Cat Warts [With Pictures]: Causes and Treatment Options

If you see an unusual raised growth on your cat’s skin, it could be a wart. While not as common as some other lumps and bumps, warts can occur particularly in older or immunocompromised cats. The lesions are usually benign and often caused by the feline papillomavirus(FPV).

Warts in cats aren’t dangerous, but they should be checked by a vet if they don’t go away on their own. Left untreated, the lesions can become infected or inflamed. In some cases, persistent warts eventually become cancerous.

What is a cat wart?

Warts are raised skin lesions on cats that are usually rounded with a flat top. They may have a light or dark color and can have a variety of consistencies. 

Because they’re usually caused by a virus, cat warts can be spread to other animals by direct contact or through objects such as water/food dishes or bedding. Warts are usually benign and harmless, but they can make your kitty itchy. If your cat scratches the area, he may irritate the skin or cause an infection.

Warts can appear anywhere on your cat’s body. For example:

Wart on the eyelid

black wart on cat's eyelid

Wart on cat leg

wart on cat's leg

Wart on cat paw 

wart under a cat's paw closeup picture

Wart on cat lips / chin

wart near lips on cat's chin

What causes cat warts?

The most common cause of warts in cats is FPV. When cats come in contact with other infected animals or objects that were contaminated with the virus, they could develop warts. If the virus passes through skin openings such as wounds, abrasions, or bites, it enters your cat’s system. 

Cats don’t always develop warts after contracting the virus. Other factors combine to determine whether your feline will get warts. 

  • Having a weak or compromised immune system
  • Age of your cat – very young or very old kitties are more susceptible
  • Recent vaccinations
  • Immunosuppressing medications such as allergy treatments

What are the visual characteristics of warts on cats?

Warts will appear anywhere on your cat’s body. The visual characteristics of a wart vary depending on the type and location of the lesion.

Oral warts

warts in cat mouth

Warts that appear in a cat’s mouth often look more like a small cluster of grapes under the tongue. They rarely progress to more severe forms.

Viral plaques

When newborn kittens pick up the virus from their mother, the lesions appear as elevated, hairless plaques on the skin surfaces of the head and neck. See this picture from VeterianKey.com: Picture

Bowenoid carcinomas

Bowenoid warts usually affect older cats and appear as larger lesions that are scaly and can become ulcerated. These tumors may resolve on their own, stabilize, or become cancerous. See this picture from VetLexicon.com: Picture.

Warts that convert to squamous cell carcinomas

Usually occurring on the face, ears, or other areas that are poorly protected from UV rays, these lesions first appear as a wart. However, they convert to a malignant growth that tends to spread locally. Usually, these warts ulcerate, scab, and cause reddened skin. See this picture from MarvistaVet: Picture.

Fibropapilloma

Sometimes, cats will become infected with the bovine papillomavirus. The result is a firm, non-ulcerating sarcoid growth around the lips or nose

Is it a cat wart or something else?

Sometimes, cat warts can be confused with other skin lesions. If you find a lump on your kitty, how can you tell whether it’s a wart and not something else? For example

  • Abscess
  • Mosquito or another insect bite 
  • Fatty tumor 
  • Tick
  • Skin tag
  • Cancer 

Warts appear on the surface of the skin not beneath the epidermis. This distinguishes them from some lumps and bumps like fatty tumors and abscesses. The best way to determine if a skin abnormality is a wart is by skin biopsy. 

If you notice a raised or wart-like lesion on your cat, watch it closely for a few days. A vet should check lumps that don’t resolve.  It’s common practice to remove warts that don’t subside to prevent cancer.

Does the color of a cat wart mean anything?

Warts can be white, darkly colored, or the color of your cat’s skin. If your kitty has a wart that starts to grow larger or change color, contact your veterinarian. The lesion may be transitioning to a cancerous state. 

Gray cat wart

gray cat wart

White wart on cat

white cat wart

Are warts on cats a problem?

Warts on cats are usually not a problem. However, if they don’t go away and are left untreated, some will become cancerous. So, if a wart remains for more than about two months, you should take your kitty to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. 

It can also be an issue when your cat scratches and irritates a wart in her body. Inflamed skin lesions may be painful for your kitty, and they’re more likely to become infected. Any time there’s an inflamed or infected wart, you should take your kitty in for an exam.

Another way warts can be a problem is if they’re on the lips or mouth. If they continue to grow, they can interfere with your precious pet’s ability to eat or drink. Your veterinarian should see your cat when her oral warts are interfering with her daily routine.

