The 3 Types of Lymphoma in Cats: Symptoms, Life Expectancy, and Treatment

4 comments May 6, 2024by Denise Lessard

Lymphoma in cats is one of the most serious health issues that your feline best friend could be susceptible to during his lifetime. While this disease primarily attacks the lymph nodes, it may subsequently spread to other areas of a cat's body like bone marrow, spleen, liver, chest cavity, as well as the gastrointestinal tract.

We've put together this blog post to get you in on the important things you need to know about cat lymphoma. Besides walking you through its possible causes, you'll also learn about the symptoms to take note of, the options for treatment, and other useful bits and pieces.

Don't forget to check out our comprehensive guide to cat cancer for more information.


What Is Lymphoma In Cats?

Cats develop lymphoma when cancer cells attack a type of white blood cell called the lymphocyte. These cells play a key role in a cat's immune system response and can be found throughout the body. What's really alarming about this serious disease is that it can potentially affect any organ or body part due to the "universal" nature of lymph nodes and their corresponding lymphatic vessels.

Lymphoma in felines is a common form of cancer and makes up approximately 30% of all cancer diagnoses in cats.

Depending on the tumor location, it is not uncommon to deal with varying forms like small cell gastrointestinal lymphoma, nasal lymphoma, large cell gastrointestinal lymphoma, and central nervous system lymphoma, among others.

Moreover, you may also deal with a solitary lymphoma or a multicentric lymphoma, which is often associated with the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia. Discovering cat lymphoma too late will usually end in a bad prognosis.

This is the reason why early detection via a thorough lymphoma diagnosis as well as a proper and immediate cancer treatment is required for affected cats. It is even possible to achieve complete remission when you treat lymphoma during its beginning stages.


Is Cat Lymphoma and Tumor the Same?

gray cat standing on its two feet

The short answer is no.

A tumor is typically described as an abnormal lump or growth (e.g. strange abdominal masses and thickened intestines). On the other hand, cat lymphoma refers to the rapid growth and spread of cancer cells involving internal lymph nodes.

This may result to various types of lymphoma like gastrointestinal small cell lymphoma (SCL), its large cell lymphoma counterpart (LCL), including other forms. Cat lymphoma is a common cancer and can be successfully treated.

However, as we've emphasized earlier, this serious disease must be detected early—through an accurate diagnosis by a veterinary medicine professional—and given the proper treatment as soon as possible. Failure to keep this in mind will lead to a very bad prognosis.


What Causes Lymphoma in Cats?

Although the exact known cause of lymphoma in cats is still unknown, studies show that "risk factors" like age and certain lack of vaccinations may set off this disease.

As for age, intestinal lymphoma generally affects cats older than ten (10) years old, while mediastinal lymphoma, which affects the lymph nodes in the chest, seems to have an impact on felines with an average age of five (5) years old.

Does the feline leukemia virus have to do with cat lymphoma?

Yes, mediastinal lymphoma and renal lymphoma (affecting the kidneys) are mostly seen in infected cats that had a positive diagnosis of the feline leukemia virus (FLV). The lack of FLV vaccination may make a cat's body highly susceptible to mediastinal lymphoma.


What Are The Symptoms of Lymphoma in Cats?

cat looking up

The symptoms of lymphoma in cats vary because it greatly depends on which area of a cat's body is affected. The following are the usual clinical signs involved when it comes to cats lymphoma:

Feline gastrointestinal lymphoma

  • Unexpected weight loss

  • Drastic changes in appetite or decreased appetite

  • Sudden increased appetite in some cases

  • Bouts of vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • Gastrointestinal tract issues

  • Other clinical signs akin to having inflammatory bowel disease

Mediastinal lymphoma in cats

  • Respiratory problems

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Gasping

  • Wheezing

  • Decreased appetite

  • Drooling and issues with the nasal cavity 

  • Unexpected weight loss

Renal lymphoma in cats

  • Drastic changes in bathroom habits

  • Frequent urination

  • Bloody or cloudy urine

  • Decreased appetite

  • Nasal cavity issues


Small Cell Lymphoma in Cats vs. Large Cell Lymphoma in Cats

The clinical signs of large cell lymphoma and its large cell counterpart are going to be not as noticeable compared to other indicators of cancer affecting the GI tract. However, large cell gastrointestinal lymphoma can bring on more severe and more acute symptoms.

Should a cat be afflicted with the LCL type of this cancer, he is going to run the risk of having a poor prognosis for this disease. The median survival time of treated cats will also be compromised, particularly when the treatment has been done and the cancer has already become established.

