Facing the fact that your time with your pet is nearing the end is something no one wants to go through. We want to cherish the time we have for as long as possible. But when your cat has been fighting cancer, sooner or later, the cancer will begin to take its toll.
Can you recognize the signs that a cat is dying of cancer? They’re not always straightforward. Your cat can’t sit down and write you a heartfelt letter. But there are a few tell-tale signs to watch for.
This stage of life is important to recognize. It means you have some difficult choices to make in regards to helping your cat through the end of his life in as much comfort as humanely possible. We’ll walk you through what to recognize so that you can be prepared for that time that will ultimately come.
Cancer in cats isn’t really all that uncommon. In fact, about one in five cats will get cancer in its lifetime. Often times, a cat’s illness goes undetected because they are so good at hiding their symptoms. You may even only notice a lump that changes size.
There are four main types of cancers that we commonly see in cats. Understanding their early symptoms could help you better understand what to watch out for as your cat starts to near the end of his battle.
This is a type of cancer that is spread through the blood and settles in the lymph nodes, making them swell. Since the lymphatic system circulates fluid through the body, clearing toxins, this type of cancer can leave cancer cells circulating throughout the body. One of the ways cats can get lymphoma is through exposure to the Feline Leukemia Virus. These disease is commonly seen in outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats and can be vaccinated for.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Of the various types of cells, squamous cells are the type that form the skin and lining of your cat’s internal mucus membranes. This cancer can develop inside your cat’s mouth or in other places on his body. If you’re seeing skin sores that won’t heal or detect a foul odor from your cat’s mouth along with ulcers inside the mouth, you should be concerned. This type of cancer is often related to secondhand smoke.
Mast Cell Tumors
Sometimes, for unknown reasons, certain white blood cells (which usuallyhelp fight infections) develop into tumors. These mast cell tumors are frequently benign, but if left untreated, the malignant ones can be deadly. The only way of knowing the difference is to have your veterinarian send a sample away for testing.
Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)
This type of cancer is pretty rare in cats, but it is incredibly aggressive. Owners may notice signs of lameness (sore leg), swelling of a limb or generalized lethargy. It can affect virtually any bone, but is seen more often than not in the long bones of the legs. If caught early enough, removing the affected limb can sometimes stop this cancer in its tracks. Left untreated, the leg becomes extremely painful and will eventually break as a result of the cancer weakening it.
If caught early, some cancers can be treatable, so regularly scheduled wellness visits with your vet are important.
But sometimes the symptoms aren’t as obvious as lumps and bumps. Maybe you notice that your cat just isn’t acting like he used to. What are some of the signs that he could be fighting cancer? What are some of the symptoms that he may be sicker than he’s letting on?
Signs a Cat is Dying From Cancer
Cats love to play hide and seek. It’s just a part of their “cat-and-mouse” games. And some cats that tend towards the nervous side will often make themselves disappear when strange guests come to visit.
But many people will note that their cat’s behaviour will change when they’re nearing the end of life. Cats that never made themselves scarce before will start hiding. Usually social cats will spend more time in secret spots, and many owners notice that it becomes hard to coax them out, even at dinner time. A really sick cat may not even come out to use the litter box.
Sick animals in the wild are a target for predators, so sick cats will try to protect themselves by staying off the radar of potential predators.
Hiding, itself, isn’t necessarily a sign of cancer, but it can be a warning sign that something is amiss and an appointment with the vet is warranted.
Loss of Appetite/Weight Loss
While maintaining a healthier body condition score may be desirable, unplanned weight loss can be a serious symptom in a cat, especially if his appetite remains normal. Cancer can really wreak havoc on a body, sapping essential nutrients and energy.
An animal that is sick commonly loses interest in food and water because digesting and processing food takes energy that they just may not have available if they’ve been battling an illness long term. A decreased appetite doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is dying, but it is cause for concern if it lasts longer than a couple of meals.
Without proper water intake, a cat can quickly become dehydrated, further complicating things.
Decreased Body Temperature
In the last few days of your cat’s life, his body temperature will drop pretty low. You’ll notice this especially on the extremities while his body fights to maintain warmth at the core.
A cat’s normal temperature hovers between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but when he’s nearing the end of his life, it will dip down below 100 to about 98 and stay there.
Learn how to properly take your cat’s temperature here.
Change in Appearance
If you start to notice that your otherwise clean, sleek, and shiny cat is looking more like an alley cat, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. In another effort to conserve energy, your cat will lose interest in grooming themselves. If your cat is suffering from sores inside their mouth, grooming is especially painful and just not worth the effort. Sometimes clumps of fur may come off, or he may shed more than normal.
If he becomes dehydrated, his eyes will start to appear to sink into his head. When the end is near, they may seem to be dilated or glazed over, and he may even be blind.
You may also notice a foul odor lingering around your cat. That’s due to toxins that build up inside the body.
Not all cats exhibit all signs as they near the end of their lives. Other symptoms you may notice include:
- Changes in their mouth
- Nasal or eye discharge
- Weight gain
- General pain or discomfort
- Decreased heart rate
Losing a cat to cancer is never easy, but by knowing the signs that they are suffering and nearing time to let go, you can help them comfortably through the process with the help of your veterinarian. Recognizing the signs that your cat is dying of cancer early can help you prepare yourself and your family for the next steps in your cat’s care.
Comment below to share your experiences of losing a beloved cat to cancer.