Clare Knottenbelt, Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the university's Small Animal Hospital, has been studying the effects of smoking and the health impact it has on family dogs and cats.

"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," Prof. Knottenbelt said.

"We have already shown that dogs can take in significant amounts of smoke when living in a smoking household. Our current study in cats shows that cats are even more affected.

Victoria Smith - who is investigating the links between passive smoking and lymphoma, a cancer of the blood cells in cats - added: "Our work so far has shown that cats take in significant amounts of smoke and even having outdoor access makes very little difference.

The study has also shown that when owners reduced the total numbers of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than 10 per day, the nicotine levels in the hair dropped significantly but were still higher than those in cats from on-smoking homes.

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