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  • Writer's pictureVetMed Team

Bladder Cancer in Cats: What Treatment Options Are There?

Bladder cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect cats. As responsible cat owners, it is important to understand the basics of bladder cancer, including its definition, causes, and different types. In this article, we will explore these aspects to help you better understand this disease and its implications for your feline companion.

cat with ectopic ureter

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What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer in cats refers to the abnormal growth of malignant cells in the urinary bladder. The most common type of bladder cancer in cats is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) which makes up 50-70% of all bladder cancers found in cats. TCC originates from the transitional cells that line the inner surface of the bladder. This type of cancer can be invasive, spreading to surrounding tissues, and can also metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or lungs.

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

The exact cause of bladder cancer in cats is not fully understood. However, certain risk factors have been identified. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as cigarette smoke, industrial pollutants, and certain types of medications, may increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. Additionally, chronic inflammation of the bladder, urinary tract infections, and certain genetic factors may also play a role in the development of this disease. Further research is needed to fully understand the complex interplay of these factors.

Types of Bladder Cancer

Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC): TCC is the most common type of bladder cancer in cats. It originates from the transitional cells lining the bladder. TCC often causes thickening of the bladder wall and can obstruct the normal flow of urine.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC is a less common type of bladder cancer in cats. It arises from the squamous cells that are present in the bladder lining. SCC is often associated with chronic irritation or inflammation of the bladder, such as that caused by long-standing urinary tract infections or bladder stones.

Other Rare Types: In rare cases, cats may develop other types of bladder cancer, such as adenocarcinoma or fibrosarcoma. These types of bladder cancer are less frequently diagnosed in cats but can still occur.

It is important to note that bladder tumors in cats can have different behaviors and responses to treatment compared to those in dogs or humans. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in feline medicine for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Cancer in Cats?

Symptoms of bladder cancer in cats can vary depending on the type, location, and stage of the cancer. Some common signs to watch out for include:

1. Blood in the Urine (Hematuria):

  • Pinkish or reddish discoloration of the urine.

  • Blood clots in the urine.

2. Difficulty or Pain During Urination:

  • Straining to urinate.

  • Crying or vocalizing while urinating.

  • Frequent trips to the litter box with minimal urine output.

  • Urinating outside the litter box.

3. Urinary Incontinence:

  • Accidents in the house.

  • Inability to control urination.

4. Lethargy and Decreased Appetite:

  • Loss of energy and interest in activities.

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss.

5. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs):

  • Recurrent or persistent UTIs that don't respond well to treatment.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be associated with other urinary tract diseases or conditions. If you notice any of these signs in your cat, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination and accurate diagnosis.

How Quickly Can Bladder Cancer Form and Progress?

For cats with localized bladder cancer that has not spread to other areas, such as nearby organs or distant sites, the prognosis may be more favorable, which is on average 6-12 months. Removal of the tumor, sometimes accompanied by additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, can help control the disease and improve survival rates. However, it is important to note that bladder cancer can have a high recurrence rate, requiring close monitoring and potential additional interventions.

In cases where the cancer has spread or metastasized, the prognosis may be less optimistic, such as 4-6 months. However, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy can still be used to manage the disease, alleviate symptoms, and provide palliative care to improve the cat’s quality of life.

How Bladder Cancer is Diagnosed in Cats

Diagnosing bladder cancer in cats requires a thorough veterinary evaluation. The diagnostic process may involve the following:

Physical Examination

The veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination of your cat, looking for any visible abnormalities or signs of discomfort.


A urinalysis helps evaluate the urine for the presence of blood, infection, or other abnormalities. If blood is found in the urine, further investigation is warranted.

Imaging Studies

X-rays or ultrasound imaging can provide a detailed view of the urinary tract, allowing the veterinarian to identify any abnormalities, such as tumors or changes in bladder structure.


Cystoscopy involves the use of a thin tube with a camera (endoscope) to visualize the inside of the bladder. This procedure allows direct visualization of the bladder lining and any suspicious areas that may require biopsy.


If abnormalities are detected during cystoscopy or imaging studies, the veterinarian may perform a biopsy. A small sample of tissue is collected from the bladder for microscopic examination, providing a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment Options For Bladder Cancer in Cats

The treatment options for bladder cancer in cats depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, as well as the overall health and age of the cat. Treatment options may include:

Endoscopic Resection

An endoscopic resection is used to treat cats diagnosed with bladder or urethral cancer. Through the use of an endoscope (a thin tube with a tiny camera) obstructing bladder and urethral tumors can be removed to allow your cat to urinate more freely while other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be given.


Chemotherapy drugs may be used to help shrink the tumor, prevent its spread, or alleviate symptoms. Chemotherapy can be administered orally or intravenously, depending on the specific protocol recommended by the veterinarian.

Radiation Therapy (HDR Brachytherapy)

Radiation can be very effective for the management of bladder and urethral cancer. We use high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy also referred to as internal radiation therapy. The source of radiation (that which emits the radiation) is placed into the urethra and bladder through a urinary catheter.


Immunotherapy aims to stimulate the cat's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This treatment modality may be used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Palliative Care

In cases where the cancer has advanced and a cure is not possible, palliative care focuses on providing relief from pain and improving the cat's quality of life. Pain management medications, dietary adjustments, and supportive care measures can be implemented.

It is essential to discuss the available treatment options with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable course of action for your cat. Each case is unique, and the treatment plan should be tailored to meet the specific needs of your cat.

What is the Prognosis for Cats with Bladder Cancer?

Without proper treatment, cats typically live anywhere from 4-6 months with bladder cancer. If the cat gets proper treatment, the average prognosis is 6-12 months.

VetMed Treats Bladder Cancer in Cats

If you suspect that your cat may be showing signs of bladder cancer or if you have any concerns about their urinary health, contact us today! Prompt veterinary attention can make a significant difference in the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer.


Questions You've Asked Us About Bladder Cancer in Cats

Still have questions? Contact us here - we promise we'll answer them.

How long can cats live with bladder cancer?

With treatment, cats can live, on average, 6-12 months after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

What causes bladder cancer in cats?

Is bladder cancer in cats usually fatal?

Is bladder cancer painful for cats?


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