Another reason to quit
Smoking may be hazardous to your cat
Dr. Antony Moore knows smokers often won't quit to protect themselves or their children. But he hopes his new study linking second-hand smoke exposure to the most common kind of feline cancer will persuade some people to kick the habit.
"I think there are a lot of people who might not quit smoking for themselves or their family," said Moore, professor of clinical sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine. "But they might for their cats."
Moore and other researchers at Tufts and the University of Massachusetts say living in a household with smokers considerably increases a cat's risk of acquiring feline lymphoma, which kills three-quarters of its victims within a year.
The research, published in the August 1 issue of The American Journal of Epidemiology, studied 180 cats treated at Tufts between 1993 and 2000. They found that adjusting for age and other factors, cats exposed to second-hand smoke had more than double the risk of getting the disease.
In households where they were exposed to second-hand smoke for more than five years, cats had more than triple the risk. In a two-smoker household, the risk went up by a factor of four.
It's difficult to say how many cats get feline lymphoma, believed to be caused by a leukemia virus, scientists said. Lung cancer rarely strikes cats.
Moore hopes the research will inspire others to take a closer look at the connection between smoking and lymphoma in humans. Some studies have suggested a higher lymphoma risk in children of smokers, but there has been no definitive science to support that theory.
The same researchers plan a similar study on dogs. The source of canine lymphoma is also unclear, though it's possible cats may be more vulnerable.
Cats "accumulate a lot on their fur," Moore said. "In a veterinary clinic, if a cat comes in, you can tell if it's in a smoking household because it smells of smoke." Dogs, he said, tend to go outside and are washed more.