Reducing the Risk of Cancer in Cats: 7 Ways to Prevent Cancer in Your Feline Friend


Jennifer Wilber is a life-long animal lover. She currently has two black cats and has had many dogs and small pets throughout her life.

Even Cats Can Develop Cancer

Cats are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans, including many types of cancer. Though cancer isn’t as common in cats as it is in humans and dogs, cancer in cats tends to be more aggressive and deadly. Because of this, it is important for cat owners to be aware of things they can do to help prevent their cats from developing cancer in the first place. Though cancer risks cannot be completely eliminated, the risks can be mitigated by taking a proactive approach in protecting your feline friend’s health.

1. Spay or Neuter Your Cat

Spaying or neutering your pet cat is one of the most important things you can do for their health. Not only does spaying and neutering reduce cat overpopulation, but these procedures also reduce the risk that your feline friend will develop certain types of cancers.

For female cats, spaying before the first heat cycle and prior to 6 months of age greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer (breast cancer), and virtually eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. Though many pet owners still believe the myth that female cats receive health benefits from being allowed to have at least one litter of kittens before being spayed, this simply is not true. Not only does allowing your cat to have a litter of kittens add to the population of unwanted kittens, but you are also exposing your cat to unnecessary health risks. Allowing your cat to have kittens before being spayed increases the risk of her developing these cancers as well as experiencing complications related to the pregnancy.

Male cats also see a reduction in the likelihood of developing certain cancers after being neutered. By having your male cat neutered, you eliminate the risk of him developing testicular cancer later in his life. Neutering male cats may also reduce their risk of prostate cancer.

2. Feed Your Cat a High-Quality Diet

As with humans, diet plays a major role in the overall health of cats. A poor diet has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in cats. It is important to make sure your cat eats a healthy diet consisting of high-quality cat food. A healthy diet for cats consists of food that provides the proper nutrition and is free of dangerous carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) such as preservatives, artificial colors, and unnecessary filler ingredients. Look for foods that don’t contain byproducts, grain, or other low-quality fillers. There is evidence that certain fatty acids in the diet, such as EPA and DHA, could be helpful in preventing cancer, as well as in helping to treat cats who already have cancer. A proper diet will help to maintain your cat’s overall health and will strengthen their immune system.

3. Keep Your Cat Physically Fit and Active

In addition to feeding your cat a high-quality diet, keeping your cat physically fit and active has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer in cats. Cats that are not physically active are more prone to developing certain types of cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes. Obesity may increase the risk of certain cancers in cats, so it is important to make sure your cat is active and stays physically fit in addition to being fed a proper diet. Excess fat may secrete hormones and other substances that may have undesirable effects on your cat’s body, including increasing inflammatory responses, which may increase your cat’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.

4. Don’t Smoke Around Your Cat

Secondhand smoke puts cats at an increased risk for developing lung cancer, just like humans. In addition to cancer, secondhand cigarette smoke may contribute to other lung diseases in cats as well. Cigarette smoke is a major environmental carcinogen that can cause cancer in humans, cats, and other pets including dogs. If you have pets (or other family members) it is very important to avoid smoking in your home. Ideally, you should avoid smoking altogether to reduce the risk of cancer in yourself, as well as in your human family members and pets.

5. Avoid Other Carcinogens in Your Cat's Environment

In addition to protecting your feline friend from secondhand smoke, it is also important to avoid introducing other carcinogens into your cat’s environment. Many common household and lawn products are known carcinogens.

Many common cleaning products contain carcinogenic chemicals. When in doubt, switch to organic, all-natural, pet-safe cleaning products for use in your home. This will also keep you and your human family safer from cancer risks as well.

While it is always best to keep your cats as indoor cats, sometimes you may wish to let them go outside in a catio or on a leash if they will allow it. While outside, your cat may be exposed to lawn chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides. Avoid using these products on your own lawn and limit your cat’s access to outdoor areas where you are unsure of the products used. Stick to organic, non-toxic products for your own lawn and garden.

