Symptoms of a Feline Brain Tumor

Symptoms of a feline brain tumor are often subtle, especially if the mass is slow-growing. Not all feline brain tumors are malignant, but even benign growths can impair a cat's functionally as they expand. Symptoms may occur suddenly and get worse, rather than gradually develop over time. If your cat exhibits any changes in temperament or behavior, take him to the vet for an examination.

Close-up of a cat
Your cat's brain is approximately the size of a golf ball.
credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Feline Brain Tumors

The tumor may have originated in the brain, making it a primary growth, or spread to the brain by metastasizing from another cancer elsewhere in the body. The latter is a secondary cancer. Meningioma is the most common type of primary feline brain tumor. It starts in the brain's membrane linings and expands into the brain. Giomas form deep inside the brain and are often inoperable. Types of cancer that tend to spread to the brain include mammary, blood vessel and melanoma tumors.

Brain Tumor Symptoms

Brain tumors generally develop in cats aged 10 or older, although they can appear in younger animals. Symptoms include behavioral and personality changes, with a cat's temperament changing 180 degrees. If your once standoffish elderly cat suddenly becomes extremely friendly, that's not necessarily a good thing. Other signs include changes in gait and unsteadiness, lethargy, seizures, circling and vision problems. The cat might begin meowing a lot, or bumping into walls, furniture and other solid objects. He may react strongly to being touched in the head or neck. In many felines, brain tumor symptoms are somewhat vague. You just know that your cat's "not quite right."

Diagnosis and Treatment

After taking note of clinical signs and conducting basic blood work, your vet performs an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging on your cat's head to diagnose a brain growth. Most brain tumors appear oval or round, except for the tentacle-like meningioma. Depending on the type and location of the mass, surgical removal is the most common treatment, often followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your vet might prescribe additional medication to reduce treatment side effects, such as seizures, or to reduce tumor growth.

Brain Tumor Prognosis

Following treatment, many cats survive for a considerable period. Cats treated for intracranial meningioma may live between 485 and 810 days, or approximately one to three years, notes the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology. At six months, 71 percent of cats are still alive, and 66 percent are still around at one year. After two years, half of the cats are living.

The prognosis also depends a great deal on any post-surgical complications, including infection or hemorrhage. The prognosis for gliomas is not good. Generally, if a cat experiences severe neurological issues prior to the surgery, his outcome isn't as good as a cat with milder symptoms.