Everyone fears cancer. It is the scary “C word” that many people dread, but in reality, some type of cancer will probably happen to most of us if we live long enough and we should not be immobilized by the thought. Although cancer can be caused by infectious agents and other predisposing factors, not every kind of cancer (or even every case of cancer) can be explained. In layman’s terms, cancer is just a term that means a cell line is reproducing in an abnormal fashion. This excessive growth and reproduction causes disruption of the normal cells, either by physically crowding them out or by competing with the normal cells for resources. The types of cancers are as numerous as the types of cells that can become cancerous.
It’s out there and it affects our cats too, but just because it is a scary word, it does not mean it is always a scary problem. Do not let your fear of a cancer diagnosis keep you from seeking help for your cat. The following are a list of signs that could be an indicator of a cancerous process for our feline friends.
1. Not eating/ weight loss– Normal cats eat enough food to sustain their basic life functions. Sick cats will sometimes refuse to eat or will seem to be eating but still look very thin.
2. Lethargy– Even older cats like to sleep a lot or lay in sun beams. But normal cats do not hide all the time and do move around and interact. If your cat seems to lack energy to come out and do her usual activities, it could be a warning sign.
3. Yellowing of the skin (called icterus)- Careful cat owners can notice subtle changes in their cats. This might include a yellow tint to their skin, often noted in the whites of the eyes, gums, and even the skin of the ears. Any time you notice this, you should call your vet.
4. Not keeping food down– Lots of cats vomit occasionally, but if you are noticing more than occasional vomiting, it could be a warning sign, especially if it is accompanied by any of the other signs on this list.
5. Inability to walk/falling– Not being able to walk (or staggering and falling) could be signs of a cancerous process, but could indicate other things too. If you notice your cat is unable to walk straight or seems to be falling, also carefully observe for any of the other signs and watch carefully for seizures, too. If she tries to walk, but drags herself, it is also concerning and should be brought to your vet’s attention.
6. Changes in urination/defecation– If you notice that your cat is straining to urinate/defecate or has changes in litter box habits, it is worth mentioning to your vet. Keep a log of how often your cat is in the box and the characteristics of the urine or stool, i.e. blood tinged, color, characteristics, etc.
Certainly these signs warrant a call to the vet. They are not panic values, but so many advances have been made in treating cancer and other diseases in cats, it is worth investigating. It would be heartbreaking to lose your cat to something that could have been addressed if caught in the early stages, so don’t wait.
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