6. Test and Vaccinate for FeLV and FIV

Viruses such as the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are major causes of cancer in cats. It is important to have your cat tested for these viruses. Testing for these viruses can be done at your regular veterinarian’s office, or at some mobile vet clinics that take place at certain pet stores on certain days of the week or month.

FeLV may cause leukemia and lymphoma in cats, but there is a vaccine available to protect your cat from becoming infected. This is one of the most common vaccines offered to kittens and newly-acquired cats after testing negative for the virus.

FIV may also increase the risk of your cat developing these cancers. There may be a vaccine available to protect your cat against this virus, though it might not be as effective as the FeLV vaccine.

Both of these viruses are transmitted through deep bite wounds and saliva. They may also be transmitted through close contact with infected cats. In very rare circumstances, they may also be transmitted by cats sharing a food bowl or litterbox. It is important that any new cat you introduce to your resident cats is tested for these viruses prior to introduction.

7. Don’t Forget Your Cat’s Yearly Vet Checkup

While early detection of cancer won’t prevent it, cancer is often easier to treat if detected early. It is important to keep up with your cat’s year checkups at the vet. Your cat’s veterinarian will be able to detect early signs of cancer, and it can be treated before it spreads and becomes more life-threatening.

Reducing Your Cat’s Cancer Risk

Though there is no way to completely prevent all types of cancer, you can greatly reduce your cat’s chances of developing many types of cancer by spaying or neutering your pet at a young age, keeping your cat physically fit, feeding a proper diet, avoiding environmental carcinogens (including cigarette smoke), and taking steps to avoid exposure to certain potentially deadly viruses. Regular vet checkups can also go a long way in maintaining your cat’s health for years to come. By understanding cancer risks in cats, you can help your furry friend to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

Research Sources

  • 4 Cancer Prevention Tips For Cats
  • Tips for Preventing Cancer in Cats
    Cats are susceptible to many of the same diseases that can affect humans. Cancer is no exception. While cats do not get cancer as often as dogs and people, it tends to be more aggressive when it does occur.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber


A Path With Paws

My friend Pam of FCAT keeps on sending people to my site to get information about urinary issues in cats. Last night we were talking and I said, “I really need to write an article on that.” “Yes you do, “ she answered. So here it is.

So here is the short list of what to do to help prevent crystals in your cat and a little about treating FLUTD. This is a lot more information beyond this list and I hope you read it also.

    Feed your cat like the carnivore they are. Usually this is all you need to do for prevention if your cat doesn’t have FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease or crystals. This would mean feeding a high protein canned, cooked or raw diet that is high in moisture and high in meat. I’m talking 80% meat or more, no grains, no dry, at least 70% moisture and very little fish. I prefer a raw diet if you can do it.

Here are some diets that work very well. I originally had a second best list of canned but you know something, with the internet you can order the canned foods even if you live in the middle of nowhere so you don’t get a second best list, these poor kitties with urinary issues need the best!To make it easy, I have links to buy all the canned food recommended below on Amazon.com. If you live in a large enough town or city you can also buy these at your local natural pet store.

    Make your own -Here is the raw food I make for my kitties. They eat this 95% of the time with a little Instinct and Weruva if I get behind in making it. See Making Crazy Awesome Cat Food – part two

. With using free range meat from the local food co-op, I spend about $50 a month per cat to make this. If I used cheaper meat it would be about half that cost and still much better than anything you can buy. Your local raw food made specifically for cats. In Seattle we have two great companies Darwins and Natural Pet Pantry. Both of these companies are excellent. Look for one in your area. I also love Rad cat but it is expensive if you are feeding a herd like I do. More and more companies are making raws that you can buy at your local pet store – ask around.

If you can’t find a raw, canned is second best.

