Can Cats Detect Cancer? The Feline Superpower

For centuries, cats have been known for their sharp senses and instincts, providing companionship and comfort to their owners. However, more recently, they have been in the spotlight for their potential to detect cancer. Researchers have been exploring the possibility of cats possessing a feline superpower to detect cancer in humans. In this article, we will explore the science behind this theory and whether there is any truth to it.

Understanding a cat’s sense of smell

Cats are known for their powerful sense of smell, with a cat’s nose containing around 200 million olfactory receptors, providing them with extraordinary sensitivity to odors. Their sense of smell is around 14 times stronger than that of humans, which makes them capable of detecting even the faintest of smells.

How a cat’s sense of smell works

Scent particles travel through the air and enter a cat’s nose, where they then land on the olfactory receptors. These receptors are then responsible for sending a message to the brain, which processes the information and interprets the smell.

Can cats detect cancer through their sense of smell?

Multiple studies have suggested that cats have the potential to detect cancer through their sense of smell.

How cats detect cancer through their sense of smell

It is believed that cancer cells produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are not found in healthy cells. These VOCs have a distinct odor that cats can detect, and it is suggested that they can identify cancer cells present in the human body.

Evidence supporting the ability of cats to detect cancer

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago found that trained cats can sniff out cancer cells with 96% accuracy. In the study, the cats were exposed to breath samples from lung and breast cancer patients, and the cats were able to identify the samples that contained cancer cells.

Examples of cats detecting and alerting their owners to cancer

There have been multiple cases where cats have been reported to have detected cancer in their owners. One such case involves a cat named Dooley, who persistently pawed at her owner’s chest, leading her to discover a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. There have been many other similar stories reported, which continue to fuel the belief that cats have the ability to detect cancer.

Limitations and challenges in using cats to detect cancer

Despite the promising results, there are many limitations in using cats to detect cancer that need to be addressed.

Training and consistency

The training of cats to detect cancer is a challenging task, and it requires a lot of time and resources. Furthermore, the consistency of results is also a limitation, as cats may be less accurate in detecting cancer if they are tired or stressed.

Other factors that can affect a cat’s ability to detect cancer

Other factors, such as the food the cat eats, can also influence their sense of smell and affect their ability to detect cancer. Furthermore, cats have a tendency to become distracted, which can affect their accuracy and reliability in detecting cancer.


The evidence is promising that cats possess the ability to detect cancer in humans through their sense of smell, but many challenges need to be addressed before it can be considered a reliable diagnostic tool. The potential to use cats in the detection of cancer is exciting and opens up opportunities for further research and development.

Most Common Questions and Answers

  • Can cats detect other types of diseases?

    Cats have been reported to detect other types of diseases such as diabetes, seizures and infections. However, much more research needs to be conducted before these claims can be considered reliable.

  • How accurate are cats in detecting cancer?

    The accuracy of cats in detecting cancer varies, depending on the training and consistency of results. However, studies have shown that cats can detect cancer cells with a high degree of accuracy.

  • How does the cat alert the owner of the presence of cancer?

    There is nothing specific that cats do to alert their owners of the presence of cancer. However, they may act abnormally, such as persistently pawing or snuggling up to a certain part of the body where cancer cells are present.

  • Is using cats to detect cancer practical?

    As it stands, using cats to detect cancer is not practical, as their abilities are inconsistent and require a lot of time and resources. Technology such as breathalyzer tests for cancer detection may provide a more practical alternative.


  • Wells, D. L. (2019). Olfactory stimulation as environmental enrichment for captive animals in zoos and aquariums. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 6, 25.
  • Gilbert, A. N., &Wysocki, C. J. (1991). The smelling of cancer: canines as diagnostic aid. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine (New York, NY), 2(2), 247-260.
  • Mcculloch, M., Jezierski, T., Broffman, M., Hubbard, A., Turner, K., & Janecki, T. (2006). Diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection in early- and late-stage lung and breast cancers. Integrative cancer therapies, 5(1), 30-39.
  • Grivetti, J., &Krausman, P. (2000). Responses of captive coyotes to urine scent marks of conspecifics and sympatric carnivores. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 69(3), 257-266.

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