Cat squamous cell carcinoma prevention, symptoms, treatment

Cat squamous cell carcinoma: prevention, symptoms, treatment

One of the most common skin cancers unfortunately in cats is cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, or squamous carcinoma. In fact, it represents 15% of skin cancers in cats, and sun exposure is a very important factor to keep in mind, especially in white cats.

So let’s see what are the characteristics of squamous cell carcinoma in the cat, how to prevent it, the symptoms and possible treatments.

Characteristics of squamous cell carcinoma of the cat

This cat skin tumor usually manifests itself by attacking the nose, ears and the cat’s head, but sometimes it can also occur in the body and tail. Chronic exposure to the sun’s rays is a very important predisposing factor, which is why it is widespread among cats that live outside the home or spend most of their time exposed to sunlight.

It initially appears as a dermatitis, with scabs and wounds on the nose or ears, thickening of the skin and then actual ulcers.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the cat's nose
Squamous cell carcinoma of the cat’s nose

Adult and older cats, mostly cats over 12 years of age, are more affected, and white cats are particularly at risk, especially when exposed to the sun. If you see a white cat with no ears, it is likely that it has had to deal with squamous cell carcinoma.

Fortunately it is a carcinoma that does not have much incidence of metastases, so once removed, the danger of life is low.

Causes of cat squamous cell carcinoma

The causes of squamous cell carcinoma in cats are, as we have seen, prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays, which cause the mutation of the p53 gene that regulates cell proliferation.

The cat’s light coat makes it more susceptible to the action of the sun’s rays, as well as the thin coat and the lack of pigmentation in some areas of the body. White cats have a 13% higher risk of developing scaly skin cancer.

Another factor that predisposes to the development of cat squamous carcinoma is Papillomavirus infection, which also alters cell proliferation. A particular form of squamous cell carcinoma, called Bowen’s disease, or in-situ multicenter squamous cell carcinoma (BISC, Bowenoid in Situ Carcinoma) is mostly caused by the papilloma virus, because the tumor was seen to develop indifferently in cats of any color.

Squamous cell carcinoma cat lesions
Squamous cell carcinoma cat lesions

Therefore, summarizing, the causes and predisposing factors of squamous carcinoma in cats are:

  • prolonged exposure to the sun
  • white coat of the cat
  • advanced age of the cat
  • papilloma virus infection

Cat squamous cell carcinoma: symptoms

Squamous cell carcinoma occurs initially with masses of papillary appearance, wounds, and irregularly shaped ulcers, which tend to bleed. They can easily be mistaken for wounds and are often covered with reddish or blackish crusts.

Initially these wounds can be observed in the cat’s nose, which is the area most affected along with the auricles and eyelids. It can often be mistaken for wounds caused by scratches.

The progression of the lesions is generally slow, the wounds then become thicker, darken and the skin becomes thicker, increasing the scabs. In dogs, squamous cell carcinoma can also appear on the lips and fingers, less often in cats.

Initial wounds may also appear only as scabs on the cat’s ears, without affecting the nose, or vice versa. A tumor may appear on the cat’s nose without attacking the ears, or appearing in both areas.

Squamous cell carcinoma in the cat's ear
Squamous cell carcinoma in the cat’s ear

So, to sum up, the symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in the cat are:

  • wounds and scabs in the cat’s ears or nose
  • wound bleeding
  • increase in areas prone to scabs and ulcers
  • thickening of the skin of the nose or ears
  • the wounds become darker


The important thing to heal from squamous cell carcinoma in cats is the timely diagnosis, which is done by cytological examination of the skin cells involved and then with histological examination, which will tell us which stage the tumor is, to understand how to proceed.

Bringing the cat to the vet when wounds on the ears or nose are discovered is very important, especially if we observe that the wounds do not heal and bleed often, and we may have an adult white cat that likes to be in the sun for several hours.

Since this form of cat skin cancer is very low in metastasis, the therapy is usually surgical and consists in removing the areas affected by the carcinoma. We proceed with a resection of the affected tissue, which can be the area of ​​the cat’s fins or eyelids or part of the nasal septum.

Generally the cat does not report negative consequences from the removal of the auricles or part of the nose, and its life then proceeds normally.

In some cases the effectiveness of the application of imiquimod in 5% cream applied locally on the lesions was seen, until the disappearance of the same, but the danger of relapse and the appearance of new lesions of skin cancer in the cat is high.

Even cryosurgery, instead of traditional surgery, was effective on small lesions, and is less invasive, but a greater percentage of recurrences has been observed.

Radiotherapy, photodynamic therapy and chemotherapy are also used, it will be the veterinarian who assesses which is the most suitable approach based on the progression of the tumor in the cat.

Survival in the case of cat squamous carcinoma is high, the consequences limited, and the cat will be able to resume a normal life after therapy. The treatment is more effective the smaller the lesion treated, so the timeliness of intervention is the most important thing.

We do not recommend natural treatments for squamous cell carcinoma in cats, we often talk about treating cat nose cancer with baking soda, but we advise you to follow the instructions of the veterinarian and to subject the cat to effective treatments.

Prevent cat squamous cell carcinoma

The most effective thing to avoid cat skin cancer is prevention.

It is essential, if you have a white or light cat, especially if it is short and adult, protect it from the sun’s rays, limiting the hours of exposure or protecting it with umbrellas or trees in the resting areas.

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If you see wounds on your ears, nose or eyelids in your cat, especially those that don’t heal in a few days, take it to the vet immediately, or at least send him photos of the injuries immediately, and he will advise you in the best way.

So pay attention especially to the white cats, which are delicate from this point of view, to the crusts in the cat’s ear, in general always observe it well and you will notice first if there are any problems.

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