• Dr Grant Hampson

Cats and Sunburn

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Spending a little too much time in the sun, and not enough time putting on suncream, and coming away looking a bit like a lobster. We hopefully learn our lesson and use SPF 50 to stop this happening again.

We’re not the only ones who enjoy basking in a sunbeam, as all cat people are aware. They just can’t resist the call of vitamin D! But cats are at risk of sunburn and disease associated with sun exposure.

The risks

If your cat spends too much time in the sun they can develop a condition known as feline solar dermatitis (FSD). FSD occurs when their skin reacts to repeated exposure of ultraviolet (UVB) light. The skin initially reacts by turning red, the skin is then repeatedly exposed to the sun making the disease become progressively worse. The skin will start to become crusty and scaly and the fur will begin to disappear.

Summer after summer, the skin becomes more and more damaged, in severe cases this can results in very painful skin and can even eventually develop into a skin cancer known as a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

For extremely painful cases of FSD and in most cases of SCC cats will require surgery to amputate the tissue affected. Some areas of a cat’s body have a greater risk of becoming damaged. The ears are at the greatest risk of damage, followed by the nose, eyelids and mouth.

White and hairless cats appear to be at a higher risk of developing sun damage, and care must be taken during the sunny seasons.

The solution

To help protect our cats from developing these diseases it is commonly advised to avoid letting them out to sunbathe during the hottest parts of the day, 10am-4pm BST. We do recommend cat-specific sunblock (yes, it exists), and it’s available from most pet shops. This should be applied every day during the summer months, and whenever the sun is particularly bright.

Cats love to lick, so we’ve got a tip to stop them from licking off the sun cream - play with them! As if we need any excuse. But this will distract them from licking it off, and give the sunblock a bit of time to start working. Remember, it’s recommended to do a small patch test before applying in more thoroughly.

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