Running your fingers over a strange lump beneath your cat's skin is a frightening experience. You may expect the worst, but it's possible the growth is just a benign fatty tumor. Your veterinarian can tell if the growth is harmful or not, so take the kitty in for a diagnosis.
Lipoma is the medical term that describes ordinary fatty tumors. This type of tumor is benign, so there is no risk of cancer involved. The tumor is just an abnormal cluster of fat cells. Lipomas usually appear as soft nodules directly beneath your cat's skin. They have a loose round shape and move as a single mass when touched. Most of these fatty tumors appear directly beneath the skin, so they are easy to spot as you groom or stroke your pet.
While fatty tumors aren't cancerous, they can pose a health risk if they are large or located near vital organs, according to Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Tumors near the spinal cord or esophagus can put pressure on sensitive nerves. Lipomas sometimes develop on muscle tissue or near vital internal organs, although they are rare compared to superficial tumors. This type of tumor is called an infiltrative lipoma because it can appear between different layers of tissue.
You should take your cat to the vet if you find any strange lump beneath her skin. There's no reason to panic, but it's important to identify the potential tumor as either benign or cancerous as soon as you can. Your vet will withdraw cells from the tumor with a needle or remove a sliver of the mass surgically so he can examine it with a microscope. Since lipomas are simply an overgrowth of fat cells, a simple microscope analysis is all that's needed to determine if the tumor is a lipoma or something else.
Lipomas don't always require treatment. In fact, your vet may recommend that you don't request surgery, as the procedure would introduce unnecessary risks to your pet's health. However, it may be necessary to remove the tumor if it's putting pressure on vital areas of your cat's body or it's breaking the skin and causing infection. Simple surgery to cut out the lump is the standard treatment procedure. Your vet may simply reduce the size of the tumor rather than remove it completely. He may also prescribe antibiotics to treat infection if the tumor broke the skin prior to surgery, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.