Since cancer in cats and kittens tends to be more aggressive than in other animals, early detection is important. Take your kitty to the vet for regular checkups and mention any symptoms you notice. Cancer symptoms can mimic those of other illnesses, so avoid making assumptions.
Types of Cancer in Kittens
Tumors -- especially lymphosarcoma and fibrosarcoma -- are the most common forms of cancer in kittens and young cats. In rare cases, veterinarians and researchers have discovered tumors in kittens as young as 6 or 8 weeks, but tumors are far more common in older cats. Lymphoma is commonly seen in kittens, more likely in kittens diagnosed with feline leukemia virus, which is not a cancer. Other forms of cancer sometimes seen in kittens include basal cell and mast cell tumors, osteosarcoma and fibroadenoma.
Though cancer is rare among our youngest feline friends, it is usually more aggressive when it occurs at a young age since a kitten's immune system is weak already and virulent forms of cancer further weaken it, increasing the potential for secondary and tertiary illnesses. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which is responsible, since a weakened immune system might promote risk of cancer and vice versa.
The tests and procedures used to diagnose cancer in kittens closely resemble the tests used in a human hospital. Blood panels, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds help a veterinarian screen for symptoms of cancer. If your veterinarian detects a tumor or growth, he might conduct an aspiration or biopsy to evaluate malignancy.
Immediate veterinary care greatly increases the chances of a kitten surviving any form of cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are possible avenues of treatment, but your vet's recommendation will depend on the kitten's age and the type of cancer. Less research and documentation exists on cancer in cats than on cancer in dogs, so statistics are not as helpful. Even young kittens can survive cancer.
Spaying or neutering kittens decreases the potential for certain types of cancer, including mammary. Cancer is rarer in cats and kittens than in other pets, but it is also more aggressive on average, so it is important to catch it early. This means regular veterinary checkups are essential to raising a healthy kitty. Make sure to feed your furry friend a healthy diet and to keep him or her out of the sun mostly. If you adopt good habits early on as a cat owner, your pet has a better chance of never developing cancer in the first place.
Laura College is a former riding instructor, horse trainer and veterinary assistant. She has worked as a writer since 2004, producing articles and sales copy for corporations and nonprofits. College has also published articles in numerous publications, including "On the Bit," "Practical Horseman" and "American Quarter Horse Journal."