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Why Do Cats Like the Sun? 6 Reasons & Safety Tips

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

ginger cat streching at sunset

Why Do Cats Like the Sun? 6 Reasons & Safety Tips

One of the funniest and quite fascinating habits of cats is their love of sunbathing. It’s a great sight to see cats sprawled out in the sun or basking in the warmth of a sunny window. But why do cats love sunbathing so much?

It turns out that cats have a lot of reasons for sunbathing, such as regulating their body temperature and getting extra Vitamin D. So, there is a bit more to cats’ sunbathing than meets the eye. Keep reading to discover the fascinating reasons why cats love the sun and why it’s so beneficial for them.

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The 6 Reasons Why Cats Like the Sun

1. Regulation of Body Temperature

One benefit of sunbathing for cats is that it helps them regulate their body temperature and conserve energy. Sunbathing is a great way for cats to stay warm on cold days and cool on hot days. Sunbathing helps cats maintain their body temperature, which is essential for their health and well-being.

cat on the beach
Photo Credit: steph photographies, Shutterstock

2. Vitamin D Source

Another benefit of sunbathing for cats is that it gives them an opportunity to get extra Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for cats, and it helps them absorb calcium, which is important for strong bones and healthy teeth. Cats cannot metabolize UVB radiation directly to vitamin D3 like humans can. They get the majority of vitamin D from their diets. However, the sun can produce sebaceous oil that can be ingested by their skin and converted into the vitamin when they groom themselves.

3. Relaxation and Stress Reduction

In addition to the physical benefits of sunbathing for cats, it can also be a great way for them to relax and de-stress, so pretty much the same reason why humans like to hang out in the sun sometimes. Sunbathing gives cats a chance to take time out of their day and just enjoy the warmth.

cat lying on the sand
Photo Credit: Birgit, Pixabay

4. It’s a Natural Antidepressant

Sunlight can increase small amounts of serotonin production in animals. This all-natural antidepressant is known to promote feelings of well-being and happiness in humans as well as pets. The neurotransmitter is known to regulate mood, social behavior, appetite, sleep, and many other functions in humans, although scientists are still learning about its effects on animals.

5. They Use It for Sleeping

Sunbathing can also help cats get a better night’s sleep, as the warmth can be soothing and relaxing. As mentioned earlier, cats use the sun to help regulate body temperature – and note that they have fewer heat receptors then we do as humans.

Both animals and humans can be affected by the sun’s melatonin hormone. This hormone reacts with the pineal cells to regulate their sleep cycles and improve the quality of sleep. Scientists believe that pets should have access to about 20–40 minutes of natural sunlight during the day to maintain their circadian rhythms.

Cat sleeping
Photo Credit: bones64, Pixabay

6. Potential Relief From Pain

The warmth of the sun can provide temporary relief for arthritis, rheumatism, and other ailments in older pets, and it can also kill germs and yeast that may grow in wounds (like anaerobic bacteria). This is why many vets have full-spectrum lighting to illuminate their recovery rooms.

cat paw dividerIs Sunbathing Safe for Cats?

The short answer is yes, cats can sunbathe safely, provided certain precautions are taken. While sunbathing is great for helping cats relax and may provide other health benefits, too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing, like anything else with life. That said, cats should not be left unsupervised in the sun, as they can be susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration just like humans. And yes, too much exposure to the sun can also lead to sunburn, which can be especially painful for cats due to their thin coats of fur

Tips for Cat Sunbathing

Though sunbathing is not bad for cats, there are ways that you can ensure that your cat gets all of the benefits while minimizing any potential negative side effects. To do this, first make sure that you provide your cat with a shady spot to retreat to if they get too hot or want to take a break from the sun. Cats can quickly overheat if they stay in the sun for too long, so it’s important to provide them with somewhere they can cool down when they need to.

Also, make sure that your cat has plenty of fresh water available at all times. Sunbathing can be a great activity for cats, but it can also be dehydrating. Make sure that your cat has plenty of cool water ready in a nearby bowl or fountain. Again, make sure that the water is kept cool and not warm.

