Need another reason to quit smoking? Secondhand smoke is bad for pets as well as people, and cats are especially vulnerable. Researchers at the University of Glasgow say that most pet owners don’t think about the health effects of smoking on animals, but they should.
“Exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets,” said Clare Knottenbelt, a professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology. These include weight gain, cell damage and increased risk of certain cancers. “Our current study in cats shows that cats are even more affected” than dogs, said Knottenbelt. “This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke taken in to the body.” Other studies have shown that cats in smoking homes are three times more likely to develop malignant lymphoma.
Researchers look for the presence of genes that are makers of cell damage. They can also measure the amount of nicotine and other chemicals found in cat hair. Even cats who spend time outside were shown to have nearly identical chemical intake compared to indoor-only felines exposed to smoke. However, the levels of smoke inhalation dropped when owners smoked away from the cat. Although the study is not complete, early findings show that cats in homes where smokers lit up less than 10 times a day showed lower nicotine levels in their hair than cats living in homes with more frequent smokers.
Regardless, nicotine levels were still far higher compared to felines in smoke-free homes. Pets don’t just breathe the smoke-filled air. They may also be exposed to carcinogenic particles that linger in carpets and rugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and at least 70 can cause cancer. Second hand smoke is bad for dogs too. When Glasgow researchers examined the testicles of castrated male dogs, they found a gene that acts as a marker of cell damage was far higher among dogs who lived in smoking homes compared to those in non-smoking homes.