Person petting cat

Key takeaway

Just like humans, cats can get warts that grow over time when not treated properly. Cat warts are not contagious to humans, but they are contagious to other cats. Cats get warts from coming into contact with infected cats or objects, such as toys. Warts can be treated with medication, freezing, and surgery.

While warts are not typically common cat skin conditions, along with moles and skin tags, cat owners should be able to identify them. Your vet might refer to a wart as a tumor, but many tumors, including warts, are non-cancerous, but they can become infected, inflamed, and painful if they’re not treated properly.

Warts are caused by papillomaviruses that are transmitted through direct contact with other infected animals or objects.1Read on to learn more about what cat warts are, their causes, how to spot them, and how to treat them.

How to Spot Warts on Your Cat

Warts on a cat are very visible and appear as raised growths; they resemble tumors but are non-cancerous and not a cause for too much concern when treated correctly.

Warts can be dark, light, or skin-colored in appearance and may even go away on their own. However, they often cause itchy skin, typically causing cats to continue to irritate the area by scratching it. You can soothe itchy skin at home, but you’ll need to see a vet to take care of the wart causing the itchiness.

If you believe it could be a wart, it’s important to keep your cat away from other cats until you know the true cause. Warts can be transferred to other felines, so it’s always best to wash your cat’s toys, blankets, and bedding to prevent warts from coming back or infecting another cat.

Know When To Take Your Cat to the Vet

Finding lumps and bumps on your cat is common, but it could be due to several factors. Usually, warts on a cat are not an immediate medical concern, but if the wart doesn’t go away with time, it could indicate a serious problem with your cat’s health.

how to know if it's just a bump or a wart on your cat

If you’re not sure whether a lump or bump on your cat is a wart, schedule a vet appointment so your vet can examine your cat’s skin more closely. Once the vet diagnoses the skin lesion, they’ll be able to come up with a treatment plan to get rid of it.

Having a treatment plan is especially important if the wart has begun interfering with your cat’s everyday life. For example, a wart may make it difficult for your cat to eat or drink if it’s situated on our around its mouth. You should talk to a vet immediately if this occurs.

Your vet may recommend a biopsy to confirm that your cat is infected with wart virus because it’s not a common occurrence in cats. A biopsy will tell your vet whether your cat’s growth is a wart, cancer, or related to any other health conditions.

You should also be able to provide your vet with basic information like the date of when you noticed the growth, whether or not it has grown since then, and if there have been any side effects, such as inflammation, infection, or bleeding.

Getting Rid of Your Cat Warts

Once your vet confirms your cat has warts, they’ll determine the right treatment to get rid of warts and protect your cat from further infection. There are several avenues your vet may recommend to cure your cat.

how to get rid of cat warts with medication, freezing, or surgery

Medication

Anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal medications can help eliminate your cat’s warts easily. The type of medication your vet chooses will depend on the results of the biopsy and other possible tests your vet performs. This medication is typically topical and easy to apply for pet parents, making it one of the best ways to remove warts on cats that cause minimal discomfort.

Freezing

Your vet may also choose to get rid of the wart as soon as possible by freezing it.This method reduces the size of the wart or forces it to fall off completely. Freezing cat warts can help immediately alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with large cat warts. For example, if your cat isn’t eating because the wart is getting in the way, freezing can help reduce the size of the wart so they can begin eating normally again.

Surgery

While freezing is a good option for many pets, your vet might choose to surgically remove the wart based on the biopsy and how the wart is impacting your cat’s quality of life. Additionally, vets will surgically remove warts that could be cancerous or those that aren’t responding to medications.

Before your vet performs surgery on your pet, they’ll perform other tests to ensure they are removing the entire wart on the first try. Surgery is a great option for some cats, but it may not be ideal for older cats who are at a higher risk of anesthetic complications.

Recovering from Cat Warts

Once your cat’s warts have been removed or reduced, they can start to recover. Warts that are removed surgically will not return as long as the vet was able to remove them in their entirety. Unfortunately, warts that are frozen off may regrow if the entire wart was not affected the first time.

