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Updated May 22, 2020 – Many of us do monthly or yearly cancer bump and lump checks on ourselves as part of our overall wellness efforts to catch any potential problems early – sometimes with lifesaving results. The same kind of check can be a lifesaving routine for our cats, too.

Increased screenings have resulted in a decrease in many cancers in humans, in part because early detection and treatment improves long-term outcomes for many patients. The same is true for our cats.

A monthly check can be as simple as just petting your cat with some light pressure to make it easier for you to detect any bumps or lumps. Make sure to cover every inch of your cat’s body, including legs, paws and under the belly. Pay special attention to the arm pits and the area above and below the base of the tail, common spots for bumps to appear.

While this method cannot detect all cancers (there are nearly 100 different pet cancers), it can help you stay on top of those that grow just under and above the skin. And, while you’re giving your cat a hug, make sure to feel the area under the jaw – right where cats love a good scratch – to feel for any irregularities to the jaw. Take a whiff of the breath while you’re there, too, because bad breath can be a sign of oral cancer.

If you feel or see something out of the ordinary on your cat, schedule a visit with your veterinarian who will examine the bump and, if needed, do a diagnostic test. Most lumps and bumps are benign and easily removed. Cancers you may find on or under your cat’s skin include mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinomas, injection site sarcomas and mammary tumors; all cancer types where early detection can help your cat be a cancer survivor.

Morris Animal Foundation has been funding studies focused on cancers affecting our feline friends for more than 50 years! The Foundation has invested $2.7 million in research on important health concerns such as cancer-causing viruses in cats, new diagnostic tools for injectionsite sarcomas, and new treatments for devastating cancers such as oral squamous cell carcinoma.