Stroking and petting your cat is arguably one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s a special bonding moment as you run your hands over their luxurious fur as you’re serenaded by deeply happy little purrs.
But wait, what’s that? Is that a …?
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
POV: you find a lump on your cat
Before you spin off into a flat panic, you need to know that many things could cause a skin lump on your cat. While some lumps may be completely harmless, all lumps need to be seen by a vet to make sure. It could be a small infection, a parasite, or something more serious. But there’s no way to know for sure without consulting a vet.
Some skin lumps on cats can pop up overnight. Some can grow rapidly. It’s even possible that the bump on your cat is causing them no pain at all.
Types of bumps on cats
Skin lumps on cats can be mild and easily treatable to more severe, like cancer. Getting your cat to a vet as soon as you spot any skin lumps is always best. In the case of malignant lumps and bumps, the sooner you begin treatment, the better.
Benign skin lumps on cats
These types of skin lumps on cats are common and can be caused by any of the following:
- Bumps and scratches: common bumps and scrapes can lead to skin lumps. These bumps usually go away in about a week.
- Insect bites or parasites: bites from ticks, fleas, spiders, and even ants can cause red bumps to appear on your cat. These lumps are usually irritated and itchy, so you’ll notice your cat scratching. Typically, these lumps go away within days.
- Allergies: some foods and bites can cause an allergic reaction in your cat. The skin lumps on your cat are usually red flattened patches – more welts than bumps. Itching is common.
- Abscesses: an abscess is a self-contained infection usually resulting from a surface wound. Commonly, animal bites and scratches will cause these. A puncture wound sustained during a fight with another neighborhood cat or dog is often to blame. Treatment for these bumps on your cat usually includes draining the abscess and a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection.
- Cysts: are usually not painful at all but can become infected or inflamed if left untreated. The best way to treat a cyst is to surgically remove it, as simply draining it is unlikely to permanently solve the problem. Often, cysts can return and refill many times.
- Granulomas: as the name suggests, granulomas have a gritty, grainy consistency. They present as small, raised bumps with a clearly defined edge. A condition called eosinophilic granuloma complex (EGC) makes cats prone to developing these kinds of skin lumps.
- Lipomas: these are harmless fatty growths that occur under the skin. They’re often found along the abdomen, flanks, and neck areas. Lipomas grow slowly but don’t cause any pain or irritation.
- Warts: Like in humans, warts are bumpy growths that grow on the cat’s skin. They’re quite rare in cats, often resulting in cats with a very weak immune system – usually in very young cats or older cats. Warts are caused by papillomavirus and must be removed surgically.
- Acne: cats can also develop acne. Typically, pimples and acne in cats appear around the lips, chin, and face and result from oil clogging the pores. Feline acne is usually genetic but can also be due to allergies. Many shampoos and topical ointments can help treat the affected areas.
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Malignant skin lumps on cats
According to research, cancer is common in domestic cats, though somewhat less common than in dogs. Malignant tumors in cats are never good news, but the earlier they’re caught, the better. Of all the types of malignant tumors in cats, four main types are responsible for most cases. These are:
- Basal cell tumors are the most common type of skin tumor in cats, occurring mostly in middle-aged and older cats. These small, firm lumps are typically found around the head and neck and can be removed through surgery. Only 10% of basal cell tumors tend to spread. Breeds most at risk of basal cell tumors include Persian, Siamese, Sphynx, and Himalayan.
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas: these tumors are common in older cats, usually breeds with thinner or no hair, and cats with low pigmentation. These tumors generally spring up around the head, ears, nose, and mouth. Squamous cell carcinomas spread along the skin’s surface and can do this quite quickly. This is one type of tumor that you want to catch and treat early. Treatment usually includes surgical removal, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.
- Mast cell tumors are also common around the head and neck region; these tumors can spread to other areas of the body, like the liver and bone marrow. Catching the tumor early is crucial when it can easily be removed from the skin. Once it has spread, treatment becomes trickier, often involving surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Fibrosarcomas: these tumors are very aggressive, affecting the limbs and between the shoulder blades. Because of this, amputations are a common form of treatment, as well as radiation and/or chemotherapy.
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What should you do?
While there is always the chance that skin lumps on your cat are nothing serious and will resolve on their own, it’s best not to take that chance. Seeking treatment from your vet as soon as you notice a skin lump is highly recommended.
Treatment of skin lumps in cats
Because there is such a wide range of skin lumps in cats and causes of these, treatments can vary. Some may require simple topical therapies like ointments and even things like antibiotics and steroids, while others may require surgery to remove a mass. In the case of malignant tumors, additional treatment, like chemotherapy and radiation, may be required.
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A large lump appeared on the cat overnight – what must I do?
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It can be alarming when a skin lump on your cat appears from one day to the next. The best thing to do is get to a vet as soon as possible, especially if it seems to be bothering your cat, changing color, or growing very quickly.
My cat has a lump on his back near his spine – is that bad?
There could be many possibilities for a lump near your cat’s spine. If this area is changing in size or appearance or is painful for your cat, visit your vet as soon as you can.
What does a swollen cat cheek mean?
A swollen cat cheek could be a result of various things. It may be an abscess, a cyst, or a tumor. Of course, it also might be a tooth problem. Best to get to the vet soonest to check it out.
Is a cat lipoma dangerous?
Lipomas themselves are not dangerous to your cat’s health. They are mostly benign and do not spread to other regions of the body. These fatty tumors are quite rare in cats, more so than in dogs. Treatment isn’t always required, but in some cases, these can be surgically removed if needed.
How to tell if my cat has skin cancer?
Look for sores and scabby, crusty patches and unusual lumps and bumps on the body. Oozing, weeping, or bloody sores can also be an indication, especially those that don’t seem to heal or have no obvious cause.
If you have even the slightest suspicion that your cat may have skin cancer, make an appointment to see your vet. In these cases, it’s always better to be overcautious.
What is the fluid-filled lump on my cat?
Fluid-filled lumps on cats could be several things – cysts, abscesses, tumors, fibromas, and more. Don’t try to drain the lump yourself if you’re not sure what it is. Rather head to your vet, who will diagnose it and provide treatment options.
Will my cat’s sebaceous cyst require surgery?
Most sebaceous cysts in cats won’t require invasive treatment, however, if a biopsy is recommended, then the vet will likely remove the cyst surgically. Surgery is only used to remove sebaceous cysts that are causing discomfort or pain or that recur frequently.
Never try to drain cysts yourself as this may result in a much more severe infection.