  • Instinct canned food for cats. Any meat flavor is good. This food is 95% meat with good ingredients. Click here to buy Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Formula Canned Cat Food by Nature’s Variety
  • Weruva is a great food also, up there with Instinct. There is a little potato in this one and you have to use only the grain free varieties which is about half their line. I do not recommend using the fish flavors. Click here to buy Weruva Cat Food Paw Lickin’ Chicken on Amazon.com.
  • Tiki cat chicken and egg Koolina. Only this flavor, the others have too much fish! Click here to buy Tiki Cat Koolina Luau – Chicken with Egg In Chicken Consomme
  • Reduce stress in the house, as stress can alter urine pH – Here are some products that can help.

    • Comfort Zone with Feliway Spray for Cats
    • Bach Pet Rescue Remedy – I like putting 3-4 drops in the water dish every time it is changed.
    • Animal Apawthecary Tranquility Tonic – this one is a strong herbal and I do not recommend it long term without the direction of a vet. The valerian is very bitter and can be a little unpleasant to take. For urinary issues I like mixing it with Animals’ Apawthecary Tinkle Tonic which helps to soothe the bladder. The combination can be very helpful for many cats with FLUTD.
  • Glucosamine can help if there is a FLUTD component to the crystal issues. Glucosamine helps to repair the bladder wall and decrease inflammation in the bladder. I like using the Zuke’s Hip Action Treats for cats if they will eat them. A 10lb cat needs two treats or 100mg of glucosamine a day.
  • If your cat has active FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) or crystals, make sure you have a vet to work with on this issue. You need to do constant monitoring of their urine. You may need to use western medicine to quickly change the pH of your cat’s urine and deal with active inflammation, infection, or crystals. Make sure there is not an urinary tract infection or stones.
  • We didn’t used to have large issues with crystals in cats because guess what, if your cat eats a diet that cats were meant to eat, meaning mostly meat, they almost never have crystal issues. But as the foods have gotten more filled with grains and fillers over the years and as more cats are put on dry food these issues have come up more and more.

    Crystals are painful and in male cats can cause a complete blockage of the urethra. If blockage occurs and your cat cannot pee this is an emergency and you must immediately get them to the vet or the urine can back up into their kidneys and cause kidney failure and death. Bad stuff!

    Crystals can be part of a disease process in cats we call FLUTD or feline lower urinary tract disease. More about that later.

    Let me just stop and say here. You need to have a vet to work with on this issue especially if you have a male cat. It is really important. You need someone to monitor what is going on with their urine.

    So what is this crystal thing all about?

    When I was in vet school we saw a lot of struvite crystals. These crystals form in the urine of cats that have high PHs, aka alkaline urine. Carnivores have acidic urine – if you eat a diet mostly of meat you do. Herbivores have alkaline urine, a natural product of eating plants. Cats should naturally have a pH of between 6-6.5. Struvite crystals often form when urine pH is 7 and higher.

    So why does this happen? Awhile back we started feeding our cats foods with more plants – aka grain and potato and less meat and the pH of their urine rose.

    In addition crystals form easier in concentrated urine. Cats aren’t great about drinking a lot of water. When you feed a cat a diet of dry food they still don’t drink a lot and they are in a steady state of mild dehydration all the time. That leads to concentrated urine and makes it easier for crystals to form.

    So we made two mistakes, we took away the moisture cats need from their food and we started feeding them like they were omnivores. It made it cheaper and more convenient for us but it didn’t work so well for our cats.

    Once the food companies figured this out, many of them started adding urine acidifiers to their foods. After all it’s cheaper to add a chemical then to make a food that is good for cats with high meat content. The problem with this is that many cats now ended up with urine that was too acidic which we didn’t know would be an issue until we started seeing oxalate crystals forming in their urine, which we have seen learned tend to form when the urine pH is low aka too acidic, below 6. So in trying to solve the problem we overdid it.

