My beautiful black cat Rama (one of the stars of Janiss Garza’s Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, through Their Eyes) has recurring neurofibrosarcomas. We adopted Rama when he was an estimated three years old, from a shelter. The sarcomas began showing up a few years later. While some cats develop these sarcomas in vaccine sites, Rama’s have always shown up in one area – on his left abdominal wall. This is worrisome, because he developed them young.
Neurofibrosarcomas are nerve sheath tumors. Rama has had several surgeries over his lifetime to remove these generally contained tumors. The tumors have always come back in the same area.
I biopsied the tumors early on and did a biopsy again with the most recent surgery. They are classified as low-grade/Grade 1, which is good. This means that they have a good chance of remaining localized and not spreading. But they do keep recurring and needing to be removed. When they show up, it seems that they show up fast.
I have done a number of alternative things, over many years, to try and manage this condition. I have no way of knowing whether these things have helped, but I would like to think that they have. Rama is a healthy seeming, bouncy cat, with a tender nature and a crabby voice. He’s very attached to his people, and he doesn’t mind the other cats. He’s even become less serious in the last year, and begun to play with Norton. These are good things, because I want him to have a fine and happy life.
Some of you may have dealt with sarcomas (vaccine related or not) in cats. Of course, I am not a vet! So please consult your veterinarian. I can share here what I’ve done and what I’ve learned over time when managing Rama’s condition.
1. Explore alternatives to managing the immune system
Shortly after the sarcomas started to show up, I consulted with a holistic veterinarian. Ever since then, I have added supplements to Rama’s daily diet that boost his immune system. He gets a probiotic, an immune boosting supplement (Vetriscience Vetri DMG), and a supplement with a cancer fighting mushroom (agaricus bio). We’ve also just added another supplement by Vetriscience (Cell Advance 440) that contains quercetin, which targets nerve inflammation.
Of course, consult with your vet regarding your case, supplements, and dosages. Every cat will be different, sarcomas can vary, and vets have different philosophies; there are many possible approaches out there.
None of this stuff is super expensive by itself, although it will add up depending upon how many different things you are using. It does take time and commitment to stick with the regime and add it into the food daily.
2. Avoid grains and junk food
Rama eats grain-free canned and dry food, usually a bit of both, depending upon the budget. Apparently, grains can cause inflammation in the system and create an environment where cancer can thrive. When budget allowed, I tried to feed Rama a raw diet, which he didn’t care for. He does love lettuce, and I let him have as much of that as he wants – especially organic lettuce.
3. Keep the weight down
Rama loves to eat. Because of the location of his recurring sarcomas, if he puts on a bit too much weight, I might not catch those tumors when they come back. (I AM hoping for a day that they won’t come back – that’d be great.) The faster I can catch them, the less dramatic the surgery has to be.
4. Get that cone on after the surgery
Rama loves to pull out his stitches. I’ve learned that a few times. So unfortunately, I need to be real hardnosed about getting the cone on him and keeping it on until the sutures come out in 10 days or so. He’s gotten used to that and, in fact, turns into a really nice, loving (read: schmoozing) cat with the cone on. (Get this cone off me, Mama. Please!)
5. Bounceback has generally been good
Mostly, Rama’s tumors have been subcutaneous. With the anesthesia my vet uses, Rama is generally in good spirits right away, and ready to move around normally right when he goes home after surgery. The last surgery was a little deeper, and my vet had to go into the muscle slightly. So Rama was sent home with painkillers. Make sure this is an option if your cat needs it.
No one’s cat sarcoma story is going to be the same. These sarcomas can vary in type, intensity, and grade. Veterinarians will also vary in their approaches. If you’ve had experience with treating sarcomas, share any thoughts here. You may have something to say that will help someone else. Thank you!
Read more about sarcomas:
- Coming in 2014 to a Vet Near You: Tail Vaccinations
- Ask a Vet: Let’s Talk About the Latest on Injection Site Sarcomas
- Can Vaccines Cause Cat Cancer?
About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.