Lower Urinary Tract Cancers in Cats

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Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Lower urinary tract cancers are defined as disorganized, uncontrolled growth of cells in the bladder, urethra, and the prostate gland in male cats.

  • Lower urinary tract cancers are rare in cats
  • The most common location for tumors of the lower urinary tract in cats is the bladder
  • These cancers can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are essentially the same as those of lower urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Pursuit of a definitive diagnosis is commonly initiated when symptoms of an apparent UTI do not respond to treatment
  • Diagnosis is by urinalysis, diagnostic imaging, and/or tissue biopsy
  • Typical treatment options include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and administration of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Prognosis is guarded, as lower urinary tract tumors tend to be aggressive and metastasize quickly
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A closer look: Lower Urinary Tract Cancers in Cats

The lower urinary tract encompasses the bladder, ureter, and prostate (in males) for cats. Any disease which affects the lower urinary tract can present with similar symptoms, making these cancers difficult to initially identify.

Sometimes lower urinary tract tumors can cause urinary obstruction, which is a life-threatening emergency. Even without this symptom, cats are likely to be in discomfort, and prompt veterinary intervention may be helpful to the outcome. Most lower urinary tract cancers in cats are malignant and have a guarded prognosis. Lower urinary tract cancers are uncommon in cats.

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Risk factors

Male cats are at a higher risk than females, and older cats are more likely to develop lower urinary tract cancers.

A common location for these cancers to spread is the lungs. In advanced stages, respiratory symptoms like rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, or coughing may be present.

Possible causes

Tumors and cancers rarely have a single known cause. In most cases, there appears to be a complex mix of risk factors. Both genetic and environmental factors may play a role. It has also been proposed that chronic bladder infections and inflammation may increase the risk of developing bladder cancers.

Main symptoms

The signs of urinary tract tumors depend on what area of the urinary system is affected. Recurring urinary tract infections are common.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of lower urinary tract cancers begins with a complete physical examination. As signs mirror those of UTIs, this is ruled out first by urinalysis, urine culture, and diagnostic imaging. Once a diagnosis of cancer is suspected, biopsies are often taken of the affected tissues to characterize and stage the cancer.

Steps to Recovery

Surgery to remove part of the bladder (partial cystectomy), or to debulk a tumor may be an option, depending on tumor location. Additional treatments may include radiation therapy, NSAIDs, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and urethral/ureteral stent placement, as the case indicates.

Even with prompt and aggressive treatment, the prognosis for lower urinary tract cancers in cats is guarded. These tumors have high metastatic potential and are likely to recur after excision.


There is no specific prevention for lower urinary tract cancers. They are not contagious.

Is Lower Urinary Tract Cancers in Cats common?

Lower urinary tract cancer is uncommon in cats. Prostatic tumors in cats are very rare.

Typical Treatment

  • Palliative care
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • NSAIDs
  • Radiation
  • Treatment of secondary UTIs (antibiotics)


Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Scott A. Brown , VMD, PhD, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Maureen A. Griffin, William T. N. Culp,* and Robert B. Rebhun - Writing for Veterinary Sciences
No Author - Writing for Purdue Univeristy College of Veterinary Medicine
Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Debbie Stoewen DVM, MSW, RSW, PhD; Christopher Pinard, DVM - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
No Author - Writing for Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) in Dogs and Cats

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