Learning that your cat has cancer can be both heartbreaking and overwhelming, but don’t give up hope! While receiving a cancer diagnosis in your cat used to mean certain death, there are now treatment options for cats that can improve their quality of life, allow them to live longer, and possibly reverse the illness.
Depending on what treatment route you take, here are some tips on how to best care for a cat with cancer.
Treating Cancer in Cats
Once a cat is diagnosed with cancer, pet parents will either choose to treat the ailment or to let it run its course, depending on a variety of factors. The best mode of treatment will depend on the cancer type, location, and overall health of the cat, as well as what a pet parent can manage as a caregiver.
The three main forms of treatment for feline cancer are:
Immunotherapy and chryotherapy are also used to treat cats with cancer, and some people choose to use alternative or holistic treatments. Other pet parents will make the difficult decision to euthanize their pets if the cancer is untreatable and the cat is in a great deal of pain that cannot be relieved.
What to Expect During Cancer Treatments
Treatment for cats with cancer can be costly and may also require multiple trips to a veterinary oncologist. If you choose medical treatment for your cat’s cancer, consult with your veterinarian regarding the best option for your cat.
Here’s what you can expect with different types of treatment:
- Surgery: Localized cancer surgeries are conducted to remove tumors. Cats are often put under anesthesia prior to surgery. If this is the case, you may be asked not to feed your cat before the tumor-removal operation. When a cat has surgery, a biopsy of the tumor will likely be conducted, and chemotherapy treatments may be recommended. Some surgeries require your cat to be kept at the hospital overnight. Cats may have low energy after surgery, or need medicine following the operation.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatments vary in duration, but generally last somewhere between a few weeks to a couple months. Treatments are administered either by pill or via injections. Chemotherapy may cause lethargy or loss of appetite, but since it is given in smaller doses than humans, it may cause no symptoms at all. For example, unlike in people, cats will most likely not experience hair loss. However, your vet can recommend medication to help cope with any symptoms related to chemotherapy.
- Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy targets tumors with x-rays. Cats undergoing radiotherapy will have regular treatments for a period of time, depending on the type of cancer. During radiotherapy, cats will need to be anesthetized. Sometimes, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy.
Follow all post-treatment or post-surgery instructions carefully, consistently, and in a timely manner. If you are administering any medication related to these treatments, be careful to not skip doses.
Nutrition for Cats With Cancer
Many cat foods have a balanced nutritional blend that is recommended for a cat’s specific dietary needs. Talk to your vet about any additional dietary needs related to their illness, and make sure they get plenty of water. Some cats with cancer may experience food aversion, or associate eating with nausea or taking medicine. Try making mealtime a positive experience for your pet by petting them, talking to them, or staying by their side. Some vets recommend that you avoid coaxing cats to eat if they are experiencing nausea, and to switch up pill time so it’s not directly associated with main meals.
Create a Comfortable Environment for a Cat With Cancer
Some cats with cancer will have less energy and become less active. Make your home environment accessible to your cat’s condition by moving food and litter boxes closer to your cat’s bed or usual resting place. Comfortable, soft bedding can help make sleep or prolonged lying down more comfortable. You can also buy a litter box that they can walk into easily. If cats aren’t up for climbing onto the couch, spend time together on the ground. They’ll appreciate the love and attention.
Hygiene for Cats With Cancer
Be sure to provide extra grooming and washing if your cat becomes lethargic and pays less attention to hygiene. Check their fur for matting and make sure their claws are clean and trim.
There are a few litter box precautions to take for cats receiving chemotherapy -- to avoid having any drugs contaminate your home, scoop and empty litter boxes regularly, and use rubber gloves to clean up spilled urine on the floor. Take similar precautions when washing soiled bedding as well as food and water bowls.
More on Cancer
Common Types of Dog and Cat Skin Cancer
Questions to Ask When Your Cat Has Cancer
Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
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.