Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the Cat

Filed Under: Cats, Diseases

Does your cat have white-haired areas on the tips of his ears or nose?

White-haired cats, or those that have white-haired areas on their face or ears, are predisposed for the development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In fact, white cats are are 13 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than are cats of any different color.

SCC is a prime example of an environmental cancer in cats. This particular tumor is triggered by sunlight. Specifically, the ultraviolet, or UV, irradiation in sunlight is directly responsible for this tumor’s development. Squamous cell carcinoma characteristically starts out as an inflammatory lesion that evolves into the ulcerative and necrotic neoplasia known as squamous cell carcinoma.

Diagnosis is made through biopsy and subsequent histopathology of the affected tissue.

The primary course of treatment is surgical excision, although radiation and cryotherapy have also been successful. Wide surgical margins should be obtained whenever possible. When present on ear tips the ears can be trimmed, and in that location may be curative. Squamous cell carcinoma of the nose is harder to obtain good surgical margins that prove to be curative, and therefore reoccurrence is more likely. Further exposure to sunlight should be limited whenever possible. Sun screens are available, although bringing the cat inside is best to assure limited exposure to solar radiation.


Morrison, Wallace. Cancer in Dogs and Cats. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 1998. Pp. 36-37.

Topics: cancer

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