Identify and Treat Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Cat Health

Learn What to Do if Your Cat Gets this Type of Cat Cancer

Feline squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cat cancer that affects the skin of cats, most commonly in and around the facial tissue. The disease is contracted most often in outdoor cats with light-colored coats and skin, and appears to be related to sun exposure. Older cats are also more likely to contract feline squamous cell carcinoma, generally after eleven years of age.  

Tumors can appear anywhere on the body, including the tongue, tonsils, nasal passages, ears and esophagus. Treatments and success rates vary depending on the location of the tumor and how much the disease has spread before it is diagnosed and treated. If lesions or tumors can be surgically removed or reached easily with radiation, the chance of successful treatment is much greater than with those that are internal.

This type of cancer is not curable, but the symptoms can be treated to extend his life and significantly improve the quality of it. This cat health information should help you learn how to identify and treat this disease.   

Symptoms of Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Symptoms vary depending on the location of the tumors, and can include:

  1. squamous cell carcinoma in catsPatches of hair missing anywhere on the body, but most likely the chest, abdomen and face.
  2. Lesions or sores that are slow to heal.
  3. Rough patches of skin that may become oozing ulcers.
  4. Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  5. Lethargy and loss of interest in playing, jumping, cuddling or other activities that the cat once enjoyed.
  6. Chronic nasal discharge.
  7. Vomiting or diarrhea.
  8. Abnormal swelling.
  9. Bleeding from the ears, nose, or mouth.


If one or more of these symptoms appear and your cat fits the profile of likely candidates for feline squamous cell carcinoma, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. She will be able to do a cat illness diagnosis.

The initial visit will include a routine examination and blood test. If the doctor suspects cancer, a biopsy will be recommended at the site of the tumor. At this time, the pet owner must determine whether or not to pursue the biopsy, based on various considerations such as finances and personal beliefs. The biopsy will confirm or deny the presence of cancer and, if present, identify the type of cat cancer.


Feline squamous cell carcinoma is incurable, but there are a few treatment methods that will improve the cat's quality of life until such time as the cancer becomes too invasive. The disease can spread quickly to other areas, including the lungs, esophagus, and other organs. Here are some cat health care options if your pet has this illness.

  1. Surgery to remove the tumor is the first course of treatment, if possible. Potential risk and complications of surgery vary depending upon the location and progression of the cancer. For example, removing a tumor from a cat's tongue is rarely effective and is often not worth the risk, while a cat can live happily after the removal of cancerous ear flaps.
  2. Chemotherapy or radiation treatments can sometimes be effective in managing the spread of the cancer, but again, the location is a factor. For example, your doctor may advocate radiation treatment for cancer in the upper esophagus, while radiation treatment for cancer lower in the esophagus could potentially kill the cat.
  3. Pain medication can be administered in pill, cream, or patch form. There are pros and cons to each method. Pills can be difficult for a cat to swallow if she has a tumor in or near her mouth. Creams can be groomed away when you're not looking, and the trans-dermal patches can be rather expensive over a period of time.
  4. Over the course of the treatment, your cat may lose interest in food. If this happens, you should first try a different brand. Mix a small amount of the new food in with the old at first, and gradually increase the amount of new food over the course of several days until your cat's diet consists entirely of the new food. Be aware of calories and nutrition at this time; extra calories can be a good thing when your cat's diet is limited. If you feel that your cat's interest in food does not return after switching brands, consult your veterinarian for further options.

Once a diagnosis has been made and treatment begun, the success rate will depend heavily on the location and extent of the cancer, as well as the age and overall health of the cat. You may also want to check out prevention methods for feline cancer, including skin cancer.


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