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Blog the Change—Cats and Secondhand Smoke

TW has always been leery of smokers and secondhand smoke and that heightened even more when her Mother died of lung cancer even though she never smoked a cigarette in her life. Her only crime was working for more than 20 years in a small space with 3 heavy smokers. At the time she worked, smoking was legal in workplaces. They could blow smoke in your face all day and you had to take it or quit and work some place else where everyone smoked. Gramma stayed, despite the fact that she had at least one horrible bronchitis attack every year.

Since the laws are different now, TW hadn't thought much about it until our new neighbors moved in. At least one of them smokes and it keep leeching into our apartment. Specifically, the part of the apartment where my food is. The kitchen. She decided to research and find out if animals were harmed by secondhand smoke the same way humans are. She found out—DUH—yes, they are. Seems like a no-brainer to this little ghetto kitteh.

"The correlation is similar to what is seen in children: Smaller lungs have less reserve and are more likely to be affected," says Laura Sullvan, DVM, in an article in Your Daily Cat. A Swedish study found that six out of seven cats had pathological changes in their lungs. This next par, which outlines the diseases that your cat runs the risk of developing if regularly exposed to secondhand smoke is quoted from their article, which you can read at the above link:

  • Malignant lymphoma This aggressive type of cancer occurs in the lymph nodes and can be fatal. In fact, “Three out of four cats with this disease are dead within a year of diagnosis,” says Dr. Dickie. Cats living with smokers are twice as likely to get this disease, and the risk elevates with increased exposure.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma This type of cancer plagues a cat’s mouth. A study conducted at Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine found there is a higher incidence of this illness among cats living with smokers for more than five years.
  • Nicotine poisoning Feline explorers drawn to unknown objects, like a forgotten cigarette butt, are especially threatened by nicotine poisoning. The affliction occurs when a cat ingests tobacco. Cigarette butts contain much harmful nicotine -- about 25 percent of the nicotine of a whole cigarette -- so even a small cigarette butt can lead to the death of a cat.
  • Asthma Cats exposed to secondhand smoke are not only more susceptible to asthma, but they also “tend to heal slower from respiratory diseases, such as viral infections and pneumonia,” notes Dr. Sullivan. Increased coughing and breathing difficulty is a possible sign that your kitty suffers around secondhand smoke.
Furthermore, a study done by the Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine showed that secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, and lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds. The reason we [cats] are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because of our grooming habits. When we wash ourselves, we lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on our fur, which exposes our mucous membranes of our mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens. You can read more at the LiveScience website.

An article in quotes a study in Veterinary Medicine found that cats exposed to smoke from one to 19 cigarettes a day are four times more likely to be diagnosed with Squamous cell cancinoma—the most common and an aggressive type of oral cancer.

Another good article on the subject is on the Natural Cat Care Blog, which gives the alarming statistic that cancer is afflicting about 50% of cats over age 10 now. Can you believe half of all cats over 10 have cancer?!?! Plus, it's been affecting younger cats also. Cats are actually MORE vulnerable to toxins than humans. This article gives 3 ways to help prevent cancer in cats. I'll briefly list them and you can read the details in the original article.
  • Properly introduce fish oil. Fish oil is actually as good for us felines as it is for peeps to maintain good health.
  • Provide cat grass, which contain chlorophyli and B17, which contain anti-cancer properties.
  • Be overly protective against common toxins—in smoke, insecticides, cleaning products, and yard sprays. That includes saying NO to flea chemicals that warn against contact with humans' skin.
On their website Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights summarizes how exposure to tobacco and smoking affects pets and what the health consequences are for pets so exposed:

  • By ingestion of cigarette or cigar butts which contain toxins.
  • By drinking water that contains cigar or cigarette butts (which can have high concentrations of nicotine).
  • By breathing secondhand smoke.
  • By ingestion of nicotine replacement gum and patches.
Health Effects:
  • Breathing problems in dogs and asthmatic-like symptoms in cats
  • Salivation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cardiac abnormalities
  • Respiratory difficulties and respiratory paralysis
  • Feline lymphoma in cats
  • Lung cancer in dogs
  • Nasal cancer in dogs
  • Death: from 1-5 cigarettes and from 1/3-1 cigar can be fatal if ingested.
I'd imagine that much of this applies to smoke and the odor that comes under our door almost every day. Air-borne particles could wind up in my food and water, as well as on my toys that I bite on. I could become addicted or worse! Smoking in our halls and common areas are against the condo rules; however, there's nobody here who actually enforces any of the rules. We've complained to our impotent condo association and we're waiting for them to act. I hope they do before I become just another grim statistic of secondhand smoke from selfish people who feel it is their right to kill others.

Didn't realize that I'm addicted to that tar and nicotine in my food.
If you have any animals in your home, please consider kicking the habit or it'll lead to your beloved pet prematurely kicking the proverbial bucket.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great post for Be the Change for Animals. Your caring, writing and fab photographs are much appreciated.

  2. My human used to smoke when she had the cat before me, and that cat hated it! Luckily, she was indoor/ outdoor and did not have to be subjected to my human's bad habit all that often. But she quit when she started working out regularly - it totally stopped making sense after that! And I'm glad because I don't have to smell that stinky cigarette smoke or worry about it making me sick.

  3. Interesting post, Miss CK.
    And thanks for all information. I will be very careful and stay away from the smoker ! I will run real fast, I will do maximum speed ! PROMISE !

