When Caity Munday noticed a spot on her cat’s nose, she got it checked out by the vet just to be on the safe side. It was a decision that saved her feline friend’s life.
Handsome tabby Tika first came into Caity Munday’s life in 2011 when her family adopted him and his brother Toffee, from the RSPCA, as kittens.
“We’ve pretty much grown up together,” said Caity, 19. “Tika was much more the outgoing of the two and more adventurous, whereas Toffee was more of a homebody and cuddlier. But they would always cuddle up together.”
Sadly, Toffee died in 2018 after he was hit by a car and Caity said Tika became more affectionate to her after his brother was gone. Tika soon settled into life with two new feline housemates at their home in Weymouth, Dorset, after the acquisition of two new kittens, Teddy and Donut, later that year.
At the grand age of 12, the first sign of trouble for Tika came at the end of 2022 when Caity first noticed a small lump on the side of Tika’s nose, not dissimilar to a spot.
“I’m quite cautious with the cats, as they are so important to me,” she said. “The slightest hint that anything is wrong, I get worried. I decided to take him to the vet’s to be on the safe side.”
Tika’s vet initially just thought the lump was a spot and would go away on its own, but they did a biopsy just to be on the safe side, and the result came back that it was a sarcoma, a malignant tumour.
Tika was immediately referred to specialist vets at Caves Veterinary Practice in Somerset — a 90-minute drive away. Within a week, Tika was receiving a full body scan to check that the cancer hadn’t spread, which thankfully, it hadn’t.
Caity was given two choices: either leave the lump where it was and hope for the best, or to remove it along with Tika’s nose to give him the best chance of recovery.
“The best option for us was to remove it,” Caity said. “To make sure they got all of the growth and clear margins, it was best to remove his whole nose. We were also offered some reconstruction surgery on his nose, but it was purely for cosmetic reasons and the vet said if you don’t mind how it will look, then he doesn’t need it.
“I didn’t want to put him through unnecessary surgery and I just wanted him to have the best recovery and didn’t want to risk it.”
Exactly what caused the sarcoma on Tika’s nose isn’t known, but Caity said it could be a number of things.
“With cats and their noses, they can get it from exposure to the sunlight but it’s more rare with cats than in dogs.”
Tika was scheduled for surgery the very next day on December 16 to avoid another long car journey from Weymouth to Taunton, as he doesn’t cope well with car journeys. They were able to wait for news as the surgery took a couple of hours, which was successful, and the vet managed to get clear margins around the tumour and remove all of it. Three days later, a groggy Tika was allowed to come home.
Image: Tika before and after.
“He was on crate rest to start with when he came home and he had a cone on to protect his face,” Caity said. “We got him a large dog crate with his litter tray and his bed in it to keep him in one place while he recovered.
“It was fine to start with as he was very groggy when we first got him home, but he got very restless before long and he was climbing the walls!”
Tika was on crate rest for around a month altogether as his nose took quite a long time to heal, and he also picked up an infection in the site of the operation which required a course of antibiotics to sort out.
After a time, he was allowed out into the living room for short periods of time, under supervision, to let him stretch his legs.
“The other cats were a bit scared of him when he first came out as he had the big cone on,” Caity said. But once the cone was off and his nose was fully healed, Tika slotted right back into his old life.
Caity said the only difference so far is that he seems to have lost the ability to open the cat flap.
“He used to push it open with his nose and now he can’t do it, so when he wants to go outside, we have to open the door for him — we’re even more his servants than we were before!” Caity laughed.
As for the future, Caity is now hoping to raise awareness of sarcomas.
“Before this happened, I didn’t realise this was a thing in cats,” she said. “If I hadn’t been so cautious with getting his spot checked out and never taken him to the vet’s then we would have lost him.” Caity is urging all cat owners to get anything unusual in your cats checked out, no matter how small it is.
“There was absolutely nothing wrong with Tika at all, nothing to suggest he was ill, no change in his behaviour, he was eating as usual, so I’d tell anyone that if they notice anything different to get your cat checked out to be on the safe side.
What is a sarcoma?
Feline soft tissue sarcomas are malignant tumours that appear anywhere on the outside of a cat’s body. They tend to be slow growing and are mostly painless (although they can occasionally be painful) and most commonly resemble a lump or a mass.
If the cancer has not spread further than the growth, surgery with wide margins around the tumour to remove it has a high success rate. If it has spread, a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy may slow the growth.
You can keep up to date on how Tika is getting on by following his Instagram page at www.instagram.com/tikanonose/