Does My Cat Have Skin Cancer?

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, recommends a biopsy to check for cancer, even though this cat breed's skin sometimes develops hyperpigmentation.

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Q: I have a 3-year-old black smoke Cornish Rex who has weird black skin around what I imagine is his navel. I’ve had him for about a year and a half now; he was acquired from a shelter after his original owner surrendered all of his cats because he moved into an apartment. At first, I didn’t notice anything unusual and can’t remember when it began, but I’ve been aware that he’s had it for almost the entire time I have owned him.

It doesn’t seem to bother him much but feels abnormal to the touch, a little rougher, almost like a scab on a brush burn. It sometimes gets a little bigger, sometimes goes away entirely, but never quite. I’ve tried cleaning it with mild soap and warm water, disinfecting it with alcohol, and wiping it with pet bath wipes, but it responds to none of these. Now I’m starting to notice darker skin on the exposed portions of his neck and ears also. Could he have developed skin cancer? We used to live in Florida, and he spent a lot of time in the sunny windows.

A: I think it is unlikely that this is skin cancer. I have a few Cornish Rex cats in my practice, and I’ve noticed similar skin conditions. Some Cornish Rex cats have a very thin hair coat, especially on their abdomen. When the skin is constantly traumatized, it will often become hyperpigmented, a condition in which a skin patch becomes darker than the skin surrounding it. Without a thick coat of hair to protect it, I suspect the skin on the abdomen is being lightly (but constantly) traumatized during the course of the cat’s daily activity — lying on the floor, lying on the couch, scratching, grooming, etc. Over time, the consistent trauma will cause the skin to darken. I suspect the same thing is happening with the neck.

I do think, however, that this should be evaluated by a veterinarian, especially since you describe the abdominal skin as feeling rough and abnormal to the touch. If it does indeed feel different, your veterinarian may suggest obtaining a biopsy — a very simple procedure — to make certain that it is nothing serious.

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Does My Cat Have Skin Cancer?

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