  4. Great post- thanks for sharing the information.

  5. Absolutely with you there 100%. Good post!

  6. Our Mom used to smoke too but she doesn't any more. This was such a good post and should be read by lots of people. I bet most people don't know all that info. That is pretty scary. Thanks for this. Take care.

  7. Excellent post, CK! We hope any human that is still smoking will really try to kick that nasty habit!

  8. Excellent post my friend!!!! FANTASTIC and a topic that is rarely mentioned in reference to our pets.

  9. Thanks for sharing all that CK. It's very useful information and we did not know about some of it.

  10. I know this is true for dogs and other pets too and am happy no one I know smokes. Fish oil is good for so many things. My V-E-T said my skeletal structure makes me susceptible to arthritis and fish oil will help that too!

    Thanks for all the research on this. I know they have been talking about putting graphic photos on cigarette packages. Maybe they should include suffering animals.

  11. Excellent, in-depth repurrt, Keisha! It's furry impurrtant information that seems like common sense but a lot of people ignore the obvious! One of our extended cat family died of nasal carcinoma after living with heavy smokers for 10 years of his life. And even at the cat hospital where our Teri works, cats sometimes come in reeking of cigarette smoke and that makes Teri Grrrrr!

  12. Hey Keisha, Jet here. You are a great, comprehensive science blogspondent! Thank you, thank you... Mom can't handle ANY of that smoke stuff, so, luckily, we do not have to worry either in our current situation.

  13. That's AWFUL that you (and the peeps) have to put up with cigarette smoke! All of Mommy's grandpeeps died from cancer/tobacco related causes. That stuff is bad for ANY living thing. Maybe you could get an air purifier?

  14. Alas, we has been living with our Daddy's smoking for years. He does try to quit, but it is a awful addiction...
    We loves him anyway.
    Nelli(cough)(cough) an addicted 2nd hand smoker

  15. Terrific post! It's easy to say that smoking is bad, as is second hand smoke, but it's far more effective to point out specifics about the impact on pets as you have here. I hope smokers consider the risks.

    Thanks for Blogging the Change!
    Kim Clune

  16. We dont let anyone smoke in our house, and now we have another weapon to say NO about! Not gonna let anyone give my kitties horrible diseases!

  17. The Human stopped smoking almost three years ago and I was happy. She tried to smoke near an open window but you and I both know that's really not the solution. She's glad she quit and she feels kinda bad for smoking for so long, but she can't turn back time, so I try to cut her some slack. (Yeah, I know--it's unlike me, isn't it?)
    Great post!


  18. Wow! Terrific post CK! Mom doesn't smoke, but we share our home w/one. Drives mom crazy. She doesn't like to argue, but you have a lot of great points that we'll have to share w/her. Maybe she'll consider quitting *shaking head*.

  19. I am glad we do not need to worry about smoke. My human says she smoked all of 5 mins when she was 20--and that was when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This was good and informative post--Our little lungs need attention too!


  20. Great post CK! There is NO smoking in our home, but back in the stone age my woman had to put up with it in the office, and later, in the women's bathroom at work. UGH! We hope you are able stop the smoke that comes into your home. Maybe it would help if weather stripping was put around the hall door?

  21. Great post about the dangers of second hand smoke (and sorry you and your cat are subjected to it via a neighbor.)

    Hopefully, if people won't quit due to the danger to themselves, they'll quit for the sake of their four leggers.

  22. Those stats are sobering - the effects of secondhand smoke are significant, and I hope that people will take this into account when they make the choice to smoke.

  23. Excellent post! So much attention is often given to second hand smoke and kids (for example, making it illegal to smoke in vehicles with children), it just makes sense that the consequences - which are horrible - are the same for our pets.

  24. You've included a full and complete collection of information here on how secondhand smoke can affect our pets. For those who can't avoid it, such as you, I say we need more help in determining ways that we can counter the possible effects - as you mention, fish oil and cat grass can help. Studies have found environmental factors like furniture, flame retardant, cleaning products, even exposure to pollution have negative effects on our pets' health as well. Not good!

  25. Good article - no smokers in our house but we tell everyone who smokes and has pets about this!

  26. Great post, CK. Lots of people worry about second-hand smoke, but many never think that it affects pets, too!

  27. Yes! I've had a taste of the footlights now! I think I could be a pretty good snake, don't you? Maybe I could drop a few ounces ahd have a little tail trim. But otherwise? I'm a regular viper.

  28. That is a very informative post for Blog the Change, CK. It is sad and sobering to really learn how smoke affects pets. It is a bummer that you have smoke coming in your house, hope that can somehow be rectified.

  29. CK this was an excellent in depth post and had valuable needed information in it. My mommy quit smking 8, going on 9 years ago but she never subjected her children or pets to it as she always smoked outside..summer fall winter spring, rain or snow. She hated the smell and nasty nicotine stains on other peiple's walls and the stench that soaked into the furniture and bedclothes, etc etc so she never smoked inside. And man, she sure did smoke a LOT back then.

  30. Excellent blog post! Our cat Ripley died last year from lymphoma. We are not smokers so it was likely just one of those things but it was devastating. I can't express deeply enough my hope that someone will be able to spare their furbaby from this horrible diagnosis by giving up cigarettes.

    Thanks again!


  31. Mowzers, fabulous WONDERFUL article - something we'd never considered, too!
    (good thing the peeps don't smoke!)


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