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C2009-37

Dear Christopher Cat

My boyfriend leaves his cigarette butts in the ash tray, and our kitten tries to eat them. Will they hurt her?

Christopher Responds

Yes, definitely. Many of us cats are attracted to tobacco, but it’s dangerous for us to nibble cigarette butts -– and even to live in homes where people smoke.

When your boyfriend smokes, he exhales toxins and particles that float down to the furniture and floor where we cats spend most of our time. These substances stick to our hair, and we ingest them when we groom.

They then accumulate in the back of the feline throat, often causing a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. It’s aggressive and, at that location, nearly impossible to treat.

If your boyfriend must smoke, ask him to smoke outside. And instruct him to discard his cigarette butts in the trash.

Cigarette butts carry 25 percent of the cigarette’s nicotine, 13 to 30 mg, depending on the brand. Around 20 mg is lethal to us cats, so your kitten shouldn’t be allowed to nibble on butts.

If she does, excitation, rapid breathing, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea may develop within 15 to 45 minutes.

Depending on the dose of nicotine ingested, she could experience twitching, muscle weakness, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, collapse, coma and cardiac arrest. Death is usually due to respiratory paralysis.

 

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