The most common treatment options for feline lymphoma include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and steroids. These options, particularly surgery and chemotherapy, may be used alone, but can also be combined with the others.


How is Feline Lymphoma Diagnosed?

The following are the usual methods used to determine if a cat is affected with lymphoma in cats:

  • Thorough physical examination

  • Abdominal ultrasound

  • Thoracic radiographs

  • Bloodwork

  • Testing for feline leukemia virus infection

  • Flow cytometry

A microscopic examination will also be performed by extracting tissue samples from the affected area. This can be done through fine needle aspiration (FNA) or biopsy. While these two methods are similar, the latter uses a much wider needle.


How Long Do Cats With Lymphoma Live?

The life expectancy of cats with lymphoma depends on many factors, such as where the cancer is and how early it was diagnosed and treated. Generally speaking, the life expectancy is between 4 weeks to 2 years. 

The life expectancy of cats having intestinal lymphoma

Thankfully, the most common type of feline lymphoma, intestinal lymphoma, is often “low-grade," or small cell. With treatment, cats diagnosed with this type of lymphoma have an average life expectancy of 1.5-2 years.


Is Lymphoma in Cats Painful?

Thankfully, most cats being treated for lymphoma aren’t usually in lots of pain. Towards the end of their life, though, a vet might prescribe some pain medications to help them stay comfortable. Cats having a poor prognosis may also have a problem with pain and discomfort during this disease.


How Can Lymphoma in Cats Be Treated?

cat being pet by its owner

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and the administration of steroids are the available conventional treatment options for lymphoma in felines. We've also provided a quick description of each so you will have an overview of the same:

  • Surgery or radiation therapy are two distinct procedures but are usually administered together. Surgery pertains to the removal of the cancer, while radiation therapy refers to the use of high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy utilizes a mixture of strong drugs to get rid of cancer. While chemotherapy can be used as a standalone treatment, it can also be combined with surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can either lead to a "partial response" or partial remission or a "complete response" or complete remission.

  • Steroid is another treatment for feline lymphoma. However, it is deemed as a short-term recourse compared to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The most common steroid used for lymphoma in cats is prednisolone.


Cat Lymphoma Treated Naturally: Is This Possible?

Sure you may have heard that chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the usual treatment choices for lymphoma in cats, but there is actually a natural support product you can go for when it comes to this serious disease.

Zumalka's PIPTOPET has been specifically designed to boost your pet’s immune system, promoting a healthy response and improving your cat’s natural ability in its fight against the disease. It also does not have any adverse side effects like those set off by chemotherapy.

Moreover, PIPTOPET has been given highly positive reviews by Dogster, Catster, and Hepper by pet parents worldwide. Isn't it time you and your feline best friend discovered the wonders of this natural product yourself?



About the author

Denise Lessard
Denise Lessard


Denyse Lessard is deemed as the “mother” of Zumalka, which was established more than ten years ago to provide easily accessible natural products for pet wellness worldwide.

Besides being a trained alternative medicine therapist, Denyse also has expertise in homeopathy, naturopathy and iridology, reflexology, as well as Chinese medicine. She is a long-standing member of the Professional Union of Homeopaths of Quebec, as well as the Association of Naturopaths and Naturotherapists of Quebec.

Denyse’s philosophy as regards pet wellness is not just about only dealing with disease and illness when they get in the picture, but keeping animals in ideal health each and every day.

Find out more about Denyse when you click HERE.


  • ZUMALKA May 1, 2023 at 8:48 am

    Hi Usha,
    Thank you for your excellent question. We have never used Viusid for pets, but are happy to give you more details on how our PIPTOPET works. Be on the lookout for our email to you.

  • usha r jindal May 1, 2023 at 8:48 am

    i found your explanation of lymphoma in cats very useful. I wonder if you are familiar with the natural product Viusid for pets for boosting their immune system. How does your Piptopet compares to it. I am certainly interested in knowing and then deciding to try the product for my cat Pixie

  • ZUMALKA November 14, 2022 at 8:40 am

    Hi Angela,

    That is an excellent question. Blood tests to count the number of cells in a sample of your blood can give your doctor clues about your diagnosis. Removing a sample of bone marrow for testing is also another way. A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy procedure involves inserting a needle into your hipbone to remove a sample of bone marrow.
    I hope this helps!


  • Angela November 14, 2022 at 8:40 am

    How is lymphoma in cats diagnosed? With blood work?

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