Skin Cancer in Cats: Recognizing the Signs

When most people think about skin cancer, they normally picture fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time in the sun. They remind themselves to lather up in sunblock before going to the beach, the golf course, or even out for a walk.

Skin cancer is responsible for 40% of cancer cases worldwide in humans. We rarely, though, think about our pets being susceptible to skin cancer – but they are. The sun is incredibly powerful. Cats, like humans, can fall victim to skin cancer from extended exposure to the sun’s rays. In fact, skin cancer is the second most common cancer in cats.

Types of Feline Skin Cancers

cat-skin-cancer-canna-petSkin cancer in cats can come from different types tumors or uncontrolled growth of skin cells. The four main types of skin tumors in cats are:

  • Epithelial tumors – which form on the skin itself or in hair follicles.
  • Mesenchymal tumors – which originate in cells that surround the skin like fat, tissue and nerves
  • Round cell tumors – named for their circular appearance when viewed under a microscope that include plasma cell tumors, transmissible venereal tumors and histiocytomas
  • Melanomas – which form in the cells that give pigment to the skin

The most common skin cancers in cats are basal cell tumors (also the most common skin cancer in humans), squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumors, and fibrosarcoma.

Is My Cat at Risk for Skin Cancer?

Technically, any cat is at risk to develop skin cancer. While many people know that exposure to the sun increases the chance of developing skin cancer, some skin cancers appear for no discernable reason. There are certain factors, though, that can increase the likelihood that your cat will develop cancer.

Cats who spend most their time outside – and therefore have extended exposure to the sun – are more at risk. Cats with light fur – especially those with white fur – are more at risk due to the fur’s inability to block harmful solar rays.

What Does Skin Cancer in Cats Look Like?

Because most cats are covered in fur, it can be difficult to notice the signs of skin cancer in cats. It’s a good idea to examine your cat semi-regularly to see if something is amiss. Here’s what to look for:



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