Home » Pet Health » Pet Nutrition » Balanced Diets and Cancer Prevention in Cats


Most of us know that diet plays a role in human health and disease prevention. Poor diet and overeating are associated with obesity, a significant risk factor for developing several types of cancer, including colorectal, pancreatic, and breast. Studies suggest that diet and obesity may also contribute to the development of pet cancers, though the relationship between diet and cancer in pets requires more scientific research.

There are many types of cancer, but the most common cancers diagnosed in cats are lymphoma, mammary cancer, skin cancer, and leukemia. Many factors contribute to cancer risk, including many that we cannot control including age and genetics. But other factors, such as nutrition and lifestyle, are elements you can monitor as a pet owner. It is important, therefore, to ensure your cat maintains a healthy weight through a nutrient-dense diet.

Unlike humans and pet dogs, cats do not need high levels of carbohydrates, and they thrive from a diet high in protein and fat, especially in the domesticated world. Undomesticated cats eat some plants to help with dental health but do not consume these for nutrition. Observational studies have shown that feral cats consume a diet of 52% protein, 36% fat, and only 12% carbohydrate. The breakdown of diet components can give us an idea of how best to feed domesticated cats healthily.

There are two primary options when it comes to cat food: dry kibble and wet, canned food. The general opinion suggests that canned food is the healthier option for adult cats, as kibble is higher in carbohydrates than is recommended. However, further research must determine the correlation between foods and cat cancer development. For example, while generally regarded in a brighter light, one study found that cats eating canned food had a 3-fold increased risk of developing oral squamous cell carcinoma compared to cats eating dry food. Both options contain pros and cons that your vet can discuss with you.

Regardless, while a balanced diet is essential for your cat’s health, overfeeding and obesity in cats and other pets are now recognized as increasing the risk of cancer.

Fat is part of the body’s endocrine system, which means that it continuously secretes hormones and inflammatory substances that can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a prime cancer risk, so your cat’s system is constantly under stress. Maintaining a healthy weight, therefore, is essential to lowering the risk of cancer in your pet cat. Always speak to your vet about your cat’s eating habits if you are concerned.

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: September 7, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page: 

Bertone, ER, Snyder, LA & Moore, AS 2003, ‘Environmental and lifestyle risk factors for oral squamous cell carcinoma in domestic cats,’ J Vet Intern Med, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 557-562.

Di Cerbo, A, Morales-Medina, JC, Palmieri, B, Pezzuto, F, Cocco, R, Flores, G & Iannitti, T 2017, ‘Functional foods in pet nutrition: focus on dogs and cats’, Res Vet Sci, vol. 112, no. 2017, pp. 161-166.

Plantinga, EA, Bosch, G & Hendriks, WH 2011, ‘Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming feral cats: possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats’, Br J Nutr, vol. 106, no. S1, pp. S35-S48.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.