Just like for humans, using sunscreen for cats prevents against sun damage. Thin-haired, white colored and hairless cats are susceptible to sunburns and cancer. Here is more on the benefits of using sun protection for your cat.
“If there is a spot of sun spilling onto the floor, a cat will find it and soak it up”. This was a famous quote by Joan McIntosh that best explains how cats love the sun. Cats enjoy basking in the sunlight. Indoor cats can be spotted standing by the window for long hours just to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
Since they also love to sleep for long hours which allows for the release of growth hormones their body temperatures may fall. Sleeping in the sun helps to maintain a consistent body temperature. It also provides the necessary vitamin D. However just like humans this puts them at risk of sun related complications.
Sun radiation releases free radicals into the environment. When absorbed by the body’s proteins, DNA and RNA they are known for its cancer-causing properties. The sun exposure in excess emits two kinds of rays. These affect the structures in the skin and its immune system that include:
- UVA rays which induce aging and causes skin cancer, however, this rays cannot be filtered out and will viciously attack the skin cells especially in white haired cats.
- UVB rays because sunburns are known as solar dermatitis. These particular rays can be filtered off by the use of window filters.
Cat Breeds Susceptible to UV Damage
Though all cats are susceptible to UV damage, the most highly risked include:
White haired cats. The presence of white skin under the surface makes them vulnerable. The pigmentation of the skin is determined by the amount of melanin produced in the skin cells. Melanin helps to protect the skin from solar radiation. However, in such cats, the melanin gets lost within the cells leading to hypopigmentation and this puts the cat at a very high risk.
Hairless or thin fur coats. Due to the genetics of grooming habits such as shaving, some cats appear to have fewer coats. The fur acts as a protective cover and the lack of it causes hypersensitivity of the skin. In such scenarios, the epidermis is highly exposed to direct UV damage and sunburns are very likely to occur.
There are also areas within the cat body such as the lips, pinna, eyelids and nose belly, groin, legs that have thinner coats than the rest of the body. In white haired cats, these areas are likely to have fewer hairs than normal. The most affected breed is the Russian Peter bald and Sphynx since they are hairless as well as Cornish Rex and Devon Rex.
Symptoms of Sun Damage
- Scratching and itching which result from the skin irritations and heat and this may cause infections
- Dry flaky skin. The UV rays produce free radicals that suck off the moisture from the cells and skin
- Hair loss which occurs when there is a lot of scratching or licking the wounds
- Pain around the areas due to the development of blisters as well as damage to internal tissues.
- Red, inflamed skin
- Since it is very challenging to keep the cat away from sunlight despite the use of window fillers, one of the best ways of protecting the cat from direct UV damage is through the use of sunscreen
What is a sunscreen?
It is a product applied to various parts of the cat’s body to help reflect and absorb the UV rays that are known to cause sunburns and skin cancer. The chemical sunscreens allow for the absorption of the UV rays into the body while the physical sunscreen help to reflect the light so that it doesn’t directly hit the skin.
Since cats are highly sensitive animals that depend on olfactory communications such as scents to detect danger, the topical product should be fragrance-free, drug-free, hypoallergenic and non-toxic. This is also because in the process of grooming the cats are likely to ingest the present harmful compounds.
Uses of Sunscreen for Cats
Here are reasons why you should apply sunscreen on your cat;
Prevent skin burns
Burns can appear mildly on the skin surface or deeply where they affect the skin tissues.
Described as first degree burns, these type of sunburns are noticeable only on the skin surface or epidermis and though the skin appears reddish in color, there are no blisters and the present hair on the skin is still attached.
When the damage worsens it may affect the epidermis and the dermis (skin layers). Not only does the skin become red and inflamed but lesions may be formed on the affected skin area. The ears at this stage start to lose some hairs due to the scratching. These are categorized as second-degree burns as they are of an abysmal partial thickness.
Prolonged sunburns can cause third degree burns where all the skin layers are affected including the tissues leading to very whitish skin with a leather texture.
The treatment of these burns may involve shaving, fluids and topical creams that contain silver sulfadiazine and cleaning with iodine or chlorhexidine but this can be prevented by using sunscreen at the initial stages as it helps to boost the cells which block the UV mutation in the body .
Prevent skin cancer
Referred to as squamous cell carcinoma which destroys the tissues surrounding the thin furred and white areas of the skin .It also affects the areas that are chronically hit by solar dermatitis . When UV rays hit the cat skin they try to destroy the DNA, sunscreen helps to bounce this off and prevent mutation.
Prevent skin inflammation
UV rays release free radicals to the environment and when they hit the skin tissues they destroy the cells leading to a change in color, tenderness and pain. Sunscreen helps to prevent the direct absorption of these radicals by the body tissues.
Prevent hair loss
Destruction of body cells and tissues blocks the supply of nutrients to various skin cells responsible for hair generation. Sunscreen helps to protect the cells from damage.
Prevent premature aging
Aging though a natural process can be hastened by the UV radiation. In cats the premature aging inclines them to early deafness and blindness. Sunscreen helps to delay this by stopping the radiation.
Contents of Sunscreen
The best sunscreen for cats should:
Offer both UVB and UVA protection and the Sun protective factor should be 15 or higher such as SPF 30
Not contain aspirin in any form as it is converted to salicylic acid when ingested during grooming and it contains high level of toxins that are harmful to cats.
Cat sunscreen should not contain Homosalate, Octyl Salicylate and Ethylhexyl Salicylate. Though these organic compounds help to protect the skin from direct UVB radiation they have been known for their negative effects of causing endocrine disruption as well as making the outer skin very porous to absorption of harmful products that will affect the cat’s health.
Be free from zinc oxide which is highly toxic and can greatly damage the gastrointestinal tract
Be free from para-amino benzoic acid and ethanol alcohol which have been associated with causing diarrhea, vomiting bone marrow problems and liver damage
Contain titanium dioxide which works by blocking harmful sun rays form entering the skin. This compound is however not absorbed by the skin and when applied on the tips of ears and noses it is harmful when ingested especially when the cat is grooming.
Should be applied twice daily or at least four to six hours for hairless cats. This is because cats use their scent to sense new smells and immediately lick off any creams, lotions or sprays applied