    Companies that make prescription diets have worked with this by adding the perfect amount of acidifiers to an omnivore diet to try to imitate the pH that would naturally happen if we just feed our cats a diet for a carnivore. Most prescription foods are made with poor protein sources and lots of fillers and chemicals. Most cats I see on prescription diets end up with health problems as they age.

    It all seems like a lot of trouble when you consider that if you just feed your cat like a
    carnivore who doesn’t drink a lot of water, you almost never see crystal issues.

    So how do we feed our cats like the carnivores their bodies say they are and avoid crystal issues?

    The best way is by feeding a raw, home cooked or canned diet which is grain free and very high in meat and moisture. If possible, it should also be potato free as potato is a starch and processed in the body similarly to grains and is also in the nightshade family so can cause inflammation in the body. I also recommend not feeding much fish and avoiding fish completely if your cat has had issues with crystals. The high magnesium content of fish can contribute to the issue of crystals.

    So that is all easy and good but there are also some other factors that come into play.

    Let’s talk a little about FLUTD. Feline lower urinary tract disease is a complex of symptoms that make a cat painful in their bladder and often leads to inappropriate urination and sometimes blockage in the males. Many times these cats have painful bladders, bloody urine, straining, and crystal formulation. Most of the time there is not an urinary tract infection but sometimes there can be infection tied into all the other issues.

    We still don’t completely understand this syndrome. Over the years it has had many names and many treatments. Every western conference I go to I make sure to attend the lecture on FLUTD and guess what it ends up that none of the treatments really work all that well and we still don’t know exactly what causes it. For those of you that know anything about interstitual cystitis in humans, it is a very similar disease, it may actually be the same disease. IC in humans is also very poorly understood and hard to treat.

    Stress can change the pH of urine. We know when it comes to FLUTD that stress plays a large role. Make sure that your cat has as low stress as possible. Sometimes a little rescue remedy in the water can really help. Feliway pheromone spray also can be helpful, as the pheromones in it help a cat to feel at ease. If your cat has FLUTD or crystal issues and is very stressed, talk to your regular or holistic vet about anti-anxiety meds or herbs. Consider having a behaviorist come to your home and work with you to make your cat more comfortable. Animal Apawthecary makes a nice tincture called Tranquility Tonic which helps with stress, however I do not recommend this being used long term without the advise of a veterinarian and I almost always mix this one with their Tinkle Tonic which reduces bladder inflammation.

    Urinary tract infections can also cause crystals. Make sure your vet runs a culture of your cat’s urine to rule out the possibility of a urinary tract infection. Just trying a trial of antibiotics does not rule in or out an urinary tract infection. Many antibiotics are also anti-inflammatory and even if there is not an urinary tract infection you will often see a temporary resolution of signs. If there is an urinary tract infection I always recommend antibiotics. It is the safest and easiest way to treat the problem. Unlike in humans who often times know right away that they have an urinary tract infection, cats often have had it for awhile before we diagnosis it. Because of this I do not recommend using herbs alone to treat UTIs in animals.

    Occasionally cats can have stones. These can sometimes be dissolved out with special diets, medications or herbs. Occasionally these need to be surgically removed. X-rays will diagnosis most stones but sometimes an ultrasound is necessary. If symptoms persist consider doing the diagnostics to rule out this issue.

    When it comes down to it, this issue is from us feeding our cats a diet they were never meant to eat. The best thing you can do for your cat friend is to put them on a healthy cat appropriate diet. When it comes to FLUTD and its other factors find a good vet team to work with. To find a holistic vet in your area see How to Find a Good Holistic Vet.

    So the next time you send someone to Path With Paws, there is urinary information here!

    As with all information on this website check with your cats’s veterinarian before making any changes to their treatment protocol.

    This entry was posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012 at 10:48 am and is filed under health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


    Participants

    The participants seem to fall into several broad categories: 1) Proponents of pseudoscience and critics of science-based approaches in human health 2) Proponents of pseudoscience and critics of science-based approaches in the veterinary field 3) Mainstream veterinarians or researchers in legitimate scientific fields with an interest in or sympathy for “integrative medicine” or for unconventional nutritional approaches, such as ketogenic diets.

