No cat owners like to find mysterious lumps or bumps on their cat's body, but if it's a skin tag or mole, it's likely a part of aging. These are uncommon in cats, and it is important to monitor your cat's skin and keep an eye out for any unusual or changing skin growths. Any growth on a cat's body, whether a cyst, wart, mole, or skin tag, should be examined by a veterinarian.
Skin tags are fleshy growths that protrude from your cat's skin. They may have the appearance of flat flaps that don't look as if they are well attached to the rest of the skin. Skin tags can be flesh-colored or black and appear most frequently in parts of the body where friction occurs.
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Although skin tags are usually small, in rare cases, they can grow to a significant size. They're usually painless and harmless. However, tags that appear around the eye can cause a reduction in the visual field.
Have a DVM check a cat's skin growths
Unless a skin tag is bothering your cat, there's no cause for an immediate veterinary visit. Simply make note of the tag on your cat's home medical record so you remember to mention it at your next visit to the DVM.
Monitor the tag. Call your DVM if you notice the cat skin tag changing significantly in size, pigment, or shape or if it is causing your cat any level of annoyance or discomfort. If a cat is rubbing a skin growth to a red color or if you see it bleeding, it's probably irritating your cat and should be removed by a veterinarian.
Don't attempt to cut off a skin tag yourself. Although some medical sites advise that people can snip off their own skin tags with sharp cuticle scissors or tie a thread tightly around it to make it fall off, it's not a good idea to do so with cats.
Your feline is unlikely to cooperate with either method. You could end up getting bitten or scratched in the process. Even if you're successful, you could end up with a bigger problem for your cat, with the potential for infection or excess bleeding, especially if you nick the surrounding tissue.
Monitor a cat's skin masses
Cats can be born with skin moles similar to birthmarks, or they can develop over time as a type of skin growth. Moles are generally described as brown or black spots on the skin.
Keep an eye on moles or other skin growths that develop on your cat's body. Any pigment changes, size changes, or irritation could be a sign that the skin lump is cancerous.
Testing for skin cancer in cats
A skin mass on your cat's body can potentially be a fibrosarcoma, mast cell tumor, or other cancerous skin growth. But not all growths mean skin cancer in cats. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests on your cat's suspicious skin growths to determine whether they are benign or malignant.
Common tests include physical inspection of the skin mass, blood tests, performing a fine needle aspiration on the growth, and/or performing a biopsy on the tissue of the growth. If the growth is small, the veterinarian will likely remove it entirely. Then, they will send it to a lab for histopathology.
Treating skin growths in cats
If the mole or skin tag is tested by your veterinarian and the tests show that the skin growth is benign, your veterinarian will most likely choose to leave the growth alone. Treatment is not necessary for benign growths unless the location of the growth is causing medical problems for your cat and your veterinarian decides removal is necessary. Removing a tag or mole is usually not worth the risk of surgery and anesthesia for your cat.
If the skin mass is malignant, your veterinarian will help you choose an effective form of treatment. The type of skin tumor, location, and size will play a role in how your veterinarian decides to deal with it.
They may choose to remove the skin growth by using a laser, freezing it, or cauterizing it. Alternatively, they may choose to remove the skin mass and any surrounding tissue that could be cancerous. In cases where the cancer may have spread or cannot be completely removed, chemotherapy or radiation treatments may be used.
The bottom line
Skin tags and moles are rare in cat veterinary medicine. If you find any unusual skin growths on your cat's body, take them to a veterinarian for an evaluation. The veterinarian will take a sample of the tissue and test it to determine if it is cancerous or benign. Your veterinarian will also determine whether the skin mass should be removed. If it is benign, unchanging, or slow-growing and isn't bothering your pet, there's no reason to remove it, as the risks of surgery and anesthesia might outweigh the benefits. Never try to remove a skin growth at home, as this could cause an accident and injuries.