bridge are running happily and watching over us as well.

    A great post!

  4. Thanks for the article, its very sobering have heard this connection w/ vaccines before, but when I pose them to the vet they still insist on the old protocol, next time I'll print this and show it to them! Ms Z.

  5. Cats are so very sensitive and cancer can actually be very easily hidden until it's too late--the best treatment is prevention, and that starts with diet. In the many cats I've lived with and fostered I had several cancers while I still used traditional flea chemicals and feline diets with non-meat proteins, grains and preservatives that persisted for a few years after I changed tactics, but none since then.

  6. Thank you for posting this informative article. Our brofur, Colin Feral, lost his life to lymphoma. He was a stray that mom took in. He was on the thin side and only gained a pound (then lost it again) the short time he lived with us. He was in our home for only a month. Mom had no idea that he was ill to begin with. He was such a loving boy and he always wanted to be near our mom. The last few days of his life he became lethargic and stopped eating. Mom took him to the animal e.r. where his blood work showed an outrageous amount of white cells. Then mom was told about the lymphoma. She decided the best thing to do would be to help him cross the Bridge. She still thinks about him often.

  7. Such an important topic. There were several BB (Before Brian) cats that had cancer. I hope more can be done to help soon.

  8. This was a great article. I do however take issue with the tap vs. bottled water issue. I run a water treatment plant and at least the water I make has rigid quality standards, which DO NOT exist for bottled water!

  9. Sorry for your loss Ingrid. Caren, is dry food really bad for your cat? We feed our cat all natural cat food without any additive ingredients. I was unaware that this can cause cancer. I hope none of our babies ever have to suffer from this disease.

  10. @Priscilla, so true...thanks so much for stopping by. If I don't answer everyone completely my father-in-law passed last night...we have been running all day...thanks so much for commenting

  11. Ms.Z...I re-read this and didn't see anything about vaccines other than minimizing vaccines which I do already. I think Cody only gets about 1 a year. Do you do more than that?

  12. first cat ate very inferior cat food, tons of treats and table food and lived to the age of 18. I really think some of it (as with people) has to do with genetics (or the luck of the draw). I am not discounting anything that Ingrid mentioned because those are preventative measures and prevention is key but I still do feel a lot has to do with genetics.

  13. @Clarissa I am so very, very sorry for your loss. What a sad story but thankfully the kitty had a good last month having been taken in by your Mom. I am so sorry.

  14. @Brian I am so very sorry for your losses as well. That had to be incredibly hard. I pray more kitties can be cured as well.

  15. @Katnip Lounge I actually agree with you. I have read many, many conflicting reports about bottled water vs. tap and for my personal use I have chosen tap water as well. I have also read that much of the bottled/distilled water that people consume is actually tap water. I also gave my first cat tap water (as well as my current cat and dog) and as I said I only drink tap water and I have to consume over 120 oz of water a day due to a chronic kidney stone condition that I have. Buying bottled water is not cost effective for me at all.

  16. @Cat-toure, there are conflicting thoughts on dry vs.wet food as well and Ingrid is very well schooled on this topic (which I am not). I fed Bobo dry and canned and as I said he lived til age 18.
    My current cat Cody is on a strict diet of rabbit (canned/dry) but he has no more than 1/4 cup of dry per day and a 1/3 of a can of wet twice a day. His dry food is completely grain free. I think that dry food is fine if it is grain free but once again I am not a vet nor an expert!
    Thanks for your question and for commenting.

  17. Caren so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your husbands family.

  18. Caren, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity!

    Thank you, everyone, for the kind words about Feebee. He passed ten years ago, and it meant so much to me that Caren used his photo for this article.

