Monday, 4 February 2019

Top tips for protecting your cat from cancer

Sadly, humans are not the only ones at risk from getting cancer as cats and dogs can suffer from this terrible disease too.

Although cancer is not very common in cats, it can be particularly aggressive and so prevention and early treatment are important for improving their chance of recovery.

If you notice any change in your cat’s health or behaviour, or if you find any lumps in their skin while stroking or grooming them, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

tabby cat sleeping on back of sofa
Moggies could be less likely to develop cancer than purebred cats

There are a multitude of different cancers that cats can get and as yet we do not fully understand all the reasons these cancers develop. However, it is likely that in most instances a variety of factors are at play.

In other species we know that genetics play an important role in the likelihood of cancers developing, and there is no reason that this wouldn’t be the case in cats also. Potentially this could mean that our moggies, which have a more varied genetic background compared to a purebred cat, could have less chance of developing certain cancers (this is certainly the case in dogs), but as yet the research into this is limited.

There are many different chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer in all animals and these are called carcinogens. Carcinogens act by stimulating cells to become abnormal in some way, for example they may trigger cells to replicate out of control. Research is still ongoing into looking at different chemicals and the role they play as carcinogens.

Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your cat’s risk of getting cancer…

Limit sun exposure 

black and white cat lying in the shade outdoors
Make sure your cat has access to shady spots for snoozing
Your cat may enjoy lounging in the sunshine during hot weather, but just as UV rays can be dangerous for humans, they can also put your moggy at risk of developing skin cancer.

Cats with white or pale ears and noses are particularly susceptible as their skin doesn’t have a pigment called melanin, which provides protection against UV.

To keep your cat safe, keep them indoors during the hottest part of the day and speak to your vet about a suitable sunscreen.

white cat with head tilted upside down
White cats are more at risk of skin cancer
Make sure they’re vaccinated 

The viral infection Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) can attack cells within your cat’s bone marrow, leading to the development of leukaemia (a cancer of the circulating white blood cells) and a cancer called lymphoma (a solid mass of cancerous white blood cells).

The good news is that the chance of your cat picking up this virus can be dramatically reduced by getting them vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia Virus. Speak to your vet about making sure your cat is protected.

Get them neutered 

As well as preventing your cat from producing any unwanted kittens, neutering also has lots of health benefits, including reducing the risk of them developing certain types of cancer.

For female cats neutering will significantly decrease their chances of developing breast tumours, and for male cats it reduces the likelihood of them picking up viruses such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) which can increase the risk of cancer by weakening their body’s immune response to cancer cells.

It’s best to get your cat neutered from four months of age and Cats Protection could even help towards the cost. Find out more at www.cats.org.uk/neutering

Keep them healthy 

tabby and white cat with toy
Make sure you cat has plenty toys to play with, either shop bought or homemade!
Ensuring your cat receives all the nutrients they need and does not become overweight will help to set them up for a long, healthy life.

Make sure you give your cat a high quality complete cat food that’s suitable for their age and avoid overfeeding them with treats and leftovers from your plate.

It is also important to establish a routine so that they get plenty of exercise. If your cat isn’t naturally active it can help to set aside time to have regular play sessions with them each day. You could also try using puzzle feeders to keep them moving. This will help your cat burn off some calories and therefore reduce their risk of obesity and cancer.

Many owners want to do everything they can to reduce the chance of their cat developing cancer. While we can never predict or prevent this entirely, following the steps above will certainly help to safeguard your cats’ health in the long term.

For more advice on keeping your cat happy and healthy, visit the Cats Protection website

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