Recently, I went to visit a friend for several days (we'll call her "Lily"). We hadn't seen each other in 20 years so Lily reminded me that she smokes. I thought, "no big deal, she doesn't smoke in the side of the house where I'll sleep." And it wasn't that big of a deal because I was mentally prepared, but it did remind me how much I hate smoking. The smoke travels around the house, and I would wake up with a smoke taste on the roof of my mouth. And I always knew when Lily lit up even if I was at the opposite side of the house.
Lily isn't just a smoker. She's a million other wonderful things. She's kind-hearted to an extreme, and she rescues animals that otherwise might be put down or die from exposure. She has 10 cats, two dogs, and a rabbit between two homes. The stories about their previous lives make me want to cry, and I'm so grateful for people like Lily. One cat had been shot in the face, and Lily made sure he had all the care he needed to recover as much as possible. He's now a pretty robust cat--loving and playful.
Aside from Ginger Snap, a couple other kitties there have more minor wheezing or sneezing. I thought, this can't be a coincidence. The smoking is so irritating to my respiratory system, I wondered what could it be doing to small animals who are subjected to it for several hours a day.
According to several sources such as Petside, Science Daily, Petfinder, ASPCA, and the American Journal of Epidemiology, there is a definite link between a pet's health and its exposure to secondhand smoke. There are 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, and 43 are known to cause cancer.
Breathe New Hampshire cites the following impacts of secondhand smoke to pets:
- Cats exposed to secondhand smoke in the home have a higher rate of an oral cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which may be due to the way cats groom themselves. When cats groom themselves they eat the poisons from secondhand smoke that have settled on their fur.
- Cats exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher rate of feline lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer, than cats not exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Cats can develop respiratory problems, lung inflammation, and asthma as a result of secondhand smoke.
- Dogs that inhale secondhand smoke are three times more likely to develop lung or nasal cancer than dogs living in smoke-free homes.
- Dogs can experience allergic reactions to secondhand smoke. Common symptoms of this allergic reaction are the scratching, biting, and chewing of their skin. Owners often confuse this reaction with fleas or food allergies.
- Cigarette butts can also be deadly. Two butts, if eaten by a puppy, can cause death in a relatively short period of time.
- Birds can react badly to secondhand smoke and may develop eye problems, as well as other respiratory problems like coughing and wheezing.
- Birds that sit on a smoker’s hand can experience contact dermatitis from the nicotine that remains on the smoker’s hand. This can cause them to pull out their feathers.
What Can You Do If You Smoke and Have Pets?
You can quit smoking. I know this is a tall order. I am a nonsmoker so I don't fully comprehend the difficulty of quitting smoking. My Dad quit after a few decades of smoking. He was hypnotized once, but I think he just really wanted to quit. My co-worker quit by using nicotine gum, but he's been chewing this type of gum for years now--a better addiction, I guess. And my niece quit for vanity--she noticed a wrinkle on her face she felt was caused by the cigarette smoke since we know a few women who smoke and their faces look ravaged.
Well, if you can't quit for your own health, maybe considering your innocent pets as well as the humans that live with you might help you to give quitting a good try. If you fail, don't stop trying. The road to change is not a straight line.
You could also only smoke out of doors so you're not contaminating the air, furniture, curtains, and carpeting in your home as well as your pet's fur and respiratory system. Your pets will thank you for it--and it will reduce your vet bills.
Photo source for smoker