    Individuals in the first two categories are clearly the architects of this bit of propaganda. Several of these are not only evangelists for alternative medicine and lifestyles but purveyors of quite astonishing and bizarre conspiracy theories.

    Those in the third category mostly seem like pretty reasonable people, so their reasons for participating in this project are less clear. Some have been so blinded by their enthusiasm for a particular idea, such as ketogenic diets, that they are willing to overlook the use of their statements to promote pseudoscience and attack science and science-based medicine. Others may have been misled as to the nature of the project and how their participation will be used. Many say perfectly reasonable and science-based things in their interviews, though these comments are often interwoven with more extreme or unscientific comments to build a narrative that might not accurately reflect these views.

    I have spoken to one person in this group who was actually quite angry about how their words were used and their implied support for claims they do not actually believe in. Others I have communicated with indicate that they stand by their own comments but take no position for or against the claims made by others. It is undoubtedly true that not every individual who participated agrees with every claim made by all of the other participants. It may well be that some of the more science-minded participants are not even aware of how bizarre and anti-science the views of some of the organizers and other participants are.

    Regardless of how the more reasonable folks interviewed came to be associated with this project, however, their reputations are now tied to it to some degree, and it is their responsibility to disavow any aspects of the project they feel are inaccurate or untruthful or that misrepresent their views in some significant way. Failing to do this gives tacit approval and support to the project, and to the many falsehoods, errors, and attacks on science-based medicine it contains.


    Pet guardians fear this diagnosis above all others, not only because the conventional treatments are so perilous, but also because, despite treatment, it is most often fatal. More than 50% of dogs over the age of 10 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and the incidence of cancer in cats and younger animals is growing. As responsible guardians, we need to understand the risk factors that contribute to the development of cancer, do all we can to prevent it, and take effective action when a diagnosis of cancer is made.

    Cancer in cats and dogs develops due to a variety of factors, many of which we cannot control. These include age, genetics, environmental pollution, and electromagnetic radiation. Other factors include poor nutrition, unhealthy lifestyle, conventional medical treatments (such as vaccination) that can disrupt the immune system, toxic chemicals used in the home, and stress. The stress factor is compounded in many purebred pets by inbreeding, which increases or creates genetic predispositions to poor immune function and disease.

    Conventional cancer treatments like radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy may destroy the cancer yet create other problems at the same time. And even the most cutting-edge therapies may only prolong a pet’s life without truly curing the cancer. Quality of life issues also impact the choice of treatments once cancer has invaded.

    Recent research suggests that cancer is primarily a chronic inflammatory disease. And indeed, many of the factors involved in the development of cancer in cats and dogs do cause chronic, low-grade inflammation. Such inflammation not only kills cells directly, but also deposits toxic inflammatory by-products and other “sludge” in the extracellular matrix that surrounds the cells. This toxic build-up reduces the flow of oxygen, nutrients, and wastes between cells and blood, and creates a fertile environment for abnormal cells that can thrive in such damaged environments. Preventing and resolving inflammation and clearing the matrix are primary goals of any program to prevent or treat cancer.


    While careful handling can prevent many pet-borne infections, reptiles and amphibians appear to be the exception. Some oncologists, in fact, recommend that pets such as iguanas, snakes, lizards, frogs, and salamanders be completely avoided during chemotherapy. Reptiles and amphibians are known to harbor bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, all of which can easily be transmitted by touch.  

    For their part, aquarium fish can sometimes carry Mycobacterium marinum, a bacterial disease commonly identified by nodules on the fish's skin. Contact with either the fish or the inside of the aquarium can pass the infection to those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include the formation of skin lesions called granulomas. In rare cases, the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to infect other organs.  


    Watch the video: Prognosis and Life Expectancy for Feline Lymphoma: Vlog 99


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