HOUSEHOLD cats are more susceptible to cancer than dogs when living with smokers, new research has revealed.
The ongoing study by the University of Glasgow had previously revealed a direct link between dogs living in a smoking environment and a higher risk of health issues including cancer, cell damage and weight gain.
But recent findings have found that moggies are significantly more at risk of contracting cancer than dogs are when living in a house with smokers.
Clare Knottenbelt, Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the university’s Small Animal Hospital, tested the hair of 39 exposed and 40 unexposed cats for nicotine content levels.
She found that the exposed cats yielded higher nicotine levels than those that were unexposed – and that they were more susceptible to contracting cancer than dogs.
Professor Knottenbelt believes the reason for the higher risk in cats could be due to the extensive grooming they do, increasing the level of smoke entering the body.
She said: “We have already shown that dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke when living in a smoking household. Our current study shows that cats are even more affected.
“This may be due to the extensive self-grooming that cats do, as this would increase the amount of smoke taken into the body.
“Our findings show that exposure to smoke in the home is having a direct impact on pets.
“It risks ongoing cell damage, increasing weight gain after castration and has previously been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.”
Victoria Smith, a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, is investigating the links between passive smoking and lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells in cats.
She said: “Our work so far has shown that cats take in significant amounts of smoke and even having outdoor access makes very little difference.
“Owners who consistently smoked away from the cat did not protect their cat from exposure but did reduce the amount of smoke that was taken into the body.”
Professor Knottenbelt is hoping that the findings will help smokers understand the impact they have on their pets and give them an incentive to either stop smoking full stop or restrict the habit to outside the home.
She added: “We are all aware of the risks to our health of smoking and it is important we do everything we can to encourage people to stop smoking.
“As well as the risk to the smoker, there is the danger of second-hand smoke to others.
“Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets.”
The research is still ongoing and is expected to be published next year.