Cats and Skin Cancer: What you Need to Know

Have you noticed a crusty patch on your cat’s ear, or maybe their nose? It might look like the result of a scuffle, but instead of healing and going away, it stays and gets worse. It might even just stay the same for a while, then growth may suddenly accelerate until it becomes a big, noticeable, crusty lump of what looks like dried blood. Ewww!

This is cancer. Skin cancer, or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), to be exact, and it’s caused by exposure to the sun.

Ear cancer

Skin cancer can affect any cat, but is most commonly seen in white cats, ginger cats, or calico cats with lots of white on their ears. Basically any cat with light-colored skin, which is more vulnerable to UV light. Treatment involves either removal or radiotherapy, but prevention is best.

SCC can also appear on the eyelids or the nose, places that are much more difficult to treat, but this form of cancer doesn’t usually spread to the rest of the body. It develops slowly over months or years, so is more likely to affect older cats.

Sister Mimi, one of the cats we care for on Vis, had just such a crusty situation going on with her ears. She’s an outdoor cat in a colony we look after daily, but she’s not always around. Sometimes we go for weeks without seeing her, and she’s not always easy to catch either. 

In early September we noticed that some specks on her ears, the left ear in particular, seemed problematic. By the time we were able to catch her and get her to the vet’s for a pinnectomy (ear amputation), the crusty patch had grown quite large . Fortunately, the vet was able to remove all the cancer and said we caught it in the nick of time. Phew!

Sister Mimi just back from Split

Sister Mimi was lucky, but we’ve seen cases much worse than hers where the cat unfortunately had to be put to sleep. Be sure to have your cat examined by a vet as soon as possible if you notice any crusty patches on their ears, nose or eyelids. The sooner they get diagnosed and treated, the better their chances for recovery.

So what can you do to prevent this from happening? If you have a cat with light-colored skin, consider keeping them mostly or totally indoors. If they do go out, apply waterproof sunscreen (30 or higher) to their ears and nose every day, and avoid letting them out when the sun is at its most intense.

Would you like to help us help cats on the island of Vis, in Croatia? The best way to do that from afar is to buy our 2023 calendar by filling out the order form at

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