Coping With Feline Cancer — What to Do After a Cat Cancer Diagnosis

cat with three legs walking outdoors on harness and leash

If your cat has cancer and you’re wondering what to do, we are here to help.

Having been through our own cat cancer diagnosis, this is our guide to coping with feline cancer emotionally, physically, and financially. 

If you found us here at Fluffy Kitty through our little Yoda’s Instagram, then you probably already know about his journey with Feline Injection Site Sarcoma — an aggressive feline cancer. 

Now a Tripod Traveller, Yoda has undergone both the amputation of his leg and finished his 19 rounds of radiation treatment to put him in a stable position with further monitoring in the future. He’s been so brave (and his usual spicy self!) throughout. 

If you want to read more about discovering Yoda’s cancer and our journey through diagnosis and treatment options, you can read the full article on Yoda’s Cancer Story here.

His bravery has inspired us to keep sharing his story in the hope it can help others. So we wanted to write this post about coping with feline cancer. 

Because we found that a diagnosis like this can start a chain reaction of worries and questions:

My Cat Has Cancer – What Do I Do?

  • What can I do to help my cat with their cancer? 
  • Will my cat survive cancer? 
  • What does cat cancer treatment cost?
  • What If I can’t afford the cat cancer treatment?

The emotional, physical and financial toll of a cat cancer diagnosis is real. Having been through it ourselves, we want to help you find the answers to these questions and find the support you need. 

In this article:

  • What to do first when your cat has cancer
  • Cat cancer treatment cost guide
  • Strategies for fundraising 
  • Feline cancer support group suggestions

What to Expect When Your Cat Has Cancer

cat with three legs walking outdoors on harness and leash

I remember so clearly when we left the appointment with Yoda. There’s a huge chance you are feeling the same way we did. Powerless and overwhelmed in the face of the diagnosis. 

In times of stress, it can sometimes be useful to focus on a concrete plan of action for your next steps, so we’ve drawn up one for you here.

Gather as Much Information as You Can 

In that initial examination and diagnosis phase, everything can feel like a blur. It can be tough to take in information when being hit with news like this about your beloved kitty. 

So if you are reading this before your next appointment, it’s worth trying to remember to record your vet visits on your phone or ask a friend to come and help you with writing down information. 

At these appointments, find out as much as you can from your vet. Get an indication of your pet’s general health, the advised next steps, what the treatment options are and what kind of quality of life they can lead.  

Sometimes, reaching a definite diagnosis can be difficult with cats – for example, biopsies do not always contain enough good quality material for diagnosis. However, it’s still great to get as much information as you can for your fur friend’s wellbeing. 

And if you were overwhelmed and struggled to take it all in, don’t be afraid to give your vet a call afterward and ask for some support. Ultimately, the more information you have, the more decisions you can make from an informed and calm place. 

Assess Treatment Options

There are three basic types of treatment for feline cancer:

  • Surgery — Most often for isolated lumps that have not spread (‘metastasized’) and that are in operable areas (like Yoda’s was.) Using the removed tissue, specialists can usually detect if the cancer is likely to reoccur or spread.
  • Chemotherapy — Used mainly to slow down and reduce the symptoms of feline cancer, chemotherapy usually has far fewer effects on pets than it does on humans. 
  • Radiotherapy — Usually only available at specialist centers, radiotherapy also works to slow and reduce the cancer’s effects. Because your pet needs to be absolutely still for the treatment, a short general anesthetic is given for each treatment.

There are also some newer, more experimental treatments emerging too. These include photodynamic therapy (using a drug that is activated by light to kill cancer cells) or immunotherapy (reducing or boosting the immune system to either attack or dupe the cancer cells in remission).

Any form of treatment will usually require frequent vet visits, and some further travel if you need to go to specialist centers, as we did for Yoda’s radiation. So it’s worth factoring in these visits and checking the geography of it all with your vet. 

Prepare for Cat Cancer Treatment Costs 

The cat cancer treatment cost can be another source of stress for owners who are already struggling with the emotional turmoil of diagnosis. Having been through this ourselves, we can say, hand on heart, we know how you are feeling. 

To help you start to put a plan in action, here’s an idea of the cost of cat cancer treatment:

  • Initial Consultation

You can expect to pay anywhere from $125—$250 for an initial consultation with an oncologist, depending on their location and experience. By calling the clinic or hospital beforehand, they can give you an idea of what to budget for. 

  • How Much Does Chemotherapy for Cats Cost?

Pet chemotherapy costs depend on the length of treatment, the location of the cancer, and the kind of hospital you are having the treatment in. With this in mind, a chemotherapy ‘dose’ costs anywhere from $150 to $600.

So this would be multiplied by the number of doses your kitty would need, which could reach the thousands. 

