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Can Cats Get Sunburn? Facts & Safety Tips

Written by: JaneA Kelley

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

orange cat wearing sunglasses relaxing by the pool

Can Cats Get Sunburn? Facts & Safety Tips

My first cat, Iris, was a beautiful calico girl who was mostly white except for a large black and orange splotch on her back and a tiny little orange “I” shaped spot on the top of her head. Her nose was as pale as her head fur, and nothing made her happier than sitting on my mother’s back porch soaking up the hot Maine summer sun.

When Iris reached her late teens, I began to notice black, warty-looking splotches on the skin around the edges of her ears. “Could that be skin cancer?” I remember wondering back then. “Can cats even get skin cancer?”

So, can a cat get a sunburn, and thus, can a cat get skin cancer? Which cats are most at risk for sunburn and skin cancer? And what can you do to protect your cat from sunburn? Here’s what you need to know about cats and sunburns.

1. What does cat sunburn look like?

White cat standing in the doorway of the owner's home.
White or light-colored cats are most at risk for sunburns! Photography by ©Page Light Studios | Getty Images.

I once met a nearly hairless cat wandering the streets of a neighborhood in my home town. At first I thought he was a stray cat with mange because his skin was red, dry and cracked. I met his owner and found out he “just had a sunburn.” Pale noses and ear edges can be easily sunburned, too.

2. White and light-colored cats are most at risk for sunburn.

This is kind of a no-brainer, if you think about it. The paler your complexion, the more careful you have to be careful to avoid overexposure to the sun, and the same is true for your cat. Most light-colored cats have very pale pink or white skin under that fur.

3. Sphynx and Rex cats also need protection.

A Sphynx or hairless cat.
A Sphynx and other hairless cats should also be protected from the sun. Photography ©GlobalP | Thinkstock.

Sphynx and other hairless breeds such as the Peterbald don’t have the type of hair coat that protects their skin from the sun. Combine that with their heat-seeking nature, and you have a sunbather who could easily get sunburned. Although Cornish Rex and Devon Rex cats have fur, its unique texture and single coat don’t afford much protection from UV rays.

So, how can you protect your cat from sunburn?

1. Apply a cat-safe sunscreen.

Be very careful if you choose to put sunscreen on your cat. Products with octyl salicylate and similar chemicals can be poisonous to your furry friend. There are plenty of dog-safe sunscreens, but very few cat-safe ones, so do your research and choose carefully.

2. Provide shade.

If your cat goes outside, whether to bask on your enclosed catio, accompany you on a leash for a walk or safely explore your yard, make sure there are plenty of places where your cat can be completely shielded from the sun.

3. Use UV protection window film.

This product is inexpensive and very easy to apply, and it comes in tinted and clear varieties. Not only will it allow your cat to enjoy a warm sun puddle without the risk of exposure to harmful UV rays, but it will also increase your home’s energy efficiency and keep the sun from fading your carpets and furniture.

Tell us: Has your cat ever been sunburned or developed cancer as a result of sun exposure? What do you do to protect your cat from the sun?

Yikes! Suffering from a sunburn yourself? Here are nine ways to sunburn relief >>

Read more about cat sunburn and cat skin issues:

Featured Image Credit: Juancat, Shutterstock

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