Transitional cell carcinoma in cats

If your cat has been diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma, knowing more about the disease can help you provide them with a better quality of life. The condition is rare and mostly affects older cats.

What is transitional cell carcinoma?

Transitional cell carcinoma is an invasive, malignant cancer of the cells lining the urinary system. Tumours penetrate the bladder wall muscle layers, and may eventually obstruct urine flow, which is a medical emergency.

Occasionally, the cancer also spreads to other body organs (metastasis). 

Signs in cats can mimic feline lower urinary tract disease.

What are common signs of transitional cell carcinoma in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Unkempt haircoat
  • Overgrooming genitals or belly
  • Urinating outside the box
  • Frequent urination of small amounts
  • Straining to urinate

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Vocalising
  • Blood in urine
  • Irritability and abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Urinary obstruction

Trouble with urination may be a sign of transitional cell carcinoma in cats.

How is transitional cell carcinoma managed in cats? 

Around a quarter of cats with transitional cell carcinoma have a concurrent urinary tract infection, which should be addressed. The ideal treatment in cats is surgery to remove the affected area of the bladder, followed up with medical management. If surgery is not possible, chemotherapy and/or anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to inhibit tumour growth. 

Cats with transitional cell carcinoma need regular vet visits and diagnostic monitoring. Discussing a personalised management plan with your vet and a veterinary oncologist is important for the best outcome for your cat.

What is the prognosis for cats?

The prognosis for transitional cell carcinoma depends on whether your cat has signs of metastasis and their treatment response. Cats with untreated transitional cell carcinoma can survive for up to three months, but medical management without surgery can increase survival to up to six months. 

Cats treated with surgery as part of their treatment protocol can live one to two years before tumour recurrence, or the spread of cancer to other organs.

Management tips for a cat with transitional cell carcinoma

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food, water, and litter box, and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with medications, which can be compounded for ease of administration 
  • Monitoring urination, appetite, vomiting, weight and energy level

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your cat stops eating, vomits, cannot urinate, collapses; or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this progressive disease by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.