Although people easily understand that they need to protect themselves against sunburn, they don’t always know that their pets can be equally susceptible to the sun’s harsh rays. But cats can definitely suffer from the effects of the sun, including sunburn. Animals with short fur are particularly vulnerable but nearly any type of cat can get sunburned, as well as suffer from heat stroke and other issues.
Fur May Offer Limited Protection from the Sun’s Rays
Think that fur will protect feline skin? It may only offer a small, but temporary, benefit. However, there are other areas on your cat’s body that may have little to no fur, including the interior and exterior of the ears, the belly and parts of the legs and tail. While it is important to protect cats against those sunrays, the good news is that severe sunburns are rare.
However, just as people hurt and feel ill after spending too much time at the beach or sunning themselves by a pool, cats can also suffer discomfort from sunburn, particularly if left outside or in enclosed areas without proper protection. Cats with dark fur are protected from the sun more than Sphinx Cat, hairless cats or those with white fur.
What Kinds of Sunburn Affect Felines?
There are generally two sorts of burns that affect cats. The first kind of sunburn primarily causes damage to the upper layer of skin and is known as a superficial burn. Since the word “superficial” implies only the tiniest damage, pet owners may assume it is a minor issue.
But even with a superficial burn, the skin can appear bright red and the animal may not want to be touched, become exhausted and display Cat Lethargy or experience Cat Loss of Appetite. Being exposed to long periods of sun simply takes a heavy toll on all cats.
Generally, cats are able to recover quickly from superficial burns (which are similar to first-degree burns) and blisters do not appear. But the damage is still there and exposure to the sun immediately after your cat has a superficial burn, can result in more significant problems. It can even lead to a far more serious type of burn, a deep or full thickness burn. If the animal has limited exposure to outdoor sunlight after getting a minor sunburn, a full recovery is likely.
Sunburn in Cats can Differ from Human Sunburn
Deep burns, whether a partial or full thickness burn, can be compared to second-degree burns in humans. However, the analogy is not completely accurate because humans rarely blister with second-degree burns. Feline skin reacts differently and a deep thickness burn can result in skin blisters. If the sunburn leads to the most severe type of deep thickness burn, the damage can even spread beyond the skin and into the tissues beneath.
Cat Left Outdoors or in Yards are at Higher Risk of Sunburn
Cat owners may feel that putting a cat outdoors or in a fenced yard offers full protection. However, if there are few to no trees to give their cat adequate shade, they may not realize that their cat may have no way to escape from the sun’s heat. Even with a filled water bowl to prevent Cat Dehydration, the cat can suffer greatly from being exposed to the sun for an entire day. Installing a cat flap or leaving a window open so that your cat can come inside and away from the hot is a good way to prevent sunburn.
Treating and Preventing Feline Sunburn
A veterinarian can help determine the severity of the burn but typical treatment includes application of sulfa or other creams or liquids (after the hair is shaved to allow access to the skin). Cats can generally be treated by owners in the comfort of their own homes. For more serious burns, full hospitalization may be required and aggressive treatment, from intravenous fluids to daily cleaning and monitoring of the burn. Just as with severe human burns, skins grafts may be necessary, although these are not common in cats, especially if care is received quickly.
The vet can recommend sunscreens that can help prevent sunburn. Until their pets have been burned, owners may not realize that there are special sunscreens made just for cats. This can help to keep more serious conditions, including Cat Cancer, from developing.