Since a contagious virus causes warts, there’s no cure for them, but they can be treated. Some cats might experience recurring warts, so it’s important to keep your pet healthy to reduce the possibility of contracting the virus again. While warts on cats are not life-threatening, they can become painful when not treated.

Are Cat Warts Contagious to Humans?

Cat warts are not contagious to humans; the virus that causes warts is specific to species. Therefore, humans can give other humans warts, but they can’t pass the virus between species.

It’s important to remember that cat warts are contagious to other cats. If you have more than one cat in the home and a cat contracts warts, try to keep them away from the other cats until the wart has been treated. You should also stop your cats from sharing toys and beds during that time.

3 Common Causes of Cat Warts

Cat warts come from a virus, which means it’s transferable, but there isn’t one identifiable cause. In fact, many types of viruses might cause warts in cats. Cat warts are rare, but if your cat is infected, ensure you keep them away from other cats to stop the spread. Here are the common causes of cat warts:

  1. Direct contact: The most common cause of warts in cats is that the infection is spread from one cat to another or by way of an object that a cat with warts has touched or used.
  2. Weak immune system: Cats with weakened immune systems are more likely to get warts because their immunity can’t fight off the wart virus. Cats with weakened immune systems can include those with existing medical conditions. Additionally, cats with allergies may also get skin disorders, including warts and rashes, although the exact cause is unknown.
  3. Cancer: Some types of cancer can look like a wart. At first, the wart will look like a benign tumor. However, these growths can spread over time and become cancerous and life-threatening. Since tumors and warts can be hard to tell apart, it’s always best to talk to your vet if you notice a strange growth on your cat. You should even measure it daily to ensure it’s not growing, as this could indicate a more serious problem.

How To Reduce the Risk of Cat Warts

While you may not be able to prevent cat warts if you have one cat that is infected and has already touched or played with your cat, there are ways to reduce the risk of warts at home.

how to reduce the risk of cat warts

Keeping your cat inside: By keeping your cat indoors, you can keep a better eye on them to ensure they’re not coming into contact with any strange cats in the wilderness that might be carrying the wart virus.

Ensuring a healthy immune system: Cats with healthy immune systems are unlikely to get warts even if they come in contact with the wart virus. Healthy cats may not have any symptoms of the virus, and it will naturally leave their bodies. To ensure your cat’s health, feed them a healthy diet and limit stress.

Knowing your cat’s friends: If your cat likes to play with other cats, make sure those cats aren’t showing symptoms of the wart virus. Additionally, check out cats you plan to bring into your home, especially when adopting a new pet. Before you bring a new cat home to meet your current cat, always have your veterinarian confirm they are healthy and not carrying any contagious diseases that can affect your healthy cat at home.

Checking your cat regularly: If you see a wart, it’s too late to prevent it. Check your cat regularly to ensure they’re not getting warts and catch warts when they’re small to ensure no major complications down the line. If you do notice a new lump, call your vet and schedule an appointment.

Your healthy adult cat may never develop warts, but it’s always important to have the knowledge to prevent them and know what to do if your cat ever does get a wart.

Final Notes

Cat warts are not as common as other viruses, but they can cause pain and irritation that impact your cat’s quality of life. Warts are typically not a life-threatening disease, but they can make your cat unhappy, so it’s important to know how to spot a wart and when to take your cat to the vet.

Before you panic, make a note of where the lump is and measure it so you can begin monitoring it. If your cat’s growth grows, take them to the vet as soon as possible as growth can indicate a serious health problem, such as a cancerous tumor.

Warts themselves are typically non-cancerous, but they can lead to infections because cats might get irritated by them and try to paw at them or scratch them, especially if they’re on their face and disrupting their ability to see or eat. Treating a wart is important for preventing its growth, so it’s always best to schedule an appointment with your local vet when you believe they have a wart.

Dutch offers telemedicine for pets so you can get the advice and treatments you need to take care of your pet’s warts from the comfort of your own home. While you might have to visit your local vet for a biopsy, Dutch’s licensed veterinarians can help you find the best treatment options and follow up with you to ensure your cat’s warts are going away.

References

  1. Villalobos, Alice E. “Tumors of the Skin in Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022,