If your cat is hairless, or has very thin or light-colored fur, sunscreen is definitely a good idea if and when they are exposed to the sun. However, most sunscreens can be very dangerous to cats, and even toxic. So, it is imperative that you first speak with your veterinarian about which pet sunscreens are safe. For example, sunscreens made for humans are never safe for your cat.
Read on to learn more about how best to protect your sun-bathing kitty from the harsh effects of the sun.
When Should I Apply Sunscreen to My Cat?
Veterinarian Dr. Ruth MacPete says that even long-haired cats can be susceptible to sunburn, but mostly hairless cats, and those with fine or light-colored hair are of the biggest concern. Areas like the ears, nose, lips, and belly often have little to no hair on them, and are therefore are more likely to get burnt.
It is best to keep your cat out of the direct sun, especially between the hours of 11am to 3pm. If your cat absolutely must be out during these hours, and can’t be kept in a shady place, they should either be clothed in a solar protection outfit, or have cat-safe sunscreen applied to their more susceptible areas. Cats can even get sunburns while lying on a windowsill, as regular windows do not filter out harmful UV rays.
How Can I Tell if My Cat is Sunburnt?
Sunburns in cats initially appear as redness and irritation, much like with humans. Their skin may even be hot to the touch, and blisters may also form. Sunburns for cats can be very painful and sensitive, so handle your cat as little as possible when they are sunburned.
Sometimes, when a cat is sunburnt, it may scratch and bite the area, causing more trauma. In these cases, using an E-collar may be necessary.
What Should I Do if My Cat Gets a Sunburn?
If your cat does get a sunburn, you may need to apply cold compresses to alleviate some of the pain, and prevent the burn from worsening. In some cases, your vet may prescribe a cortisone ointment, which will fight inflammation and promote healing of scabs or wounds. Antibiotics may also be required.
In the worst cases, intravenous fluid therapy may be necessary to reverse or prevent dehydration, though this does very little to actually help the sunburn.
Which Products Should I Avoid?
Cats are more sensitive to products than most other animals, so you must be very careful with the products you choose. Check the labeling to make sure it is safe and appropriate for cats. For instance, some sunscreens for pets exist, but aren’t FDA-approved. If you have any doubts, it’s best to check with your vet. And if you are using a product that you have never used before, start with a very small area and monitor for any signs of irritation or redness.
Make sure you put it in a place where your cat can not lick it. The biggest problems occur if your cat eats the sunscreen. If this happens your cat will most likely get an upset stomach and likely will vomit and have diarrhea. Though unlikely, it is still a possibility.
Zinc is an ingredient to definitely avoid with cats, as zinc oxide can cause damage to their red blood cells. The zinc can cause an allergic reaction if ingested which can lead to swelling of the face and hives.
Salicylates are a group of chemicals that are also very harmful to your cat. This includes octyl xalicylate, homosalate, and Ethylhexyl salicylate. Salicylates are in the same category as aspirin, and when applied to the skin may cause redness and mild irritation. If ingested in a large amount, salicylates can cause ulcers in the stomach, or even liver damage.
If you’re worried about your cat getting a sunburn, the best choice is to keep them out of the sun during the peak hours. If it is unavoidable to do that, and especially your cat is hairless, has very thin hair, or is light colored, you should talk to your veterinarian about cat-safe sunscreens. If you must let your cat out in the sun, and you choose to use sunscreen, please be responsible.
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