Felines are known for their fondness of sunbathing. With all the fur, how can you tell when your cat is getting too much sun?
Cats are genetically designed to withstand (and even enjoy) the heat from the desert environment of their origins.
Some physical characteristics can make a cat more susceptible to sunburn.
Cats with thin or sparse hair, and especially the hairless varieties, don’t have enough of a hairy screen to minimize the dangers of getting burned and risk sun exposure leading to skin cancer. Areas that are repeatedly exposed to sunlight, such as delicate ear tips and noses tend to get sunburned more often than furry areas of the body such as the back. White cats and cats with white parts, like the ears and tummy, are also more likely to reach their sunning limit faster than the darker varieties.
Cats living in warm, sunny climates – like our sunny Florida, for instance – are more prone to sunburn.
Over-exposure typically begins with mild redness of the skin and hair loss along the edges of the ears, which should be checked out by your vet. Scaly spots, thickening of the skin (like leather), and itching indicate the sun damage has progressed and mandate a veterinarian visit; this is the danger zone.
Sunscreen? Perhaps not a good solution. Even sunscreens designed for dogs can be fatal to cats. A feline liver processes chemicals in a different way than a canine liver does. Avoid all products containing octyl salicylate and/or zinc oxide, as they are toxic to cats. Be aware that cats lick themselves much more than dogs do, which increases the danger of any sunscreen applied topically.
Protect your furry friend from the sun by adding a reflective film to your windows to filter out harmful UV rays, or add shades to the sunlight they do enjoy.
Resist the urge to give them a hair cut or, even worse, a full-body shave for summer heat relief. The virgin skin now exposed will reach sunburn’s fever pitch much faster.
Although some sunscreens claim to be specially formulated and safe for cats, ingesting through grooming can lead to an accumulation of toxins in their liver and possibly to death. Shades and UV film will do the job, be safe for your kitties, and still allow them to enjoy the sun safely.