Dear Christopher Cat: My cat has lymphoma. I know humans also get this kind of cancer. Can my cat give me his lymphoma?
Christopher Responds: No. Cancers are not transmitted from pets to people, or for that matter, from one person to another.
Cats infected with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are at greater risk of developing lymphoma than cats that were never exposed to the virus. Yet while infected cats can spread FeLV to other cats, they can’t transmit lymphoma to them – or to humans, even those whose immune systems are suppressed due to disease or medication.
Only two cancers are known to be contagious, and these are transmitted only to members of the same species.
One is the canine transmissible venereal tumor, which is spread to dogs, wolves, coyotes and foxes through sexual contact, licks and bites. These tumors, which appear on the canine’s genitals, face and occasionally elsewhere, respond well to chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
The other contagious cancer is devil facial tumor, which is transmitted when Tasmanian devils fight with or bite one another. This cancer is almost always fatal.
Neither of these cancers is contagious to other species, including humans.
Moreover, no other animal or humans cancers have ever been transmitted to people, even those with compromised immune systems.