Do you put a 19 year cat through an operation to remove a lump inside her?

Do you put a 19 year cat through an operation to remove a lump inside her?

by Michael
(London, UK)

This is a dilemma I have. My lady cat is 18-19 years old. I am told by the veterinarian that she has a lump inside her. She diagnosed this by feeling her. The lump is at the area of her upper intestine, I think. It can be felt on the side of the cat. I am not sure how reliable this form of diagnosis is. How reliable is it?

She is also diagnosed with having a heart murmur. She will probably have to be sedated for an ultrasound test that will confirm the lump but not what type it is.

She will have to be sedated to aspirate a part of the lump to diagnose it.

She will have to be anesthetised for the surgery if that is decided.

If the lump is malignant will its removal prolong her life? If it is benign why remove it?

With a heart murmur surgery, anesthesia might kill her.

There are lots of potentially unsettling and dangerous procedures. She has some dementia, by the way. But she is healthy, eats well, urinates well but may have constipation – this is being checked by me on an ongoing basis…..

Hang on…as I write I smell sh*t. I have never been more pleased to smell the stuff! It has put a smile on my face. While writing she went to the toilet.

What would you do? Is there any benefit to doing tests etc. if at the end of the day a decision is made not to operate to remove the lump (if it actually exists) because of the danger of the operation and its lack of benefit bearing in mind her age. She has had a good life.

The same kind of questions are asked in relation to elderly people and whether to do major surgery. My mother had colon cancer and a weak heart. She had the operation and she died of a heart attack four days or so after the operation.

I would be pleased to hear comments.

Michael Avatar

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Do you put a 19 year cat through an operation to remove a lump inside her?

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Apr 27, 2012 To Sio NEW
by: Ruth

You’ve made a very wise decision not to put your cat through the trauma and pain of surgery at her age and possibly lose her under anaesthetic when she’s happy and has good quality of life.
The lump might disappear again or it might stay as it is for a long time, I totally agree that you are doing the right thing for her.
I hope you have a lot more time with her and enjoy every moment together you can.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Apr 25, 2012 Same dilemma NEW
by: Sio

I have a similar dilemma, and I am so pleased to read all these comments. They confirm my opinion. My vet wants to operate on my cat, and tells me she should have a chance to be treated. She’s 16, she hates vets, I don’t know what they’ll find, she’s seriously as happy as Larry at the moment, why change that? Moreover, she’s had lumps appear in the past following injections that have disappeared (this one was following an injection). Thank you so much. She’s not being operated on.

Sep 02, 2011 Enjoy Your Time
by: Melis and Bob

Hi. Like most I favor laissez faire and here’s why: My Grandmother, who feared hospitals, was discovered to have advanced cancer 5 years before I was born. I forget now if it were lung or breast, but they opted to leave it alone. She was still around to see me live to 5 years before she had to give it up. By then it was visible on the outside of her body, but for most of that intervening ten years she wasn’t in pain, just often congested and often needing to clear her throat a lot and spit. The pain came at the end and she was really out of it by then. Even I, only five, could look at her and discern she was about to die. Pretty sure they consider that you’ve beaten cancer if you survive 5 years beyond all that chemo-torture and radiation.

You’ll know when the time comes. Meanwhile, relax and enjoy your time together.–M

Jul 12, 2011 Binnie loves you just the way she is
by: Gail (Boston, MA, USA)

Hi Michael, Having gone through this scenario with my (late) Sadie, I felt that familiar twinge when I read your story about Binnie. As others have wisely said, my advice would be to leave well enough alone.

The vet felt a small lump in Sadie when she was around 16 years. After discussing all options, he asked for a decision. I told him if she were 5 or 6, I would consider surgery but at her advanced age, I’d be fearful she wouldn’t make it through anesthesia. He agreed, saying she may have a short time, but it was better to be at home amongst those who loved her. Sadie lived for nearly another year before crossing the Rainbow Bridge. It gave peace of mind knowing the decision not to have surgery was the correct one as she was not in pain. Her labored breathing began the evening before I decided it was time; however, in speaking with her that last night, she knew she was leaving on her own terms.

You will make the right decision, Michael and Binnie will always love you for the wonderful life you gave her. Enjoy her as long as possible.

Jun 25, 2011 Do not operate
by: Elisa

I had a cat named Tiger many years ago. I felt a knot on him and took him to the vet. Tiger was only a year old, but when the vet got into him the vet discovered the mass was wrapped around his intestines to the point surgery would likely prove unsuccessful. It wasn’t a matter of malignant or not. I made a tough decision and asked the vet to go ahead and euthanize Tiger before he ever woke up.

My neighbor recently had surgery on her small dog and said not waking up from anesthesia is a big worry.

If this were my cat I’d leave well enough alone and just go for pain management. An animal will almost always tell you when it’s tired of living. No need for her to spend possibly months in post operative pain. Keep things as close to normal as you can for her.

Michael I’m dealing with the same thing with my 11 year old boxer. He has several lumps along his neck and back. I had to make the decision not to operate. I could have to put him down at any time. He’s lived for almost 3 years with these and is pain free except for some arthritis.

With any luck our pets will pass away quietly in their sleep and we won’t have to deal with the decision of when the right time is.

Jun 25, 2011 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks, Rudolph and Aimee for your advice. I agree with you as you know. She is content and not in pain. I can’t feel the lump by the way.

Jun 24, 2011 Aged cats and serious medical operations.
by: Rudolph.A.Furtado

Michael, your cat has lived a long contended life and death is inevitable to all living beings.Getting your cat treated for serious medical problems at the age of 19 is nothing but torture to the poor animal.Let nature take its normal course and allow your cat to live its normal life.

