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February 15, 2018 |5 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

Is Indoor Air Pollution Making Your Cat Sick?

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When springtime rolls around, you know your sinuses are going to throw a fit. Thankfully, us humans have an entire aisle at the pharmacy dedicated to helping alleviate our respiratory problems.

Sadly, our feline companions don’t have the same luxuries.

Cat allergies are a real issue. If your cat spends the majority - or all - of his time indoors, the quality of the air in your home can play a major role in his health.

Here’s what you need to know about the irritants in the air in your home that could be causing your fur baby some major cat health problems.

A Common Household Find

Earlier this year, the first ever study on cats and environmental air showed that common household items can cause serious cat health problems.

This 2017 study was inspired by a previous study which found that cats who developed feline hyperthyroidism often had significantly higher levels of brominated flame retardant chemicals in their blood.

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Brominated flame retardants are chemicals that reduce the risk of items catching on fire. These chemicals are often found in things like electronics (particularly printed circuit boards, connectors, plastic covers, and electrical cables), carpets, pillows, kitchen appliances, upholstery, and paint.

While it’s logical to assume that something like a flame retardant would be a good thing to have in the home, research has shown that it could be making your cat sick.

Indoor Air Pollution

The problem occurs when the items in your home start breaking down. While this is most common with fabric materials that get a lot of use, plastics can also give off microscopic debris that can cause cat health problems.

According to researchers, brominated flame retardants “are extremely persistent and can leach from the products for many years after they have been produced, ultimately becoming part of dust.”

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As these brominated flame retardants are distributed through the air in your home, your cat inhales them and his relatively tiny body is affected in a much stronger way than your larger, human body. The chemicals in brominated flame retardants have been shown to cause problems in the endocrine system, which results in a sick cat.

Researchers warn that children who put items containing these chemicals in their mouths or even ingest small pieces could be similarly affected.

Feline Thyroid Disease

Exposure to brominated flame retardants can lead to hyperthyroidism in cats. The best way to help your four-legged loved one is to know the signs and take your cat to the vet if you notice any of them.

If you notice any of these signs, take your cat in for a check-up as soon as possible. Your vet will likely run a few tests, including touching your cat’s throat to feel for any enlargement in the thyroid glands.

Your vet may also run a blood test to look for elevated levels of the hormone T4, which is a strong indicator of hyperthyroidism. However, some cats suffering from hyperthyroidism may show normal levels of hormone T4.

Thankfully, there are treatments available for cats suffering from hyperthyroidism. Your veterinarian will discuss the best options for you and your cat, which may include medication, a special diet, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery.

Left untreated, hyperthyroidism in cats can cause heart disease and high blood pressure. However, with treatment, most cases of hyperthyroidism can be controlled or even cured.

As a pet parent, it’s your job to look out for your little one’s health. Know the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism and don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if you’re concerned. Many health problems can be treated or cured so you can your cat can enjoy many more happy years together.

Have questions about feline hyperthyroidism or other cat health problems? Leave us a comment below!



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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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Sara Ochoa

Sara Ochoa, DVM graduated from St. George's University Veterinary School in 2015. Since then, she has been at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her free time, she loves making quilts and spending time with her husband Greg and their 4 fur kids. Two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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