Categories: cancerCat Health

Passive Smoking Affects Pets

Photo by Deathwaves

This is just 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.

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.

It is somewhat akin to the abuse of declawing cats, which is also accepted as a norm across large parts of the United States (but changing gradually at 2009).

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

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).

That is a considerable number of people. 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 that 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.

I make the same argument about people who keep cats and have them declawed.

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:

Kick the Habit, for You and Your Pets

I am criticised by a regular visitor, Finn Frode, in writing this article.

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Passive Smoking Affects Pets — Photo: Published under a Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic creative commons license

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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