Woman reading and smoking with cat on lap

Secondhand smoke causes cancer in pets

Q: We lost our cat to throat cancer. Both my husband and I smoke. Could our secondhand smoke have caused her cancer?

A: Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Secondhand smoke quadruples the risk of two kinds of cancers in cats: oral squamous cell carcinoma and lymphoma, also called lymphosarcoma.

Cats are particularly sensitive to the toxins in secondhand smoke because they inhale – and ingest – them.

No, they don’t chew their humans’ cigarettes. Instead, the smoke particles settle on the furniture and carpet where the cats lie. When they groom ourselves, they ingest the toxins on their fur.

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is common in cats living with people who smoke only one to 19 cigarettes per day. This cancer forms on the gums, under the tongue or in the back of the throat. Treatment usually is unsuccessful; fewer than 10 percent of affected cats are alive one year after diagnosis.

The other cancer that frequently occurs in cats that live with smokers is lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The most common location is the gastrointestinal tract.

I send my condolences to you and your husband.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

Q: Reacher, my "shorty...

Q: Milo—our cat—often...

Q: My dog is sneezing...

More From Figo Blog
Labrador Retriever retrieving a blue frisbee from the yard

One of the best things about owning a dog is...

Pet Professionals: Interview With Kristen Levine Pet Blogger | Figo Pet Insurance

We recently had the opportunity to interview...

woman drinking coffee and holding small cat near

On any given day, between 50 and 70 million...

Puppy crate training in progress

There are many tools I utilize when training...

Technology has changed almost every aspect...

You may have heard the phrase, “Cats can’t...

Q: I’ve been reading about...

Summer is finally here! The snow has melted...