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Can cats get sunburn?

Lila from Miami, FL asked us a very relevant question:

Hello Jimmie O’Chutt,

I have two cats: British Shorthair and Sphynx. I wanted to ask you if cats can get a sunburn? Does the Sphynx breed sunburn easily? Is there any way to prevent sunburn in cats? Can it be treated?


Can cats get sunburned?

Sunburns can happen in cats that stay exposed to open sun for too long. It particularly concerns bald cat breeds who need special protection against UV rays. Typically, a sunburn in cats manifests into minor swelling and reddening of the skin. Serious sunburns lead to the appearance of blisters that grow and open up.

Most often, cats tend to have their ears sunburned – those are the spots with the thinnest and most sensitive skin. Black cats are more likely to experience sunburns than their peers with white and creamy fur because dark colors attract light.

Is Sphynx breed more prone to sunburn?

Sphynx breed and shaved cats are the most vulnerable ones – their skin isn’t protected by fur so there’s no natural barrier against sun rays. Pay attention to the fact that furred cats with shaved spots can also suffer from solar dermatitis in cats – UV rays affect opened skin areas.

How to prevent sunburn in cats?

There are two things owners can do to protect their furry kids against sunburns:

  1. Make sure that cats rest in a shadow and don’t stay exposed to direct sun rays. While windows reflect UV rays, cats lying under the sun indoors can suffer from a heat stroke!
  2. Use special sunscreen creams for pets – they have non-toxic formulas and don’t cause poisoning even if a cat starts licking itself.

How to cure sunburn in cats?

If a cat has a sunburn, calling a vet emergency is a must for at least two reasons. First, you need to relieve pain shock. Secondly, it’s imperative to prevent dehydration. 

While waiting for veterinarians to arrive, the cat’s owner can do the following:

  1. Apply cold water or ice pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes. For these purposes, one can use a wet cloth, frozen food in a bag, or other clean and slightly cold objects. Do not use ice unless it’s covered with a towel.
  2. Treat the affected area with a thin solution of potassium permanganate and apply an anti-burn or bactericidal ointment – it will prevent infection and relieve painful sensations. If you have an aloe plant growing at home, apply aloe vera juice to the affected skin areas.
  3. Apply a loose, non-tightening gauze bandage to prevent the cat from licking the injured area and infecting it.

Have your own question?

Submit your own question about proper cat nutrition, behavior, or training and a veterinarian will give you an answer during the next 24 hours.

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