Cats are getting more comfortable indoors, and more often, according to new research.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine say cats that live in homes with carpets that contain chemicals are more likely than other cats to suffer toxic levels of lead in their blood, urine and other body fluids.
That means the chemicals can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.
The study is the first to show how this can affect cats in homes that use carpets made with lead-based coatings, said study researcher Dr. Maryanne Novelli, an assistant professor in the department of animal health sciences.
“The findings suggest that carpeting made with the chemicals in question may not be the best choice for cats in the house, and that they may be a risk factor for cats that are exposed to the chemicals,” she said.
The study looked at nearly 7,000 cats from four different households and showed that lead levels were higher in the urine of cats living in homes where carpets were made with coatings made from lead-contaminated materials.
Lead is an essential ingredient in coatings used in carpets to keep them waterproof and maintain their natural color.
It’s used in paint and flooring.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it takes at least one case of lead poisoning to kill a human.
Novelli said she hopes the study can lead to more awareness and testing to help homeowners avoid potentially dangerous paint coatings.
Lead paint, which is a particularly toxic form of lead, is found in paints that are used in furniture, appliances, carpets and other household products.
It is used in some paint, furniture and automotive parts.
“These paints are used to coat all kinds of surfaces, so this study highlights the importance of understanding the risk factors for exposure to paint and other chemicals that are in paint,” she added.
In addition to the Penn study, Novelli’s team found that about 50% of all carpets used in homes were made using lead-containing coatings that contained other chemicals, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS).
In some cases, they found that the levels of these chemicals were higher than those that are listed on the labels of these products.
These chemicals are typically added as coatings to protect surfaces from dust and grime, and can also act as a barrier between people and pets.
In a 2014 study, researchers at the CDC said they found about 10% of children who lived in lead-paint-covered homes had a blood lead level more than twice the national average.
The CDC reported that about 30% of households that reported to them had a lead paint problem.
This study showed that carpets from four houses with carpeting made with toxic lead-coated materials had a higher risk of lead-related poisoning in the blood than homes without lead paint in their carpets, according the study.
Nivelli said the research team has not yet been able to prove that the carpets are responsible for the increase in lead in the cats.
She said the findings do not mean that carpet-making companies are not doing their best to prevent lead poisoning in their products, but the research does highlight that there is a need to better understand the risks.
“What’s important is that we understand what is happening in our environment and why this is happening,” she told ABC News.
The research was published online Jan. 19 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.