However, that fee usually covers the whole ‘project’ of chemotherapy, so it includes the recheck exam fee, blood work, chemo prep, and administration costs. But it’s worth asking this before starting any treatment to help you create a budget. 

  • How Much Does Cat Cancer Surgery Cost? 

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cat cancer surgery can cost from $500 upwards, especially if the tumor is located in a tricky area. 

Again, speaking to your veterinarian or oncologist can usually help you find a more accurate figure for your cat’s specific circumstances. 

  • How Much Does Cat Cancer Radiation Cost?

Radiation costs range from $1000 — $1800 for a palliative (wellbeing-focused) series, and  $4500 — $6000 for a curative series (this means intended to help other treatments or reduce the chances of recurrence.)

Begin to Form A Financial Plan

It can feel hard to stare these numbers in the face, and much easier to put our heads in the sand and blindly put them on a credit card.

But sitting down and organizing them into a proper budget, while it may feel scary, will again allow you to feel some sense of control over this overwhelming situation. It’s a small step towards action that can help to soothe some of that anxiety. 

Once you have the numbers to hand, you can start working out how to pay for the treatment. 

  • Check in with your insurance provider, and see where your policy stands on cancer and what you are entitled to. 
  • Check your savings account and see how much you can afford to pay out to take the edge off some of the excess costs that aren’t covered by your insurance. 
  • Calculate what’s leftover, and begin to form a repayment plan. Whether that’s using a credit card to pay back the cost over a period of months, or even asking a friend or family member to offer you a loan. 
  • It’s also worth asking if the oncology department has a payment plan or finance agreement you can use, to help spread the cost. 

What If You Can’t Afford Cat Cancer Treatment?

shaven cat with stitches after leg amputation

The cost of cancer treatment can be so unexpected. We know, because we’ve been there!

Sometimes you just don’t have the insurance cover you thought you did, or life just chooses to kick you when your savings are already down — but you aren’t alone.  

Here is a list of options you can take to help you pay for feline cancer treatment:

  • Run a fundraiser to help offset some of the costs. We did this with Yoda, using Go Fund Me, and the generous cat community has helped us raise over $2000. It goes without saying that we are humbled & immensely grateful for this amazing and generous support. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, because cat lovers everywhere are behind you.   
  • The Animal Cancer Foundation has a list of helpful resources to help you and your pet through the cancer journey, both emotionally and financially.
  • You could search for free clinical trials using the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database for your cat’s treatment, however, be sure to discuss this thoroughly with your vet first to be sure it’s the right decision for your cat’s wellbeing. 
  • Joining a Cat Cancer Support group on Facebook or other platforms is a great way to stay in the know about grants or support schemes, as well as the emotional benefits of sharing a common experience. 

Keep Quality Of Life In Mind 

While the rollercoaster of cat cancer can feel all-consuming, the most important element is of course your cat’s wellbeing. 

Can a cat live with cancer? My cat has cancer; when do I put him down? These are common questions we see across our feed, and difficult topics to talk about. But knowing when euthanasia might be the kindest option for your beloved kitty is something to try and stay rational about. 

Vets are well aware of the importance of keeping animals pain-free and happy for as long as possible, and that’s the goal of everyone involved in the treatment. Sadly, for some cats, there may come a point when they are suffering more than they are gaining. 

Both you and your vet should work together to continually evaluate your cat’s wellbeing, and try and recognize together when this decline occurs. 

While it can be hard to hear, try to understand that your vet only wants the best for your pet, and if they are in severe unrelievable pain, your vet is likely to encourage you to choose euthanasia as the kindest option. 

That’s why joining support groups, having family and friends ready for support and amazing communities like this one here are so important. As is cherishing every moment you have with your furry best friend. 

They really are so special to us, and that’s why we started Fluffy Kitty — to embody that amazing friendship they bring us. 

Final Thoughts: Coping With Feline Cancer 

man cuddling grey cat who has only three legs from cancer

We hope this guide has helped you with what to do after a cat cancer diagnosis. We know first hand what an emotional & financial rollercoaster cancer can be to deal with. 

But know that support is out there in many forms and that your pet is lucky to have you there when they need you most. 

Do let us know if this article has helped you in any way, and any further topics you’d like us to write about. We’d love to hear from you. 

Disclaimer:

⚠️ Brittany, Paul, and the Fluffy Kitty team are not veterinarians. This article is based on facts, research, and personal experiences. We provide you with the best information we can but you are of course free to follow our advice or not. Paul and Brittany (and Yoda) shall in no event be held liable for any loss or other damages including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or any other damages.

The Fluffy Kitty

The Fluffy Kitty blog inspires cat owners around the world to live a more adventurous and eco-friendly life with their cats. Read more about our story on our about us page.

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