Cats And Sunburn

Danger In The Sun For Cats

Here comes the sun ☺

Doesn't it feel great to say goodbye to winter and cloudy skies and look forward to some sunny days.

It’s nice to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, but it does have a down side.

Over the last decade or so, we humans have been advised to use sunscreen and not to lie around cooking ourselves in the sun for too long. Good advice.

Did you know that it is good advice for cats too?

Particularly so for white cats, cats with white patches or light colored cats.

If you have a white cat, have a look at his or her ears and nose area. The fur is pretty thin there, right? It is places like that on a cat, which are particularly prone to sunburn.

Of course, it is not only areas on your cat where the fur is thin, and it is not only white or light colored cats that are at risk.

So too are pointed cats such as Siamese, Devon and Cornish Rex and hairless breeds like the Sphynx.

In fact, any cat is prone to the dangers of sunburn.
Sunburn, especially repeated sunburn, can lead to skin cancer.

I don’t want to make a scare story out of this, skin cancer in cats through exposure to the sun is a possibility, but I believe it is comparatively rare. Having said that, it is something that is best guarded against.

Can You Protect Your Cat From The Sun With Sunscreen?

Unfortunately the ASPCA is not very forthcoming on the subject. They do advise using sunscreen specially formulated for pets but nothing specifically for cats.

It seems that at this moment in time there is only one pet sunblock that is approved by the FDA – and that product is not recommended for cats.

It is likely not recommended because cats, almost unfailingly, will proceed to lick off anything rubbed onto their coat or skin. In licking it off, they will ingest it and there is likely something toxic to one degree or other in the product.

cat in the sunshineSunburn and worse is a danger for cats that spend too long in the sun.

I’ve found several instances online of people recommending using sunscreen on cats that is safe for babies.

Sounds logical, if it is safe for human babies, it ought to be safe for cats as well. But is it?

I’m a believer in the advice never to give a cat, or any pet, medication that is meant for humans, babies or otherwise, unless advised to do so by a vet.

OK, sunscreen isn’t medication, but we are still concerned with the cat’s health and well-being, would it be taking a risk using it?

My personal view is that it would be better to give your cat's sensitive areas, ears and nose, some protection from the summer sun by using baby grade sunscreen moderately rather than sending her out there with nothing.

Thinking about it, babies love to put their fingers and even their toes in their mouths. So hopefully there would be nothing that is toxic used in the manufacture of baby sun block.

Sunscreen or not,I think the best thing is to try and ensure that your cat does not stay outside too long on hot sunny days, and it is best to keep him or her inside in the middle of the day when the sun is at its summit.

As you know, cats do like to soak up the sun but they generally they will seek out shade if they get too hot, make sure there is somewhere for your cat to shelter, or that she can get back in through a pet door.

Water, don’t forget a supply of water for your kitty.

Nothing to do with sunburn or skin cancer but on hot days Cats can Dehydrate very easily.

Is Indoors Safe?

Apparently your cat is not completely out of danger inside the home, although a lot safer from excess sun than outdoors.

It seems that window glass will filter out many of the harmful rays, but not quite all.

If your cat snoozes for most of the day in those pools of sunlight they love so much, and Many Cats do Sleep the day away, then overtime it could be harmful.

So Why Do Cats Love The Sun So Much?

After all they have nice fur coats for warmth don't they.

It might be surprising that they don't try and keep out of the sun as much as possible. But no, they seem to take every opportunity to soak up those rays.

Really though, we humans don't make a frustrating fifty mile drive to the beach just for the warmth. We also lie in the sun for other reasons, to get a tan, and because it feels good.

At least that's what we used to do before we learned the dangers of it.

cat soaking up the sun

Cats though are different.

They need heat more than we do, their natural body temperature is higher than ours so they need more heat to feel warm.

Of course some breeds, with thicker coats, can take the cold better than others.

Cats actually save energy by snoozing in the sun. The heat counteracts the fall in the cat's metabolism rate that occurs when she sleeps.

Have you ever found your cat curled up in front of a hot radiator and thought how the heck is she not burning herself?

That's because our beloved house cats evolved from desert cats that had to be able to run and hunt in the searing heat. Their bodies can take higher temperatures than ours can.

Unfortunately this means they will stay out in the sun for long periods. They haven't been told about the risk of skin cancer, sun burn or heatstroke.

So please, if your cat is allowed outside, try to get her inside midday when the sun is hottest, and ensure she has shade available when out in the sun.

Should you suspect that your cat has been sunburned get her to a veterinarian a.s.a.p.

A version of this article first appeared in The Feline Rules, the online magazine for all things cat.

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