Cats love to sit in the sunshine. For many to sit and look out of the window at the passers-by or to lie in that one particularly sunny part of the garden is the highlight of the day. In small amounts this is a great way to spend the day, but we have to be careful about long periods in the sun due to its potential to cause harm to our cats.
The main concern for cats in relation to the sun is the damage it can do to their skin. Just like people, cats can get bad sunburn from prolonged exposure. Over time repeat episodes of sunburn can lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer in cats is painful and causes ulceration and scab formation on the surface of the skin often needs aggressive treatment and even amputation of extremities.
The areas at risk include mainly the nose and ears but can affect other parts of the body if the hair is quite thin. White and pink skin is more likely to get easily burnt due to the lack of protective pigmentation. Pet sunblock can be used daily to help prevent sunburn.
The sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm so try and keep your cat in the shade or indoors during these times. Shade in the garden can offer some protection against the sun’s rays, but regularly check your cat to make sure they are actually sitting in the comfort of the shade and not direct sunlight.
Keeping your cat well groomed will help your cat keep cool as fur matts are uncomfortable and trap extra heat. Do not completely shave your cat, as their hair provides some protection against sunburn.
Ensure your cat is well hydrated during the peak of the day by giving ample access to fresh water. Sometimes water fountains can help encourage your cat to drink more. An outside water bowl is a summer must have, and cool mats are a great option for cats to lie on and reduce their core body temperature. These can be used both indoors and outside.
Cats do love a breeze and will often sit close to windows to enjoy the fresh air. However it’s important to check that your cat cannot easily fall out of the open windows. Use a fan indoors to help keep the room cool, and either lock, or use mesh screens when opening any windows that are higher than the ground floor.
Cats can suffer heat stroke if they are left in the sun for too long. Know the signs to look out for (vomiting, tremors, seizures, being very weak or open mouth breathing and panting) and head straight to your veterinarian if you see these signs. Cats are also at risk of overheating if they get locked in a room accidently such as the garage or garden shed. If your cat goes missing it’s a good idea to check these locations first!
It’s important to remember that in N.Z. especially, the sun poses a danger to our pets year round, so even with the seasons changing, they still require protection from the sun’s rays.