Home » Pet Health » Cancer 101 » Overview and Prevalence of Cancer in Cats


Cancer in cats is somewhat less common than in dogs, where only about one in five cats gets cancer. Cats tend to mask illnesses, making cancer much more challenging to detect. As a result, when vets diagnose cats with cancer, the disease is likely to be at a much later stage than you would see in dogs. Late diagnosis can make treatment difficult because the nature of the disease tends to be more aggressive.

Although a cancer diagnosis in your cat can be upsetting, early detection can provide your cat a good quality of life. Therefore, taking your cat for regular health checkups at the vet and being aware of your cat’s habits so that you can see subtle changes in their behavior will help with early detection. Being attentive to your cat will ensure that your furry friend stays happy and healthy longer.

Cats are more likely to develop tumors in their digestive organs, eyes, nose, lymph nodes, and bones. However, the most common cancers diagnosed in cats are lymphomas, fibrosarcomas, oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and mammary (breast) tumors. Reports indicate that between 70 and 80% of mouth tumors in cats are SCC, and although there has been some suggestion that this may be due to smoke exposure, canned food, and flea-prevention collars, there is no hard data to support this. The evidence is more apparent for mammary cancer, where your pet’s hormones, gender, and age influence the risk. The breed of your cat may also play a role.

Cancer Prevalence Across Breeds

Humans have selectively mated dogs for hundreds of years, giving rise to various genetically distinct dog breeds. This distinction makes certain breeds more predisposed to specific types of cancers. In contrast, modern cat breeds emerged within the past century, resulting in fewer genetic differences across different breeds. Therefore, compared to dogs, cat breeds show more occasional variations of cancer.

While mixed breed and purebred cats can develop cancer, the incidence of cancer is higher in purebreds. Pure breeds such as Siamese, Sphinx, Persian, and Bengal cats are more susceptible to cancer. For example, Siamese cats are more likely to develop mammary cancer, especially younger ones. The higher incidence of cancer in purebred cats is partially due to inbreeding (the mating of genetically similar or closely related cats). Because cancer is a genetic disease, inbreeding increases the likelihood of combining harmful genetic changes leading to cancer.

If you suspect your breed of cat is at high risk for developing cancer, speak with your vet to determine the probability of them developing that cancer. Learn what types of cancer your cat may be more likely to develop and what treatment options are available if your cat receives a cancer diagnosis.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

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Last Updated: October 9, 2022

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