Papillomavirus in Cats

The papillomavirus causes wart-like benign tumors on the skin.
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Raised wart-like tumors can plague the skin of felines infected with the papillomavirus. While benign in nature, papillomatosis occasionally can progress to invasive skin cancer. Papillomavirus can affect cats of any age. In most cases, your little Milo's lesions can be treated safely by your veterinarian.


Milo's immune system can become suppressed during the use of certain medications, or from surgery or disease. When your cat's immune system is compromised, he is more susceptible to acquiring the viral infection. Papillomatosis is contagious, and elderly felines with weak immune systems are at a greater risk. The papillomavirus causes infectious tumors to develop on the skin's surface. Transmission of the virus can occur between animals if they are of the same species and come in direct contact with one another. Your cat's papillomatosis cannot be transmitted to his human family.

Signs and Symptoms

If little Milo is no longer the frisky feline that you once knew, there may be a medical cause behind his odd behavior. The papillomavirus often causes increased or decreased appetite, bad breath, bleeding from the mouth, or excessive production of saliva. One of the most obvious signs that something is amiss is the development of tumors on Milo's mouth or tongue, or around his lips. These growths often are wart-like, black in color, and raised. Inverted tumors often are present with an open pore in the center. Milo may have one, or a collection of these tumors on his limbs, neck or head.


If you discover a growth on little Milo, a trip to the veterinarian is a must. Your vet may take a biopsy of the tumor and check for changes in the cellular structure of the skin. In many cases, your vet will send a sample of the tissue to a specialized diagnostic laboratory where it will be examined closely by a veterinary pathologist. Commonly, pathology testing will be required before a diagnosis can be made. X-rays can be taken to differentiate papillomatosis tumors from malignant tumors, such as squamous cell carcinomas.

Treatment Options

If Milo is suffering from oral tumors, the good news is that these growths typically disappear on their own. If they maintain a permanent residence in your cat's mouth, surgery may be needed to remove the tumors. While your cat may have trouble eating for several weeks post-surgery, Milo will be wart-free. Some types of medication can be used to remove the tumors, but there is a chance that the growths will return. If Milo's papilloma virus is persistent, your vet may recommend vaccinating your feline against the infection.

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.

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