Are Cysts Common in Older Cats?

Older male Siamese cats are prone to fatty-tissue tumors.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

If Frisky is getting up there in age, you might notice some lumps or bumps on her. It's not unusual for older cats to develop cysts, which are usually harmless. If Frisky's developing cysts in her senior years, it's a good idea to have a vet monitor their development.

Cysts in Cats

Cysts in cats tend to be soft, fluid-filled lumps under the skin that can be moved around in a small area. Though Frisky might not like you touching her cyst, chances are it's not painful. Sometimes a cyst ruptures and becomes irritated, inflamed or infected.

It's relatively rare for cysts to be malignant, but the vet should examine any growths on Frisky. The vet might decide to drain or remove the cyst, monitor its development, aspirate it or take a core sample to make sure it doesn't have malignant cells. In some cases the vet prescribes antibiotics. The kind of cyst Frisky has will affect the vet's course of action.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts, technically known as epidermal inclusion cysts, are the most common type in cats. Older cats tend to develop them more than younger ones. A sebaceous cyst is basically a thick covering over a lump of sebum, which is a cheesy-looking substance.

Sebaceous cysts can grow to more than an inch in diameter. They should be removed because they tend to become infected. If Frisky's sebaceous cyst is going to be removed, she'll probably need to be sedated for the process. These tumors can be malignant, but that's rare.

Neurofibromas and Neurofibrosarcomas

Neurofibromas and neurofibrosarcomas are tumors found in the connective tissue around nerves. These type of tumors occur predominantly in older cats. Some can be mildly malignant and invasive to the area they occur in, but they don't spread to distant organs.

The best course of action with these tumors is to have them surgically removed. Sometimes the vet recommends follow-up radiation to minimize the tumor's regrowth.

Warts and Papillomas

Although people get these growths, they aren't too common for cats. Older cats tend to get them on their skin, either on a stalk or as a growth resembling chewing gum. Papilloma viruses can spread these warts through contact with an infected cat or object, such as bedding, dishes or toys.

These growths are usually harmless. But if Frisky has one that becomes irritated or begins bleeding, she should see her vet to have it removed.

Collagenous Nevi

It would be unusual for Frisky to have one of these cysts, which are buildups of collagen. Collagenous nevi rarely occur in cats, but when they do, middle-age and older cats are most vulnerable. The lumps can be flat or raised, often on the head, legs or neck.

If the vet decides Frisky's lump should be removed, that will probably get rid of it for good.

Other Cysts

Fibromas are usually raised, hairless lumps that feel rubbery. They're usually benign, and they're removed if they interfere with the cat's activities or appearance.

Keratinized skin cysts are benign with a hard or solid core, and they're rare in cats. These malformations of hair follicles are often the same color as the fur. They're usually surgically removed.

Male senior cats are predisposed to the dilated pore of Winer, a dome-shaped cyst that often appears on the head.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest