Ashton: Who loves sun puddles? Raise your paw!
I do, too. Nothing feels as good as having warm sunshine making your fur all toasty warm!
Keep that paw raised, everyone. Now, if you’re a white cat, keep that paw up, otherwise, you can put your paw down. Or you can pretend to bathe it so that it looks like you were waving your paw around on purpose. Either way, if your paw is still up, this message is especially important for you, white cats who like to sleep in the sun…
Cat Sunburn and Skin Cancer
But did you know that too much sun exposure can actually cause skin cancer? I bet you knew it about yourself. You probably put that stuff on your skin that makes you smell like a fruity drink when you are going to be outside to be sure that you don’t get too much sun exposure. Cats have skin, too, though it’s underneath our fur.
When you’re colored like me, dark fur helps give some protection from the bad ultraviolet rays of the sun. I also have plenty of melanin. You know, melanin is the stuff that makes you tan. Don’t get any bright ideas about shaving me to see if I’m tan! A lady never tells.
White cats don’t have that melanin, or the dark fur covering them. And of course, naked Sphynx cats don’t have fur, either. That means that their delicate skin is much more at risk of sunburn, especially if you live somewhere like Florida where the sun is intense. Areas with less fur, like ear tips, nose, and lips, are the most likely to get burned. Repeated sunburn causes the highest risk of cancer (squamous cell carcinoma), just like it does in humans. White cats have more than a 13 times greater risk of getting this type of cancer than cats of other colors.
In cats, this cancer due to sun is most often found on the ears, which have to be removed to eliminate the cancer. This is why if you search Google Images for “earless cats,” the majority of the returned images are of white or light colored cats.
Preventing Sunburn in Cats
The best thing to do is to keep your light-colored kitty indoors to prevent exposure to the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn. If this isn’t possible, limit exposure by only allowing your cat out when the sun isn’t at its most intense (early morning and late evening instead of midday), and make sure that they have plenty of shade in your catio or yard.
Indoor cats who spend the whole day in a window that drenches us in sun puddles can get more ultraviolet exposure than you expect, since the glass used in houses do not filter out all of the ultraviolet rays that cause skin damage. You can get UV film to put on your windows to keep out the harmful UVB radiation.
Don’t use human sunscreen on your cat. Not only do we not want to smell like a tropical beverage, human sunscreens have ingredients that are toxic to cats such as Zinc Oxide, Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate and Ethylhexyl Salicylate. Products containing Titanium Dioxide as an active ingredient are considered OK to use on ear tips and noses but they are toxic if ingested, so be cautious.
When in doubt, be careful about sun exposure for you and your kitty for both of your safety!
UVA & UVB Radiation, A Danger Outdoors and Indoors, Skin Cancer Foundation
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), Long Beach Animal Hospital
Finding a Cat Safe Sunscreen, The Cat Hospital of Fairfax
White cat photo courtesy Enrico on Flickr
One eared cat photo courtesy Mary Bailey Thomas on Flickr