Jun 24, 2011 I have to agree with the majority
by: Aimee

I have a 20 year old cat.. and if my vet found a lump on him.. I would have to say I would not do anything as long as he wasn’t in any pain and eating and using the litter box well. Since Binnie is doing all of that I agree with your feeling that leaving her be is a better option. If she were a 4 or 5 year old.. I’d feel much differently about it. My vet is wonderful and she even agrees with me that excess testing on my 20 year old Karma unless he is in pain.. is not worth it. Too much chance of something happening to him. He doesn’t tolerate the vets well at all so even for an x-ray let alone an ultrasound he would need to be sedated and it’s not worth it even for my peace of mind. He’s had a great life, he’s loved and he still chases the younger cats around the house.. two years after being diagnosed with renal failure. As long as she is comfortable and you are comfortable.. enjoy her for the time you have.

Jun 24, 2011 Love to Binnie
by: Dorothy

Hi Michael, you’ve been given sweet, smart and good advice by all your POC friends, and it looks like you’ve come to a good conclusion on your own as well. I agree with all, that putting Binnie through medical treatments would be worse that anything that is naturally going on with her body. She’s had a long and happy life with you. Better if she goes quietly in peace than with the intrusion of medical ‘help’. Bless her lovely heart and yours. I hope she surprises you an even longer life.


Jun 24, 2011 Though less definitive than a biopsy–
by: Sylvia Ann

-an abnormally high white blood cell count is thought to suggest the presence of cancer where there is no other discoverable source for or symptoms of illness.

Some vets are saying that chemotherapy is well tolerated by animals – an assurance a parent might want to take with a grain of salt if cats are as skilled as they’re said to be in hiding their misery. If Binny has cancer, the surgery, etc. – if it doesn’t kill her – is unlikely to cure her….the cancer will remit for awhile, then recrudesce.

If you want a biopsy, perhaps the vet could give you a pill to sedate your old lady before you brought her in. It would also seem a brief ‘knock-out’ injection that put her down for five minutes or so, long enough to aspirate the mysterious lump – if such could be done – would be less of a strain than anesthesia.

Jun 24, 2011 Wise words
by: Michael

Thank you ladies for your wise words and taking the time write your comments. It is very much appreciated.

She is content and not in pain. I am not sure she has a lump but the vet says she has.

She is active and I am happy that she is OK. As she has been to the toilet and her stool is good I am watching and waiting.

My gut instinct is not to put her through tests and distress if we are not going to operate at the end of the day.

She has had a good life and been loved tenderly throughout the past 18 years with me.

Thanks again.

Michael Avatar

Jun 24, 2011 My thoughts
by: Ruth

I’m so sorry Michael, this is terrible for you and a very hard decision to make.
If the lump can be felt it sounds as if it may have been growing for a while without bothering her. If she was my cat, as long as it doesn’t bother her and she is eating I wouldn’t put her through tests or an operation at her age.
The stress of being left at the vets and of having an anaesthetic, let alone surgery, is huge for older cats.
If the lump is cancer, I really don’t know if this is true but the vet I first worked for said if fresh air gets in it speeds up the growth of cancer in people and in animals.
Our own late mother died of spreading cancer just a month after surgery which had she known it was that she wouldn’t have gone through the operation.
Of course if your cat stops eating or starts hiding away you would have to make the decision to let her go but as you say she’s well enough at present so she could have many more months with you yet.
The dilemma is do you take a chance on her having the surgery, it not being cancer and her coming through it or do you let her be to enjoy her last amount of time in peace.
I know I would choose the second option if I was her.
Good luck.
I really do feel for you !
If you are unsure that there really is a lump, then do ask for a second opinion, no vet should mind you doing that !

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jun 24, 2011 She has lived a good life
by: Brandy

It is always hard to let go or feel like you gave up but a cat that lived to 19 has had an amazing life full of your love. She shared all the moments with you and supported you in her own feline way. At this age she doesn’t want surgery and the outcome of the surgery cant give her enough good years to make it worth it.

Find comfort that you gave her endless love and she felt every ounce of it from you. Continue her life until you can tell its time to let her go. Its your sacrifice for her.

I am sorry that its getting close to the time to let her go. My cats were sick early this year and I thought I was going to have to put down my 6 year old cat. Its devastating to lose a part of your family. I hope you find strength in all the memories you have shared and I hope that even with this lump she lives for a couple more years.

Jun 24, 2011 Your dilemma
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

In the end the decision is yours, Michael. I feel for you, for though you say she has had a long happy life, it is never easy to say good-bye. If it were my cat, today, at two years old, I would proceed with the tests and possibly with surgery. If it happens when he is 18 I can tell you with all confidence that I would leave it alone.

A cat usually fears the vet. It can be kind of traumatic. At 18 she doesn’t have much time left. The only question is what that end will be like. Do you want to risk her leaving this world in a place she fears and hates if she dies from the anesthetic? Or would it be better if she dies quietly, at peace, at home with you?

Cancer spreads slowly in elderly people. If it is malignant she may have more time left leaving it alone than risking surgery. I also just read that some doctors theorize that a primary malignant tumor puts out chemical signals that lessen the chances of the cancer spreading in other sites. Even in humans, it is now felt by some, taking out the primary tumor can cause any remaining missed cancer to spread very quickly, often fatally. Do they do chemotherapy for cats? She’d never survive it even if they do it, and the side effects are horrible. So long as her bowel is not obstructed there seems little reason to risk her life. Palpation alone can’t really tell the whole story. If it’s not broken don’t fix it. If she’s doing ok right now I wouldn’t spring for any other tests.

My thought is that she will live longer and happier if you leave things be. Were she a young cat my feelings would be different concerning taking risks with sedating her or performing the surgery. To me, leaving things alone seems the sensible choice. But in the end it is your decision, and depends on how things progress.

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