How are warts diagnosed on a cat?

If your cat has a wart-like lesion, and it doesn’t go away in a few months or less, you should take her to the vet  Be prepared to let the doctor know when you first noticed the wart, whether it has grown or changed color, and if you have noticed any bleeding or signs of infection.

The doctor can get a closer look at the growth and may take a biopsy. Your vet may take all or part of the growth to check for papillomavirus and determine whether there are any cancerous cells. The biopsy should also indicate whether the wart is linked to other health conditions.

What is the treatment for warts on cats?

There are three ways that your veterinarian may choose to treat warts on your cat. 

Medication

Depending on the biopsy results, your vet may choose to treat your kitty with antiviral, antifungal, or anti-inflammatory medicine. Usually, the drugs will be topical applications that are easy for you to apply to the wart.

Freezing

As with humans, cat warts can be treated by freezing. Using cryotherapy can help reduce the wart’s size or cause it to fall off completely. This procedure can help relieve discomfort and help to reverse lethargy and a loss of appetite. 

Surgery

If your vet suspects cancer, the wart is interfering with your cat’s quality of life,  or the wart isn’t responding to other treatments, he may surgically remove it. Before the surgery, he’ll run tests to ensure that he removes the entire growth the first time. This will help reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

How do warts typically progress in cats?

When FPV infects a susceptible cat, it will invade skin cells and reprogram them to divide more frequently and in an abnormal manner. The result is a raised lesion on the skin surface. Some warts will continue to grow while others may stop and stabilize. 

Usually, warts do not spread to other parts of the body unless they’re left untreated. Most tumors are cured by surgical removal, but on rare occasions, a wart will recur.

Is there anything you can do at home if you notice a wart on your cat?

Most warts will not require any treatment or intervention. However, when they remain, there are no home remedies that can cure the virus. Because these growths can turn cancerous, you should take your cat to the vet. Don’t try to treat or remove the tumors with an over-the-counter product. The serious nature of the condition and potential outcomes calls for professional care.

How can I prevent warts on my cat?

There are some measures you can take to reduce the chances that your kitty will contact FPV and develop warts.

  • Keep your cat inside – Cats that are allowed to roam free in the neighborhood are more likely to contact an infected animal or contaminated object.
  • Keep your cat healthy – Support your kitty’s immune system by feeding a healthy diet, minimizing stress in her environment, and providing exercise.
  • Check your cat regularly – Monitor your cat for signs of warts or other lumps on the body and in the mouth. If they appear, it’s best to catch them when they’re still small.
  • Check up on your cat’s playmates – If your furbaby has kitty friends make sure they’re not showing signs of contracting FPV. Additionally, if you plan to bring a new cat into the house, have your vet check them first. 

Facts about cat warts

There are some key facts about cat warts that you should know. 

  • Cats can’t give warts to humans – While cats can become infected by other animals, the viruses that affect cats will not infect you.
  • Warts can occur anywhere on the body – In addition to the body, they can be found in the mouth or on the footpads. Make sure you check your cat everywhere when you’re looking for warts.
  • Cats with weak or compromised immune systems are most likely to develop warts – If your cat is very young, elderly, or already infected with FIV or FeLV, they’re more susceptible to infection with FPV.
  • Watch for secondary infections – If your cat is itching the area, the wart may become inflamed or infected. Try to prevent your cat from licking, biting, or scratching.
  • Clean up your cat’s environment – If your cat contracts FPV and develops warts, do what you can to remove contaminated surfaces. Change her bedding, litterbox, and bowls to be on the safe side.
  • Surgical removal usually cures warts – It’s rare for a wart to recur after surgical removal, but they can reappear after freezing.

Frequently asked questions

Are cat warts contagious to humans?

No. The viruses that cause cat warts are not contagious to humans, so you can’t get warts from your cat.

Can I use wart remover on my cat?

We do not recommend that you use wart remover on your cat. Because some warts can convert to cancer, they should be examined and treated professionally.

Can cats get warts on their pads?

Warts can appear anywhere on a cat’s body including its foot pads.

Are warts painful to cats?

Warts that become infected or are in sensitive parts of the body can cause your cat pain.

 

Author

    by
  • Dr. Liz Guise, Veterinarian

    Dr. Elizabeth Guise (DVM) graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She worked as a veterinarian in private practice for over two years before going to work with the USDA as a veterinary medical officer for 14 years.