“Cancer” is one of the saddest, scariest words in the English language. Still, if you get the diagnosis that your cat has cancer, you owe it to your cat to keep your head long enough to ask some important questions.
Feline cancers are just as difficult and confusing as the human sort. The big difference is that cats cannot make their own medical decisions and cannot ask questions. You must do it for them. It’s hard to think clearly when your beloved animal is suffering, so here are some questions you might want to put on your list.
1. What Is the Cat’s Prognosis?
A lot of people hear “cancer” and immediately think “death.” Reality is a lot more complicated, since some cancers are curable and others grow so slowly that your cat might be able to have a long, normal life. Don’t panic.
Find out from the vet exactly what this particular cancer is like and where in the process your cat is. Double-check that information by doing your own research or getting a second opinion.
2. How Much Time and Money is in Front of Us?
This is a question to pose, both to your vet, and to yourself. It’s a hard question to ask when your heart yearns to do everything it takes to make your cat well, but it’s a question that must be asked.
Cancer treatment is expensive, and home nursing care for a cat isn’t easy. If you do not have the time or money to follow the vet’s advice, be honest with yourself and find out what you can do instead. Talk through payment options with your vet, look for charities, and remember to consider quality of life and not just length.
3. Is the Vet Willing to Use Alternative Therapies or to Cooperate with Other Vets Who Do?
Medical science has not yet proven that alternative therapies, like herbs, homeopathy, and acupuncture work. That doesn’t mean they don’t work. Sometimes they seem to work miracles! You still need the advice of a qualified vet to use these therapies, since some alternative therapies have side effects or interfere with other drugs.
If you use two vets, one for mainstream medicine and the other for alternative medicine, they have to know about each other and work together as a team. Otherwise, conflict over dogma and treatment can potentially harm your cat.
4. What Does an Emergency Look Like?
Cancer can become something of a “new normal.” You may become accustomed to ignoring symptoms that would have sent you to the vet before. In some cases, this may be appropriate. In others, it may make more sense to call the vet before rushing in.
During vet visits, find out what normal changes to your cat’s wellness may look like. Prepare ahead of time so you aren’t stuck trying to research symptoms at three in the morning.
5. Will Treatment be Painful to My Cat?
Medicines often have side effects, and some can make your cat sick all by themselves. You might decide that the benefits are worth the side effects, but you need to be able to make an informed choice. To do this, you need to ask. The vet might not think to tell you otherwise.
If your cat is on other medications already, be sure to ask about possible interactions between meds. Remember to include herbal medicines and dietary supplements in your list of meds.Vets are human, and they don’t always remember every single detail of every single drug in a complicated case.
Don’t forget about psychological harm. Your cat won’t know why any of these medical treatments are happening, and may be very scared and stressed out.
6. Should My Cat Get Pain Killers?
Cancer hurts. Human cancer patients get very serious drugs to cope with pain, but cats usually get nothing. Partly, this is because cats try to hide their pain as long as they can. Even a cat in serious pain may seem only distracted or quiet.
The other reason pain drugs for cancer in cats is less common is because often vets jump to euthanasia as a solution, without attempting palliative care. To give your cat’s last days some measure of comfort and dignity, you may need to push your vet for the information you need. Medications such as gabapentin for cats can help relieve pain associated with certain types of cancer.
No matter what, pay attention to what your cat wants. It is your cat’s life, and only your cat can decide how hard to fight, and when to let go.
More on Cancer
Bone Cancer in Cats and Dogs
Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs and Cats
Lymphoma in Dogs and Cats
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.