And lastly, keep an eye on your cat while they are sunbathing. Sometimes cats may fall asleep in the sun because they’re such hard workers – joking. It’s easy for them to get to relax, so make sure that you monitor your cat and bring it out of the sun if it extends past the 40-minute mark. Just as with humans, too much time in the sun can have negative side effects, especially in cats with short coats and sensitive skin during the times of day where the sun rays are the strongest, such as between noon and about 3 p.m.

Cat lying down
Cat lying down by GidonPico, Pixels

3 cat face dividerFrequently Asked Questions

Do Pets Need Sunscreen to Protect Them From Sun Damage?

Not to the extent that we do because they have fur, but it can help minimize exposure to harmful UVB rays. Pets, like humans, can suffer from sunburn and skin damage due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This can lead to skin cancer in pets just as it can in humans.

While most pets have fur to protect them, some breeds have less fur, or they may be balding due to age or illness. So, cats who are at a higher risk of sunburn include white, light-colored, or hairless breeds. For these animals, the application of sunscreen can provide an extra layer of protection against the sun’s rays.

Sunscreens that are specifically designed for cats are a good option. These products contain ingredients that are safe for pets, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and they’re usually hypoallergenic. Sunscreens for cats can also come in different forms, such as sprays, lotions, and wipes, so you can choose the one that works best for your pet. When applying sunscreen to your cat, make sure to cover all exposed areas, such as the nose, outer ears, and belly.

What Happens if a Cat Suffers Heat Stroke While Sunbathing?

The average body temperature for a cat is between 101°F and 102.5°F, and if your cat’s body temperature rises above 104° F, it’s recommended that you take it to the vet immediately. Cats can sweat through their paw pads and by licking their fur. But their cooling mechanisms lose efficiency and become less effective when it gets too hot.

The cat can suffer a heat stroke if it’s out in the sun too long and/or the sun rays are simply too strong. The cat’s body temperature will rise as a result. As a result, the essential functions of the cells and organs within it become less efficient. And cats can even die from organ failure in severe cases.

black cat lying down
Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Suffering From Heat Stroke

If a cat becomes too hot, it may become irritable. Other common signs of heat stroke in cats include lethargy, refusing to move, drooling, panting, and open mouth breathing. You may also notice your cat acting strangely, such as appearing generally unwell. This could indicate that they’re suffering from heat stroke secondary effects.

What Can I Do if My Cat Is Suffering From Heat Stroke?

If your cat is suffering from heat stroke, you can begin emergency cooling at your home. Move the cat to a cool shaded area, then wet their fur with cool or lukewarm water. You’ll also want to make an emergency call to your veterinarian. Don’t use cold water unless your veterinarian has instructed you. You may want to even offer your cat a few sips of cool water, if thery’re able to drink it.

Do Cats Need Vitamin D?

Cats need vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth, just like humans do. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and metabolize calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth. The average indoor cat probably gets enough vitamin D from the food it eats, but outdoor cats may need extra vitamin D. Cats that live outdoors have more exposure to the sun, so they can synthesize more of their own vitamin D.

Also, cats that are elderly, pregnant, or lactating, or cats that have certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, may also need a vitamin D supplement. Your vet can help you decide on the right type and dosage of the supplement for your cat.

Also, note that too much vitamin D can be toxic to cats, so be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and not give your cat more than the recommended dosage. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that adult cat food should have at least 280 international units (IU) of vitamin D but no more than 30,080 IU per kilogram of food.

Polydactyl orange tabby cat walking outdoor
Image Credit: Jenny Margarette, Shutterstock

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Wrapping Things Up

Cats love to sunbathe for a variety of reasons, from regulating their body temperature to simply relaxing and getting some sleep. There are many benefits to sunbathing for cats, both physical and mental. However, it helps to keep in mind a few safety tips when sunbathing with your cat, such as providing them with a cool, shady spot to retreat to and making sure they have plenty of fresh cool water available.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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