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Can Cats Get Sunburn? Facts & Safety Tips (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Joe Mallat DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

White cat enjoying the sun at the roof garden

Can Cats Get Sunburn? Facts & Safety Tips (Vet Answer)


Dr. Joe Mallat Photo


Dr. Joe Mallat

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats are often found lounging under the sun, half asleep and basking in its warmth. It’s an image that is equal parts cute and majestic. But just as we humans should exercise caution in the sun, so too should cats. This, of course, requires cat owners to be aware of feline sunburn and diligent in preventing its occurrence.

Cats with white hair, thin hair, or no hair are at particular risk of sunburn. And, similar to people, prolonged sunburn (solar dermatitis) can be a trigger for skin cancers.

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Can Cats Get Sunburn?

Yes, cats can get sunburn. On any given day, if a cat spends too much time in the sun, they can get sunburned. This is most common on the ears, around the eyes, and above the nose, as these parts of the body have little or no hair. Chronic exposure to the sun over months or years can lead to solar dermatitis. This refers to inflammation of the skin and damaged skin cells caused by too much UV.

Cats affected by solar dermatitis are at increased risk of developing skin cancer, the most common of which is squamous cell carcinoma. These cancers can be nasty and usually require surgical removal.

Close up of a rash or Diagnosis of scabies or Dermatological diseases on the skin of the cat's ears
Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

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Which Cats Are at Risk of Sunburn?

Some cats are at greater risk of sunburn than others.

These include:
  • Cats with white coats
  • Siamese, Himalayan, and Persian cats
  • Hairless cats such as the Sphynx and Bambino
  • Cats that spend lots of time outdoors
  • Indoor cats that sunbath in the windows

It is important to mention, however, that even cats with dark coats and long coats can develop sunburn, solar dermatitis, and skin cancers.

Signs of Sunburn in Cats

Image Credit: Pixabay

There are several signs of sunburn in cats.

Things you should be on the lookout for include:
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Swollen skin around the eyes, belly, nose, and paw-pads
  • Crusting, scabby skin lesions around the face
  • Excessive licking of affected skin
  • Ulcerated, oozing lumps (if skin cancer has occurred)

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Top 5 Sunburn Safety Tips

1. Keep your cat out of the sun

During the sunny times of the day, especially from 10 am to 4 pm, keep your cat indoors or restricted to shady areas outside.

2. Use cat sunscreen

Sunscreen Lotion
Photo by AdoreBeautyNZ, Pixabay

Several sunscreens have been formulated for cats and should be applied if your cat is spending time out in the sun. Do not use human sunscreens, as these can be highly toxic to cats.

3. Check your cat regularly

If you know your cat likes to sunbathe, check their skin regularly for signs of sunburn.

4. Use cool compression

Woman putting ice cubes into pack
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

If your cat is suffering from sunburn, cool compress the area for 10-15 minutes to soothe their discomfort.

4. Arrange annual vet visits

Most cats visit the vet annually for their vaccinations. This is a good chance to have the vet do a thorough “skin check”, looking for early signs of sunburn or solar dermatitis.


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Unfortunately, cats can get sunburn, especially cats with little or no coat. Sunscreen can help, as well as keeping your feline out of harsh sunlight as much as possible. Make sure to take your cat for regular checkups with a vet to make sure everything is okay.

Featured Image Credit: Arwen Matthijssen, Shutterstock

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