Transitional cell carcinoma in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 25, 2021

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. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

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