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Is Cigarette Smoke Bad For Cats? Vet Reviewed Risks & FAQ

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cigarette in man hand with smoke

Is Cigarette Smoke Bad For Cats? Vet Reviewed Risks & FAQ


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As pet owners, we are vigilant about keeping our best friends safe from any dangers. However, many of us overlook our habits that might harm our cats. One of the biggest dangers is smoking, which is surprisingly popular in America.

If you’ve been wondering if it’s bad for cats, unfortunately, cigarette smoke is very bad for cats. Keep reading while we talk about the danger your pet might face, how to know if they are having a problem due to the smoke, and how you can provide a cleaner environment.

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Can Cats Get Secondhand Smoke

Unfortunately, cats inhale secondhand smoke, and it is just as harmful to them as it is to humans. A cat living in a smoker’s home risks constant exposure to a variety of harmful substances, like nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and many more.

When cats inhale smoke, their delicate respiratory system is exposed to carcinogens and irritants that can cause inflammation and damage to the lung tissue. These chemicals lead to an increased risk of respiratory problems such as asthma, lung cancer, and many other health issues.

Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of a cat developing lymphoma, which is a malignant cancer of the immune system. In addition, studies have shown a link between oral (mouth) cancer and exposure to tobacco smoke.

sick tabby cat lying on the bed
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

Cigarette Smoke Residue

The residual nicotine and other chemicals left on surfaces and fur by tobacco smoke pose an additional hidden danger to your pets. With their grooming habits, cats are particularly at risk. The mucous membranes of their mouth and throat are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals leading to an increased risk of oral tumors.

Signs to Watch For

If you smoke around your cat, be particularly vigilant for respiratory signs like breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing and sneezing. You should also watch out for any other signs that may indicate your cat is unwell such as unexplained weight loss, lethargy or loss of appetite. If you notice any problems, contact your vet immediately.

Cat choking or gagging from having an object stuck back of the mouth
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

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How Can I Help My Pets Be More Comfortable?

Understand the Importance of a Clean Air Space

Cats have sensitive respiratory systems, making them particularly vulnerable to airborne pollutants, and the smoke can also dry out and irritate their nasal passages. Therefore, you must provide a clean environment for your pet to help them stay healthy and happy.

Adopt a Strict Outdoor Smoking Policy

If quitting smoking isn’t immediately feasible, one effective measure is to adopt a strict policy of smoking outside the house to minimize the exposure of your cat to harmful secondhand smoke. Remember to change clothes and wash your hands after smoking. Keep all cigarettes, cigarette butts and other nicotine-containing products away from your cats and other pets at all times. Nicotine poses a serious threat of poisoning to curious cats, as well as dogs.

Utilizing Air Purifiers and Regular Ventilation

Investing in a good HEPA-quality air purifier can significantly improve indoor air quality. Look for machines designed to filter out smoke particles and other air pollutants. Regularly opening windows to allow fresh air circulation can also help dilute and remove indoor smoke.

close up of a fluffy cat sitting next to an air purifier
Image Credit: Anna-Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Awareness and Education of Household Members

Educate everyone in your household about the dangers of smoking around pets and encourage those who smoke to follow the outdoor smoking policy and to be mindful of smoke residue on clothing.

Regular Health Check-ups for Your Cat

Regular veterinary check-ups can help in the early detection of any health issues. Inform your vet about your smoking habit so they can pay extra attention to potential respiratory problems or signs of smoke-related issues.

Consideration of Quitting Smoking

Ultimately, the best way to create a smoke-free environment for your cat is to quit smoking. Consider seeking support from smoking cessation programs or using nicotine replacement therapies, like the patch. Quitting benefits your cat and improves your health, leading to a healthier lifestyle for you both.

tabby cat sleeping on woman's lap
Image Credit: larisa Stefanjuk, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Thirdhand Smoke, and How Does it Affect Cats?

Thirdhand smoke refers to the residual nicotine and other toxins that wind up on the surfaces in your home, including your cat’s fur, after they settle out of the air. Your cat is then exposed to the harmful chemicals when they groom themselves.

Can Cats Recover from the Effects of Smoke Exposure?

Cats can recover from some effects of smoke exposure if the exposure is stopped or significantly reduced. However, long-term exposure can lead to chronic health problems, irreversible damage, and cancer.Does the Type of Tobacco Matter? Are Some Types Safer for Cats?

No type of tobacco is safe for cats. All forms of tobacco smoke contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens that pose health risks to cats, regardless of whether it is from cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco.

How Long Does It Take for Smoke to Affect a Cat?

The time it takes for smoke to affect a cat can vary. Immediate effects, respiratory irritation, can occur quickly, while long-term effects like cancer may develop over years of exposure. The extent of harm also depends on the level and frequency of exposure.

Can a Cat’s Sense of Smell Be Affected by Cigarette Smoke?

Yes, a cat’s sense of smell can be affected by cigarette smoke. Cats have a highly sensitive sense of smell, and prolonged exposure to smoke can lead to a decrease in sensitivity, affecting their behavior and well-being.

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Unfortunately, smoking around your cats is not a good idea because secondhand smoke contains many harmful chemicals which puts your cat at increased risk of respiratory issues and certain types of cancer. The best option is to quit smoking to eliminate the health risks, but if that isn’t possible, try designating an area of the home away from pets for smoking or only allowing it outside. Always wash your hands and change your clothes after having a cigarette, especially if you will be handling your cat.

Featured Image Credit: Oteera, Shutterstock

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