You may believe that cats are sufficiently sun-protected by their fur. Unfortunately, they too can get sunburn. In this article we explain which breeds are especially sensitive, how to identify sunburn and the measures you can take to treat it.
Sunburn in Cats
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Cats can get sunburned too.
The most affected body areas: ears, nose, belly
Particularly cat ears and the nose are most sensitive to sunlight because they are the most exposed. They are barely covered in fur which usually provides some protection.
Many cats love exposing their belly to the sun. However, due to it being a less furry part, it is more susceptible to sunburn.
Which cats are more affected?
For obvious reasons, "naked" cats such as the Sphynx are particularly susceptible to sunburn. If you have a long-haired cat such as a Persian, it is likely you had to get its fur trimmed. Although necessary, it can expose their skin to dangerous UV-rays.
Furthermore, certain skin diseases and parasites can lead to loss of fur and result in increased sun-sensitivity. Finally, scars from injury or surgery can also make the skin more sensitive to sunburn.
In some cases increased sun exposure can accelerate existing health conditions such as autoimmune skin diseases. Vets urge to use sun protection for affected cats.
White cats are particularly in danger of sunburn
As with humans, cats with lighter skin can get sunburned easier. Make sure your white cat has plenty of shade to retreat to outdoors. Sunscreen should be used as an additional measure.
Identifying sunburn in cats
The symptoms of sunburn in cats are similar to those of humans. They can range from reddening of the skin to inflammation, flaking and scabbing.
Sunburn in cats can also cause pain and itchiness. If your cat scratches itself excessively after lounging in the sun for a longer period, it can indicate sunburn. The scratched areas can be more accessible to bacteria which can cause infection and even abscesses. In the worst case, sun damaged skin can lead to cancer.
How to prevent sunburn in cats
It is difficult to prevent your outdoor cat from exposing themselves to the sun. All you can do is to cover exposed areas with fragrance and preservative-free sunscreen with a factor of at least 30. Sun protection products for babies are ideal.
An indoor cat who has access to a garden or balcony should be offered plenty of shade with the help of large plants, trees or a parasol. As we all know, cats love sun spots and are unlikely to use the shade sufficiently. As a precaution, you should additionally apply sunscreen to your cat's nose, ears and other exposed parts. Furless cats should be completely covered in sun lotion.
Treating sun damage in cats
If you cat has a sunburn, take them to a cool spot and offer plenty of fresh water. This will cool them down from the inside.
Some internet sources advise questionable methods such as applying yogurt or rich cremes onto sunburned cat skin. Please avoid such house remedies. They can often cause or worsen inflammation.
In case of severe sunburn, consult a vet immediately. They can prescribe suitable salves and medication.
Your cat might have to wear a collar for a while to prevent licking of sunburned areas.
Find out more about outdoor cats in our article Outdoor Cats: What to Consider.
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