Passive smoking affects cats – both cigarette and marijuana smoke

This is a reminder that passive smoking affects pets as much as it does people. I find that this is rarely discussed but it is a form of animal abuse that goes on silently, almost invisibly, in the background. The information should apply to all kinds of passive smoking; cigarette smoke and for instance cannabis. It seems to me that many people who smoke don’t think about the consequences of smoking on their cat. I am not lecturing, just making a cold statement of fact that people who smoke should not keep pets in an ideal world. Or perhaps a more practical solution is for them to smoke outside their own home. Can you see that happening? No, but it would be the right thing to do.

Passive smoking can harm cats
Passive smoking can harm cats. Image: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There is a good and horrible story on another cat website that reminded me of the detrimental effects of passive smoking on cats.

cat smoking
Photo by Deathwaves

A vet, Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM, says that cat’s lungs are very sensitive. He was treating a person’s cat and both reeked of cigarette smoke despite the person saying he did not smoke!

The cat was suffering from asthma and was being treated with strong steroids (a dangerous treatment as far as I am concerned because of side effects and potential long-term damage). The cat still had a cough despite this last-ditch treatment.

Passive smoking affects pets in very serious ways including developing cancer. Although smoking is declining, in the UK as at 2007, 21% (about 13 million) of the population of Great Britain aged 16+, still smoke. In the United States about 50 million people smoke out of a population of about 300 million (I am not sure of the date – probably around 2007). In 2020, an estimated 12.5% (30.8 million) of U.S. adults currently smoked cigarettes. Thankfully a nice reduction.

But there are still a considerable number of people who enjoy a fag. As there are about 80 million domestic cats in the United States there must be a considerable overlap where cats are in households where the occupants smoke and I would bet very little is done by way of taking precautionary measures.

Cats who are forced to passive smoke are twice as likely to contract cancer which goes on to kill 75% of these cats within one year. They are also more likely to get oral cancer. (Please see: href=” – link broken August 2012).

Dr. John Reif, professor at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences quotes research on dogs that indicates that dogs with short noses have twice the risk of lung cancer (think of a cat with a short nose – Persian) and dogs with a long nose have 2.5x the risk of getting nasal caner.

Is it fair to say that people who smoke in their homes and keep cats are not that concerned about the welfare of their cat(s)? I think it is although they would no doubt deny this. And it could be argued that these people shouldn’t keep cats or other pets unless precautions are taken. We can’t criticise people for smoking as it is just part of the human condition. It is difficult to control as it is addictive. But it is easy to not adopt a cat.

Although I have a lot of animosity towards the American Veterinary Medical Association concerning their stance on cat declawing, I’d like to present their podcast on the issue of how passive smoking affects cats and pets generally:


I am sure that you will find numerous studies about the effects on domestic cat health of passive smoking. I am going to refer to one from as long ago as 2002. The summary of the study states that a domestic cat is around twice as likely to develop malignant lymphoma in a home with environmental tobacco smoke compared to a home without tobacco smoke. The risk increased with both duration and quantity of exposure and there is a linear progression. Cats with five or more years of passive smoking have a relative risk of 3.2 which means they are 3.2 times more likely to develop cancer of the lymph system compared to cats that are not exposed.

With regard to exposure to cannabis smoke, there is a study called Marijuana intoxication in a cat on the Internet. It concerns a six-year-old Persian who was brought to a veterinary hospital because of “strong psychomotor agitation turning into aggression”. The cat was hospitalised for 14 days. The symptoms resolved but when returned to their home again they redeveloped. The veterinarian discovered that the cat had been exposed to marijuana smoke. Tests revealed the presence of THC in the cat’s system. The cat was returned to their owner with the advice that the cat should be isolated from marijuana smoke.

Photo (2nd down): Published under a Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic creative commons license

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