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The Ugly Truth About Feline Lymphoma And Secondhand Smoke

Updated on July 30, 2015
Darlene Norris profile image

Darlene Norris loves cats and dogs. She has worked as a vet assistant, and draws on this experience when she writes her hubs.

Is It OK To Smoke Around Your Cat?

The short answer is no.

Just about everybody knows about the dangers of second hand smoke for people. But did you know that it's even worse for our pets?

Kitties who live in a home where somebody smokes have a much higher risk of developing feline lymphoma, a cancer common among cats.

First, Let's Define Some Terms

What, exactly, is second hand smoke? It's the smoke that's exhaled into the air by a smoker. It's also smoke that comes directly from a burning cigarette or cigar. If you're around a smoker, and you inhale the smoke, it can cause health problems for you.

But have you ever heard of third hand smoke? It's what's left on clothes, furniture, walls, skin, and fur, even after the air is clear of smoke. It can be seen as a yellowish residue that builds up over time on walls and furniture. And this is what your cat licks off his or her fur.

Environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS, is the combination of second and third hand smoke.

Smoking And Your Cat's Health

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, chromium, nickel, vinyl chloride and arsenic. Since cats are a lot smaller than people, it only stands to reason that it would take much less exposure to these chemicals to cause health problems for them.

We tend to forget that since our pets live with us, they're exposed to the same environmental toxins we are. Inside cats often fare worse because they don't get to leave the house during the day like their owners do. Felines are doubly exposed to carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Not only do they inhale the smoke, but they lick the particulates from the smoke off their fur as they groom themselves.

Some people think that if they smoke by an exhaust fan in the kitchen, it will pull all the smoke out of the house. This isn't true. Many carcinogens found in cigarette smoke are in the form of gas, which can't be completely removed by ventilation fans. It can take hours to clear the house of the smoke from one cigarette. In the meantime, your kitty is exposed to everything in the smoke.

Feline cancer isn't the only risk your kitty faces from tobacco smoke. Your cat may be more susceptible to bronchitis, sinus infections, pneumonia, heart failure, lung cancer, feline asthma and eye irritation.

Studies Document Dangers Of Environmental Tobacco Smoke For Cats

A study at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine indicates that felines exposed to cigarette smoke have a significantly higher risk for feline lymphoma than do cats in non-smoking homes.

80 cats who were suffering from cat lymphoma, and 100 who had kidney failure, were followed over seven years:

  • Cats exposed to environmental tobacco smoke had more than twice the risk of developing feline lymphoma than did cats in non-smoking households.
  • The risk of tumors in cats increased to three times higher if the kitty lived in a home with a smoker for five years.
  • If a person smoked a pack a day or more of cigarettes, the risk of cancer in cats increased three times.
  • If two or more smokers were present, the risk was four times higher.

Now newer studies have shown that oral cancer, in the form of feline oral squamous cell carcinoma, is much more common in cats living in homes with smokers. This is probably because they lick particulates from smoke off their fur, as mentioned above.

How You Can Lessen Your Kitty's Risk

The best thing you can do for both yourself and your feline friend is to stop smoking. If you can't stop, then go outside to smoke. This can help to lessen the risk, but doesn't entirely eliminate it. Studies have shown ETS levels in the home are still five to seven times higher than in non-smoking households, even when someone smokes outdoors.

You can also set aside smoke-free rooms in your home for your pets. Brush your furry friend regularly to remove any residue from his or her fur.

An air purifier may remove some of the toxins from the air your kitty breathes. You may want to give your pet vitamin C and antioxidants to reduce her cancer risks.

Our kitties depend on us to provide safe homes for them. Protecting our pets from the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke is one of the best things we can do for them.


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