Guest Post by Lorie Huston, DVM
Please join Lorie on her website – Pet Health Care Gazette
It’s well known and well documented that secondhand smoke can be dangerous to people. That’s one of the reasons that most public places are now smoke-free. But what if you are a cat owner that smokes in your home? Could you be damaging your cat’s health?
The answer is yes. Undoubtedly, you are risking your cat’s health by exposing your feline friend to cigarette smoke or other nicotine products.
Cigarette smoke contains a number of different toxins. Some are in gaseous form and some are particulate in nature. These toxins can easily damage your lungs as well as your cat’s lungs. In people, secondhand smoke has been linked to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It can also cause impaired immune function, which in turn can create a predisposition for pulmonary infections. Exposure to cigarette smoke can cause symptoms of asthma to worsen. It is also an important risk factor for the development of lung cancer.
Your cat’s lungs are not that dissimilar to those of a person and are susceptible to many of the same insults from secondhand smoke.
As in people, secondhand smoke can predispose your cat to at least two different forms of cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the most frequently occurring cancer in the mouth of both humans and cats. These tumors can be extremely invasive and can even affect the bones in your cat’s mouth. It is thought that a cat’s mouth may be exposed to toxins in cigarette smoke through normal grooming activity, resulting in a predisposition to this type of cancer in cats that live with smokers.
- Secondhand cigarette smoke has also been linked to the development of lymphosarcoma (LSA), another serious and potentially fatal form of cancer in cats.
- The longer your cat is exposed to cigarette smoke, the greater the chance that your cat will develop one of these forms of cancer.
In addition to increasing your cat’s risk for cancer, exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke can also cause respiratory issues for your cat. At the very least, exposure can make symptoms of feline asthma or other respiratory diseases much worse. In the worst case scenario, it may actually cause the disease.
Another risk for your cat, apart from smoke inhalation, is the potential for accidental ingestion of nicotine, which is toxic to your cat. Curious cats may chew on or ingest both cigarette butts and nicotine patches.
What can you do to protect your cat from second-hand cigarette smoke?
The obvious solution is to stop smoking. I realize this is easier said than done, but if successful, you’ll be protecting your cat’s health as well as your own.
If you elect to continue smoking, there are still some things you can do to protect your cat.
- Smoke outdoors away from your cat. Or, alternatively, designate an area in your home as a smoking zone and restrict your cat from the area.
- Use an air filter to help remove toxins from cigarette smoke from the air in your home.
- Clean your home regularly and get rid of any cigarette butts or used nicotine patches. Keep unsmoked cigarettes and unused nicotine patches locked up out of your cat’s reach.
- Bathe your cat regularly or wipe your cat down with a pet wipe to remove toxins from the hair coat.
- Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your cat is showing symptoms of disease caused by second-hand smoke.