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Second-Hand Smoke and Cats

Cats are negatively affected by smoke.

Most people understand that smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars is unhealthy for them. As research and experience have grown in this area, we've also become more aware of second-hand smoke's serious effects on people who spend time around smokers.

The cats in our homes can suffer from negative health effects when they are exposed to second-hand smoke, too. There are hundreds or even thousands of toxic substances in cigarettes, including many that are known carcinogens.

How Are Cats Exposed to Smoke?

We know that cats don't smoke themselves, so it can be hard to believe that they can sometimes have the same levels of nicotine and its metabolites in their systems as smokers. There are three main ways that cats are exposed to smoke:

  • They breathe it in the air when family members smoke around them.
  • They lick it off of their own bodies while grooming when they live with a smoker.
  • They are exposed to third-hand smoke on their owners' clothing, the furniture, and the carpeting, where it settles.

What Illnesses Can Cats Get from Second-Hand Smoke?

Cats can suffer from the same types of illnesses related to smoke that humans do, including respiratory illnesses, cancer, and heart disease. Lymphoma, lung cancer, and oral cancer (from licking smoke residue) rates have both been shown to be higher in cats exposed to smoke routinely.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Cat from Smoke?

The best thing you can do for the health of your pets, kids, family, and yourself is to quit smoking or help a family member who lives with you to quit. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do, so it's important to get as much support as you can. Your doctor can provide some great resources for you, and you can find others in your community or online. This site,, is specifically geared toward people with pets who are quitting smoking.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimize the smoke to which your cat is exposed:

  • Smoke outside whenever possible.
  • When you do smoke inside, do so in a room away from your cat, and keep a window open.
  • Routinely steam clean carpets, upholstery, and your cat's bedding to remove smoke. Wash the walls, too.
  • Bathe your cat routinely.
  • Change your clothes after you smoke and before cuddling your cat.

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