My Cat Has a Lump on Their Neck
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If we discover a lump on our cat's neck, it is understandable we will be worried. While our mind might jump to a worse case scenario, it is important to know there are many reasons for this. Some are relatively benign and others may need specific treatment. Only a veterinary medical professional will have the knowledge and ability to perform an appropriate examination. They can provide the right diagnosis and treatment plan. They will do this, in part, by looking at both the type of lump on a cat's neck and any concurrent symptoms.
In this AnimalWised article, we look at the various causes of why your cat has a lump on their neck. In doing so, we will discover the role the lymph nodes play in your cat's immune system, how the consistency of a lump affects diagnosis and many other factors.
My cat has a lump under their chin
One of the most important factors in determining the cause of a lump on a cat's neck is its location. For one thing, what we might think of as an abnormal lump might actually be an important part of the cat's anatomy. Cats have submandibular lymph nodes. These ganglia (clusters of nerve cells) are part of the cat's immune system. They function to defend the organism against disease. If we notice our cat has a lump on their neck, it is important to know we could be feeling these natural and important parts of their body.
The cat's lymph nodes are located on other areas of their body, but the submandibular lymph nodes are under the cat's chin. They are not very large, but you can still feel them if you try. However, when a cat's immune system is defending against a disease, the lymph nodes often swell in response. If you find a lump o your cat's neck in this region, but have never noticed it before, it is possible the lymph nodes have swollen. This is another reason you need to take the cat to the vet as they are able to differentiate between a normal lymph node and one that is swollen.
A well-functioning immune system should be able to control the infection. In these cases, the swelling should go away as well as other symptoms of infection such as discomfort, fever, discharge, etc. In cases where the cat is unable to stop the pathogens on their own, the disease might develop to the point medical intervention is necessary. An increase in the size of the lymph nodes is a symptom of various diseases, which is why we need a vet to examine the cat. They may need to carry out diagnostic tests such as blood screening, ultrasounds or even biopsies. If they take a biopsy of the lymph node itself, they can better understand the chances of malignancy.
Learn about a common disease which affects a cat's immune system with our article on feline infectious anemia.
My cat has a lump on their neck under the skin
A subcutaneous lump is the scientific term for a lump under the cat's skin. In this case, we mean the abnormal presence of a proliferation of cells which is not a lymph node or other type of ganglion. If we discover such a lump in our cat's neck, we should take them to the vet immediately to determine the cause.
Hard lump on a cat's neck
The texture of the growth can help us understand its nature. Often, a hard lump on a cat's neck might be a cyst or a tumor. A biopsy of the lump involves taking a small part of the lump and examining it on a cellular level. Doing so can help determine if the lump is a benign tumor or a malignant feline cancer. The treatment of a tumor will depend on whether metastasis (the spread of cancer cells through the lymphatic system) occurs. Surgery, chemotherapy or other interventions may be carried out.
Any abnormal and excessive growth of tissue is known as a neoplasm. They can be malignant or benign. However, even otherwise benign neoplasia can cause problems if located on the neck or throat. The excessive growth can put pressure on the cat's trachea and/or esophagus. This can limit respiration and/or food intake, respectively. In these cases, the likely treatment will be surgical removal of the growth.
Take a look at lumps on another part of a cat's anatomy with our article on why a cat has swollen testicles.
Soft lump on a cat's neck
A lump which is soft and malleable to the touch might be an abscess. An abscess is an accumulation of pus and other fluid under the cat's skin. These lumps occur due to the body's reaction to an infection. Bacteria may enter the skin either through a pore or a wound which has appeared. The latter often occurs more in cats with access to the outside. Fighting with other cats or cutting themselves on sharp objects can result in wounds which can become infected. Bacteria in the mouth or on the claws of another cat can get into the wound through bites or scratches.
Abscesses can grow quickly or slowly, depending on the advancement of the infection. Treatment will often be in the form of first draining the abscess of fluid. This can leave the wound open and susceptible to bacterial infection. Draining in a sterile veterinary environment is required to best prevent secondary infection. A vet will also be able to prescribe antibiotics or any other medication necessary for treatment.
