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Cat Diagnosed with Extremely Rare Mast Cell Tumors

By Christy True
published: August 18, 2023 • 3 min. read
Cathy and her cat Rook

Diagnosis: Mast cell tumors
Cost: $35,981 | Healthy Paws reimbursed: $27,285
Coverage options:  80 percent reimbursement | $250 deductible

Rook, a 6-year-old domestic shorthair cat, is an extremely friendly, loving, playful cat who acts a lot like a dog, says his pet parent Cathy.

“He goes to the door when the doorbell rings, wants to be in the middle of all the action, gets along well with dogs, loves to be picked up and held, and play fetch. He is a big, strong cat (17 lbs.) and the light of our lives,” she said.

Cathy and her husband rescued Rook from a shelter in California. When they walked past his cage, Rook, who was only a four-pound kitten, stuck out his paw. At that moment, they knew he was theirs.

Signs of a tumor

When Rook was only a year old, a raised bump appeared just above his right eye. At the same time, he was experiencing ear infections, sneezing, and itching in his right ear. Cathy took him to the veterinary clinic several times, but each time the vet said it was nothing to worry about. When the bump wouldn’t go away, the vet performed a biopsy. The biopsy revealed that the bump was a mast cell tumor.

With the diagnosis, Cathy took Rook to a specialty hospital where they learned that mast cell tumors in kittens are extremely rare. In fact, the veterinarian had never seen a kitten with one in 17 years of practice.

Cat Rook and her dad

Rook underwent surgery to have the tumor removed once testing revealed it had not spread to his internal organs.

“Since it was so rare, our oncologist hoped that this was just a ‘one off’ type of situation, and he would be fine going forward. Within six months, Rook had another tumor. And then another,” Cathy said.

The vet prescribed Palladia, a medicine usually prescribed to dogs for treating tumors, to try to control them.

However, the tumors kept appearing — several under his right arm, one on his chest, two on his back near his spine, one on his head by his ear, and two others that appeared more recently. In total, Rook has had four surgeries and eight tumors removed. They are treating the two most recent tumors conservatively with steroid injections.

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More health problems emerge

All the cancer treatment took a toll on poor Rook. The Palladia was causing elevated blood pressure, most likely due to chemotherapy-induced renal damage, so they stopped the medication. In addition, he occasionally has elevated liver enzymes, and for a while he suffered significant urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder problems. Those issues were resolved with treatment.

He also has a heart murmur and two lipomas (benign fatty tumors) on the right side of his spine that have been there since birth.

“Recently, we have decided that the best form of treatment is to monitor his blood pressure and tumors, and to be conservative in his cancer treatment. We want him to have a high quality of life for however long we have him,” Cathy said of his ongoing health issues.

Rook and a vet tech

How’s Rook doing now?

While Rook still has the two tumors, he is otherwise behaving like a regular cat. He is happy and feeling well although a little slower than he used to be. His blood pressure is under control with medicine he takes twice daily.

“Looking at him, you would never know there is anything wrong with him or that he has endured so much. He is so very loved and cherished by our family, and we have done everything we can to keep him happy and comfortable,” she said.

How pet insurance helped 

Cathy signed Rook up for a Healthy Paws pet insurance plan immediately after adopting him. She could not have afforded the nearly $36,000 in vet bills for multiple surgeries, extensive testing and medication without it. She’s been pleased with the coverage and customer service. 

“Healthy Paws has treated us with kindness, checking in to see how Rook is doing along the way, and being there when we needed them. Pet insurance is an afterthought a lot of times, and in my opinion and experience, it shouldn’t be. We are incredibly grateful that we have had excellent care from highly qualified oncologists and surgeons and that Rook is doing as well as he is. He was definitely meant to be ours, and we can’t imagine what our lives would be without him,” she wrote.

The claim scenarios described here are intended to show the types of situations that may result in claims. These scenarios should not be compared to any other claim. Whether or to what extent a particular loss is covered depends on the facts and circumstances of the loss, the terms and conditions of the policy as issued, and applicable law.

Insured persons providing testimonials in this report have not received compensation for their statements.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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