With summer weather here again, your kitten can take full advantage of the sun. Longer days mean more time to lie in the sunny spots by the window. But is it safe to leave your cat out in the sun all day?
Hopefully you won’t be surprised to know that cats suffer from sunburn and, in some cases, can develop skin cancer from exposure to the sun. Some cats have even lost ears or had to be amputated due to sun damage.
So before you let your cat lie in the sun all day, talk to your vet about sun protection and exposure restrictions. You can one Suntan lotion for cats here, but don’t forget to talk to your veterinarian about this beforehand.
Here are a few things you should know about cats that are in the sun.
Which cats can get sunburn?
Almost any cat can get sunburned with adequate exposure, and places with minimal fur coverage, such as the ears and nose, are more likely to get sunburned. Some cats are more prone to sun damage than others.
White cats – or cats with white ears or faces – are particularly prone to sunburn due to the lack of melanin and protective hair on sensitive areas.
The more time a cat spends in the sun, the more likely it is to get sunburned. Cats that like to lie in sunny spots all day are more at risk for this reason.
Cats don’t necessarily notice when the sun is harming them. So don’t rely on your cat knowing when enough sun is enough.
What does sun damage look like?
Repeated UVB exposure causes solar dermatitis, a condition common in sunny climates such as California, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia.
In the early stages, redness and fine flaking appear on the edges of the ears, followed by hair loss in this area. The hair loss then makes the area more accessible to sunlight.
With repeated exposure, the skin lesions become more severe, with increasing redness, peeling of the skin and scabs on the ears. The ears may itch, hurt, or pucker around the edges.
Eventually, actinic keratosis or a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma can develop.
Prevention is the key
Prevention is the best medicine for cats to avoid sun damage.
Take care to avoid too much exposure to the sun by keeping cats indoors during the most intense sun hours – usually 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – and not allowing them to sunbathe with the doors or windows open during those hours.
Sunscreen can be applied to increase protection, especially for cats that cannot be kept out of the sun. Ideally, use a sunscreen that is labeled for use on cats, as human products may contain compounds that can be toxic if ingested.
Be sure to apply sunscreen to particularly sensitive areas such as the nose and ears. You should ask your veterinarian for further advice on applying sunscreen and limiting sun exposure to your cat.
Treatment for sun damaged skin
Cats with early skin lesions may respond to beta-carotene treatment, and your veterinarian may recommend a biopsy to determine if cancer is present.
The best treatment option for squamous cell carcinoma is surgical amputation of the affected area. Topical treatments like Aldara or localized radiation therapy can help cats with lesions in more difficult areas like the nose or eyelids.
Do you protect your cat from the sun in summer? What other tips do you have for cat safety? Let us know in the comments below!