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Cat Skin Cancer

Veterinarian Reviewed on April 1, 2014 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

Cat Skin Cancer

The skin is the outermost layer of the body of a cat. It consists of several layers of tissue, and its main function is to protect the cat’s muscles and organs that lie underneath it from any harm. Sadly, skin tumors are quite commonly found on cats and present themselves in several different forms. They can be malignant or benign, and the most common forms are responsible for about 75% of all tumors found on the skin. These tumors are not always primary, meaning they may form as a result of another cancer in the body, such as Cat Lung Cancer.

Most Common Skin Tumors in Cats

Making up approximately 20% of all skin tumor cases in cats, the basal cell tumor is the most common of this animal. Other top tumors include the Cat Mast Cell Tumor, Cat Skin Fibrosarcoma, Cat Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Sebaceous hyperplasia/adenoma.

Signs and Symptoms

Skin tumors are generally first noticed by the owners of the cats. These may be found while grooming or inspecting their cat’s body for Cat Fleas and ticks or through general petting and grooming. Tumors that are benign grow slowly, some taking years before they are of substantial size to worry about. Many vets that see benign tumors do so because of the cat licking or injuring the area where the tumor is located. Malignant tumors grow much faster and have poorly defined boundaries compared to those that are harmless and pain free.

Diagnosis of Skin Cancer in Cats

The skin tumor’s size, location, and degree that it is moveable are the first things a veterinarian will look at to determine a diagnosis. Cytology is beneficial, as it can tell if the mass is really a tumor or if it is something less worrisome. Histopathologic analysis will also be performed, as that is the only way to truly know the type of tumor, how serious the situation is, and the method of treatment to use. Biopsies will be performed, and may remove a piece or the entire tumor, depending on its size and location. Blood tests and x-rays may also be necessary to check for other cancers in the body.

Treatment Options

The actual treatment the cat receives will be dependent on what the exams have shown regarding the tumor. The majority of smaller tumors are treated right away, being completely removed during the biopsy. Surgical removal may be performed on larger tumors once the results of the biopsy are known. For those that cannot be completely removed, radiation and chemotherapy may be necessary. If a tumor is located on an appendage, the body part may need to be removed to prevent the spread of cancer cells.


The prognosis of skin cancer in cats depends heavily on several factors. These include the size, location, aggressiveness, and type of tumor that the cat is suffering from.

Read also: Cat Addisons Disease
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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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