Cats are known to have a strong sense of smell. If they keep pawing at a specific part of your body, you may be concerned. Dogs are said to have a strong sense of smell that can detect cancer. Is it the same for cats?
Can cats smell cancer? Yes, they can. Their strong olfactory discrimination means they can detect cancer and other diseases. However, not much has been done to test this ability. Some cat owners claim that their cats helped them detect cancer by consistently poking at specific body parts.
Even though a cat’s sense of smell is not as strong as a dog’s, it is much stronger than that of a human. Many experts believe that cats can be trained to use their strong senses of smell to detect cancer. If you are curious about your cats’ abilities to smell cancer, keep reading to learn more.
Researchers have conducted numerous studies on dogs and their ability to sniff out diseases. While humans have about five million smell receptors, dogs have 125-300 million. They can detect some types of cancer.
However, no formal studies have been done on cats. It may be because cats are not as easy to motivate as dogs. However, their sense of smell is also great. They can easily detect chemical changes that occur as a result of illness.
They are also great at detecting changes in your behaviour, mood, and routine. When you have cancer, you are likely to experience physiological and physical changes. Your cat will be quick to notice the changes.
The ability of cats to smell cancer and other diseases remains untapped. According to a 2017 copy of the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, the olfactory discrimination of cats is better than that of dogs. The ability makes cats great for sniffing out diseases. They can be more effective than dogs.
Cats can be trained to discriminate one smell from another. With that ability, they can identify specific humans. They can be used to sniff drugs or bombs.
Even though cats are a little more difficult to train than dogs, they are not untrainable. Since cats can be trained to jump, sit, or ring bells, they can also be trained to identify specific scents.
When you have cancer, the malignant tissues produce a chemical that is different from normal tissues. Like dogs, cats can detect the differences. Both animals can be accurate at detecting the presence of cancers in urine samples. They can be very effective in detecting colon cancer and other cancers.
Cats have been credited for detecting cancer all over the world. They don’t just detect moles that can easily be seen outside the body. In Alberta, Canada, a cat is said to have helped his human detect a large tumour in his lung.
When the cat consistently pawed at his left side, he sought medical help and it was determined that he had a tumour the size of a soda can.
Even though a cat pawing at you isn’t always something to be concerned about, it may be an indication that you have cancer. Seek medical attention as soon as you can. It may be an indication of a different health problem.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, cats can also predict death. Their strong olfactory sense makes it possible to detect subtle smells of the body shutting down. A cat, Oscar, who lived at a nursing home, could always predict the patient that would die next.
Can Cats Get Cancer?
Even though cats rarely get cancer, you should always watch out for it. Cats can mask illnesses until they get out of hand. If you aren’t keen, the condition can get out of hand. The most common type of cancer in cats is lymphoma. The most common symptoms of cancer include the following;
Most cats like hiding. They usually have a hiding spot where they spend some time. However, excessive hiding can be a sign that something is wrong. Excessive hiding doesn’t always mean that your cat has cancer. However, it may mean that your cat is ill. See a vet to rule out the possibility of cancer.
- Sudden Mouth Changes
If your cat has cancer, you may notice sudden changes in their gum colour. They may also have lumps or a weird smell. Examine your cat’s mouth regularly and see a vet if there are any changes.
- Persistent Discharge
A persistent nasal discharge may be a sign of cancer. Cats with eye tumours may also have eye discharge.
- Weight Loss
Drastic weight loss is one of the most obvious indicators of illness in cats. If your cat loses weight and no longer wants to eat, it may have cancer. Cats with cancer can lose weight even if they have a healthy appetite. Seek the help of a vet as soon as possible.
- General Discomfort
If your cat suddenly seems uncomfortable, it may be in pain. If your cat cries when you pick it up or seems generally uneasy, seek the opinion of a vet as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, one in five cats has cancer at some point. Bone cancer, lymphoma, and mast cell tumour are the most common cancers.
Even though a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, it is treatable if caught early.
I encourage all cat owners to look out for unusual lumps and changes in behaviour. Detecting the problem early can save your cat’s life.
Common Types of Cat Cancer
Lymphoma is a blood cancer that causes the lymph nodes to swell. It is one of the most common forms of feline cancer. The lymphatic system maintains the flow of fluids in the body. Since the fluid is responsible for getting rid of toxins, it may be circulating cancerous cells all through your cat’s body. Cats that are exposed to the Feline Leukemia Virus are likely to get lymphoma.
· Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumours affect the white blood cells. The cells may turn into abnormal swellings.
A visit to the vet may help you know whether the cells are benign or malignant. This type of cancer is common in Siamese cats.
· Bone Cancer
Bone cancer is common in larger cats. Its symptoms include lethargy, joint pain, and swelling. Even though its symptoms can be subtle, it is a very aggressive type of cancer. It spreads quickly and the prognosis is mostly unfavourable.
· Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cells usually form on the skin of your cat and look like fish scales. The cells cause cancer which mostly appears in your cat’s mouth. They cause an unusual mouth odour and sores. However, they may also appear in other parts of a cat’s body.
Other types of cancer that may affect your cat include; liver cancer, brain cancer, and lung cancer. Mammary cancers are no longer common as most cats are spayed.
If your cat has been diagnosed with cancer, I suggest that you start treatment immediately. Your vet will give you medication to alleviate pain. Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to cure cancer.
At some point, your cat may lose its quality of life. You may have no option but to euthanize it. Cats are different and there are different types of cancer. It is impossible to predict how long your cat can continue to live a happy life.
Other Animals that Can Detect Illnesses
All animals are unique. They have unique abilities and detecting smells is just one of them. Cats are not the only animals that can detect diseases and illnesses. Others include;
Dogs have a strong sense of smell. According to a 2006 study, they can detect breast cancer 88% of the time. They can detect lung cancer with almost 100% accuracy.
Dogs can detect diabetes, high or blood sugar, migraines, stress, and seizures. According to recent studies, they can identify the blood samples of people with cancer with an accuracy of 97%.
According to studies by scientists in the United States, mice can detect avian flu in duck faeces with about 90% accuracy.
- Fruit Flies
Even though fruit flies are annoying and seemingly insignificant, they can be used to detect illness. They can smell certain cancer cells. The fruit flies can also distinguish various types of cancers.
Pigeons can be trained to distinguish benign cancer cells from malignant cells. They are very helpful in detecting breast cancer. After 15 days of training, pigeons could identify malignant cells with 85% accuracy.
In conclusion, cats have a strong sense of smell. They can easily smell chemical changes in your body if you have cancer or other illnesses. They can also detect changes in your behavioural patterns and moods. However, you can’t completely rely on them to diagnose any diseases. If a cat keeps pawing at you on a specific body part, it is safe to seek medical attention. However, it is not an obvious sign that you have cancer or any other diseases.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.