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.
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.