Radon Gas & Cats

By M.B. Lachlei

Radon gas is a deadly, odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. According to the EPA, radon claims 20,000 lives each year. Radon is deadly to humans, so it makes sense that it's unhealthy for our cats.


According to Dr. Pitcairn, cats show health and behavioral problems due to radon and other fumes. Furthermore, since pets have been shown in studies to be affected by various environmental chemicals, it proves that they're at risk as much as we are--perhaps more so. Since we know that radon causes lung cancer in humans, it's not hard to see the possible correlation to cats. Although anecdotal, since cats are low to the ground and usually stay in your house more hours than you do, they're more likely to have a greater exposure to radon.

Lung Cancer

Cats, like humans, can suffer from lung cancer. It's rare, but occurs more in pets who live in urban areas, presumably from second-hand smoke or other environmental factors, such as radon gas. Cats who get lung cancer are usually between the ages of six and 18 years old with an average age of 10 or 11.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer in cats is often misdiagnosed as asthma at first, although the cancer has a nonproductive cough (meaning no phlegm comes up). Like lung cancer in humans, it can be deadly. Symptoms include weight loss, cough, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, lameness (the cancer often enters the limbs), extreme tiredness, and coughing up blood.

Radon Testing

In many states, the number of homes with radon problems approaches 50 percent or more. You can determine if radon is a problem with a test kit, available through your state radon contact, through Kansas State University (KSU), or from some home building supply stores. (You need to create an account for KSU, but it's free). Many testers are charcoal-type testers, but regardless of the type, you leave the tester 20 inches above the floor in the lowest lived-in area of the house for two to three days (not a bathroom or kitchen). You then seal up and mail the tester to the lab for analysis.


Radon is a common and naturally occurring gas that seeps from soils that have uranium in them. The uranium slowly decays, and radon gas is a byproduct of that decay. Radon finds its way into homes through cracks and holes in the foundation and through construction joints and gaps around walls and service pipes. It doesn't matter how well or poorly built a home is; any home may have a radon problem.

Radon Mitigation

You can't totally eliminate radon, but you can reduce it to less harmful levels. You can reduce the radon in your home with a vent-pipe system that pulls the radon gas from the soil and vents it outside. Special contractors licensed to mitigate radon can install this system or other types of systems, depending on your home and circumstances. You can obtain names of contractors from the state radon contact information in Resources.