If your cat scratched open a lump on their neck, it is likely to be an abscess. They are often accompanied by pain when touched, whereas this is not always the case with neoplasia. The abscess will also be closer to the outer part of the skin and therefore can be opened more easily by the cat scratching at it.
Lipomas are another type of soft lump which can develop on a cat's neck. These are benign tumors which are made up of adipose tissue, i.e. fat tissue. Their causes are not well-known, but often veterinarians will not even treat them as their removal will cause more stress to the cat than leaving them alone.
My cat has a lump after vaccination
The most probable causes of a lump in your cat's neck have been mentioned above. There are some less likely causes which nonetheless should be mentioned. One might be due to the cat receiving vaccination. Injection sites on cats are usually on the back of the neck which is why the lump might appear in this region.
When the cat is given the injection, it should be located between the shoulder blades. However, if it is given higher up on the neck, you can sometimes observe a small nodule appear on the skin. This inflammation should disappear after 3 to 4 weeks. If it hasn't, the chronic inflammation can give rise to something known as fibrosarcoma. This is a type of cancer which can be very aggressive.
Treatment of a fibrosarcoma is tricky as it is so invasive. The tumor needs to be removed with some of the tissue around it to best prevent reoccurrence. This means the surgical intervention itself is similarly invasive. Surgical treatment alone does not usually provide the best outcome, but life expectancy can be improved if radiotherapy is also implemented.
While this is an aggressive and potentially fatal cause of a lump in a cat's neck, it should not put you off vaccinating your cat. That vaccinations are the pathogenesis of the disease is still only theoretical, even if t is the most likely reason. Still, the probability of developing feline injection site sarcomas (FISS) is between 1 and 10 out of 10,000 vaccinated cats.
Is the lump in my cat's neck the thyroid gland?
If your cat has a lump on their neck, it could be due to an issue with a different type of gland known as the thyroid. This is located in the cat's neck, but you can't always feel it if you are petting your cat. This is not the case if the thyroid becomes inflamed. The reason for increase in the thyroid's size is sometimes due to a benign tumor. The consequence is an increase in the secretion of hormones, something which produces hyperthyroidism. Feline hyperthyroidism has various consequences for the body and behavior of the cat.
An affected cat will present symptoms such as hyperactivity, increased hunger and thirst, weight loss, vomiting, poor coat quality and other nonspecific symptoms. It can be detected by hormone analysis and treated with medication, surgery or radioactive iodine.
It is important to note that these lumps on a cat's neck are usually large singular masses, although this is not exclusive. If you ask why does my cat have bumps on their neck, it is more likely to be a skin condition such as dermatitis. This will present as swelling of the skin itself and not as hard lumps. If there are multiple hard lumps, it may be a cluster of tumors or another type of neoplasm.
My cat has a lump on their face
Finally, once we have exhausted the possible reasons for discovering a lump on your cat's neck, it is also possible a lump might appear on their face. If the cat has lumps on their face, it could be from an abscess in their mouth. If the lump looks more like a lesion on their face, it could be the result of a squamous cell carcinoma (a type of cancer) or the less common disease cryptococcosis.
All require immediate veterinary treatment. Dental abscesses can be treated like other abscesses, but may also need tooth extraction. Cryptococcosis is treated with antifungal medication as it is the result of a fungal infestation. Carcinoma can be operated on and may need follow up radiation treatment. As always, early intervention improves prognosis, so they should be taken to the vet as soon as the symptoms are observed.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has a Lump on Their Neck, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
1. Christopher, M. M., & Ku, C. (2018). Likelihood of Neoplasia for Diagnoses Modified by Probability Terms in Canine and Feline Lymph Node Cytology: How Probable Is Probable? Front. Vet. Sci., 5:246.
2. Zabielska-Koczywąs, K., Wojtalewicz, A., & Lechowski, R. (2017). Current knowledge on feline injection-site sarcoma treatment. Acta Vet Scand., 59(1), 47.