    For those of you asking about vaccines, the American Association of Feline Practioners issued vaccine guidelines that minimize risk while still offering protection. The following article was written by my vet, who was a former president of the AAFP:

    For those of you asking about dry food - as obligate carnivores, cats' digestive tracts are not designed to digest carbohydrates. Dry food is loaded with carbs (even the grain-free varieties are still too high in carbs), and a lot of other things cats don't need. Sadly, most traditional vets, especially general practitioners who don't specialize in cats, are slow in adopting these findings. I recommend either a meat-based raw diet, or a grain-free canned diet for cats. Here's an article about why dry food is so bad for cats:

  19. I really appreciate this post because I the topic of cancer is very important for all to read and understand. We all need to be aware of the symptoms so that we can possibly save our cat's lives.
    I will look back on your post and recommend this information to anyone who is in need of advice regarding cancer in cats too.
    I am so pleased that a professional writer such as yourself appreciated my post "If I Were a Cat" today! Thanks for the compliment!

  20. Caren, Thanks you so much for this article, my mom learn a lots from you.

  21. @Ingrid, are you kidding me? Thank YOU for guest blogging on Cat Chat.
    Also THANK YOU for answering the questions that I am not knowledgeable enough to ask....I am a cat hobbyist, by no means an "expert".....I learn from you as well and I love having people like yourself guest blog that can teach all of us more about cats!

  22. @The Teacher's Pets....ok did both Ingrid and I compliment your post? If so, then you must be referring to HER! lol.
    I know you are referring to her with the cancer post but for compliments on your post I am confused! I think the "professional writer" threw me off lol....

  23. @Mr.Puddy, thank you for enjoying Ingrid's article so much!
    I am so glad to have met you and am thrilled that you enjoy my blog!
    Thanks so much!

  24. This makes me sad to read. When I was a teenager I lost my beloved cat Cassie to cancer. And just like Ingrids blog says, we didnt detect it until it was too late. Even though she seemed perfectly healthy she had a tumor grow across her tummy. It was only when she seemed to get lethargic that we realised something was wrong and we took her immediatly to the vet. I got Cassie when I was only young and we grew up together, she was my best friend. She would always know when I was sad or sick and would lie in bed next to me until I felt better. Even to this day I get all teary when I think about her. I'll never forget my lovely Cassie. :(

  25. I always learn a little (or a lot) of something from Ingrid and this piece is no different. The more we can know, the better we can more quickly identify any changes that may be happening to our cats.

    Great post!

  26. sprite I am so sorry about your beloved Cassie...she sounds like how my Bobo was. If I was sick or sad he would lie with me making sure he was trying to help me to feel better. I am so sorry, she sounded like a wonderful cat

  27. Very, Very good post. Our vet, after years of recomending the grain type of dry diet, is now recommending canned food also, so that's what m had been giving me.

  28. Mario yes thanks! Ingrid is so full of knowledge!
    You eat canned cause you have no toothies!!!! ( I am teasing you, not being mean) but yes canned is sooo good for you! xoxo

  29. Caren, This was an interesting post about Cancer and Cats. I think Ingrid is great and loved her Buckley book.

    Have a great week!

  30. @Bibliophile thanks much. Ingrid IS great, she has a bevy of knowledge about so many issues pertaining to cats.
    You have a great week too!

  31. 10 years ago, I lost my cat Daisy to cancer. I had to have her put to sleep, it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life; I still cannot talk about it without crying, and I still wish I would have had "just one more day" with her. She had a tumor in her throat and it got to the point where she could not even get food down. My vet said it was probably through her whole body. She was about a month away from turning 18 years old.

    It wasn't until my breast cancer returned, into my bones in 2007, that I understood how much pain she must have been in.

  32. @mom2acat, my heart is breaking as I read your post. I am so very, very sorry about your darling Daisy. I completely understand because I went through the same agonizing decision with my Bobo (however it wasn't cancer related) when he had just turned 18. I could just cry with you. I wish I had "one more day" with my Bobo as well.
    I am so sorry that all you have to experience and all that you have had to experience.
    My prayers are with you. xoxo

  33. How Do I no if My Cat Has Cancer , She Has Been Actig like she need's to Hack up a Hair ball , Got stuff From Vet , Now A Month Later she is not her self what can i do