An interesting case came in today - the 15-year-old medium-haired cat had developed an elongated "lump" along its back. Being conscientious people, the cat's owners brought it in for me to evaluate.
Lumps and bumps in cats come in all types. We commonly see harmless little mast cell tumors, basal cell tumors, and sebaceous ademonas. And then we can also see less common but much more dangerous squamous cell carcinomas, fibrosarcomas, undifferentiated sarcomas, mammary tumors, and the very deadly sweat gland carcinoma. Then there are all the lumps that are NOT tumors: the abscesses, developing fly larvae called Cuterebra and Wohlfartia, ear hematomas, scabs due to various allergic reactions, and matted fur.
Fortunately for my patient this morning, her problem was the last on that list. I got out the electric clippers and whisked it off in just a couple of minutes (it WAS rather large and tightly matted to the skin). Kitty allowed me to give her back a few good run-throughs with the shedding comb, and was good to go.
Unfortunately, for every easy non-problem like this that I see when the appointment book says "check lump", there are a dozen that need action of a more serious sort. Because so many skin lumps in cats can be dangerous malignancies, I tend to be pretty aggressive with their removal. And of course if it's worth removing, it's worth sending to the laboratory for a proper pathological analysis and diagnosis.
I always try to remove suspicious lumps sooner rather than later. Depending on the location, size can be a major factor in whether or not we can successfully remove the whole thing. It's uncommon for me to take a wait-and-see approach on anything larger than .5-1.0 cm.
If you have noticed any skin (or subcutaneous) masses in your cat, please get them checked. These days with digital photography it's a simple matter to photograph lumps for future comparison purposes. And if there is anything at all suspicious about it, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem to you, we may need to act swiftly to save your cat's life.