Secondhand Smoke: It’s Not Good For Your Cat Either

By: Kira Ramdas, DVM

TVMA Member
The Woodlands, TX

Published July 2014

Years of research and millions of dollars have shown the detriment of secondhand smoke to children and other family members. In fact, according to Tobacco Free Florida, secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smokers. It increases the chances a non-smoker will develop these diseases by 25 to 30 percent and 20 to 30 percent, respectively.

However, many people aren’t aware that there are also serious health concerns for cats.

People love to keep cats as pets because they are soft, fluffy and clean. Cigarette smoke contains noxious chemicals that cling to cats’ luxuriant fur. When living with a smoker, our cats ingestTo take (food, drink, or another substance) into the body by swallowing or absorbing it. all of these chemicals on a daily basis when they lick their fur. If cigarettes and pipes turn the walls yellow, imagine what havoc their by-products wreak inside our tiny pets! These cats can develop allergic rhinitis (frequent sneezing), bronchitisInflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tubes., asthmaA respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. and even cancer.

Cats with these diseases require antibiotics for infections, steroids to help them breathe, costly diagnostic workups, and they don’t have the luxury of running their expensive inhalers through insurance, which can cost you hundreds of dollars per month!

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, ingestion of secondhand smoke has been associated with an increased risk of malignant lymphomaA disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph system. in cats, and that risk increases with duration and quantity of exposures. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke increases a cat’s risk of developing oral squamous cell carcinoma—the most common oral cancer—two-fold. The prognosisThe likely course of a disease or ailment. for this tumor is very poor, and less than 10 percent of cats diagnosed survive a full year. A link between smoking and oral cancer in cats has also been established due to their fastidiousVery attentive to and concerned about accuracy and detail. grooming habits.

Oral cancer in cats is devastating, painful and nearly always fatal. The next time the urge to smoke comes on, consider taking it outside or meeting with your doctor to help you work out a plan to quit.

For the health of you, your family and your pet, consider quitting today. Visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website for more information.


Small Animal Clinical Oncology – 3rd ed. Stephen J Withrow, E. Gregory MacEwen

Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2003, “Environmental and lifestyle risk factors for oral squamous cell carcinoma in domestic cats”

Kira Ramdas, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and lives in The Woodlands, Texas. Dr. Ramdas practices at Just Cats Veterinary Services.

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