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5 Ways to Prevent Cat Cancer

Protecting Your Cat From Cancer

By Lauren Leonardi . January 29, 2014 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

    DVM

A Cat Laying On Its Back

Cancer is a scary disease that can affect any part of the body. Although cancer is not 100% preventable, there are some steps pet parents can take to try to reduce their cat's risk. Learn what it takes to prevent cat cancer here.

Cancer is one of the most frightening diagnoses of all, and unfortunately, it’s becoming more common in cats. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent cat cancer.

First, the Good News

Cancer is very serious, but it doesn’t deserve its reputation as a modern plague. In humans, the single greatest risk factor for cancer is age. The primary reason more people get cancer is that fewer of us die from something else first. The same could also be true of cats.

Also, with more people willing to pay more money for advanced veterinary care, including testing, cats with cancer are more likely to get diagnosed.

1. Avoid Known Carcinogens

This one might seem obvious, but rigorously avoiding carcinogens sometimes requires major lifestyle changes on the part of humans. For example, second-hand smoke is full of carcinogens.

It’s important to look through household cleaners and other chemicals around the home as well, in case some are carcinogenic. Cats are especially vulnerable to chemical exposure because they lick up and swallow any contaminants that end up on their fur. So if you’re spraying your lawn for pests, for example, to keep kitty inside for a day or two.

It’s neither possible nor necessary to remove every speck of carcinogen completely. If the trace is small enough it doesn’t matter. But figuring out how thorough to be, or even which substances cause cancer in cats, can be confusing. Experts disagree, and there is a lot nobody knows. Do the best you can to keep a non-toxic environment.

2. Maintain Good Overall Health

Feed a high quality diet, offer clean water, provide a happy, low-stress home, and otherwise support your cat’s health.

Some experts believe that when a cat’s body is in balance, cancer is less likely. At the very least, good overall health means a cat who does get cancer is more likely to fight the disease and win.

3. Vaccinate Against Feline Leukemia Virus

The feline leukemia virus is highly contagious among young cats and dramatically increases the risk of several cancers, especially leukemia and lymphoma. A vaccine prevents initial infection. If your cat is already FeLV positive you’ll have to keep your pet away from unvaccinated cats. There is no cure for the virus, but following the other steps here can still help your cat stay healthy for years.

4. Spay Non-Breeding Females

Cats who go through numerous heat cycles without breeding are at higher risk for a number of health problems, including breast cancer. Spaying reduces the risk.

5. Consider Keeping Your Cat Indoors

Outdoor cats can encounter a lot of dangerous and potentially carcinogenic chemicals, such as automotive products in roadside puddles or pesticides applied to neighbors’ lawns. Providing clean water indoors is no guarantee that your cat won’t choose to drink from a contaminated puddle outside.

Again, there is debate on what substances are carcinogenic and how much exposure is too much, but there is no way to keep an outdoor cat safe from dangerous substances. Keeping them inside is one way to keep them from the unknown dangers of the world. As your cat grows older, they’re more prone to all sorts of diseases and infections, and in time, it might make sense to bring those outdoor kitties in.

Just Remember

Remember that no matter how careful you are, you’re not going to be able to reduce your cat’s risk of cancer to zero. Sadly, no cat lives forever. So do the best you can, and then get on with enjoying life together with your cat.

More on Cancer in Cats

Caring for a Cat With Cancer at Home
Questions to Ask When Your Cat Has Cancer
How to Save on Cat Chemo and Cancer Drugs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cat Cancer at a glance

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  • 1Cancer isn’t always preventable, but there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely.
  • 2Avoid carcinogens, maintain good overall health, and vaccinate where appropriate.
  • 3Just as with human cancer, cat cancer isn’t always a death sentence.
  • 4Some types are very manageable, and even curable.