We all know we need protection from the sun. What about our pets? Here’s what I told a reader who asked about her cat’s love of sunbathing.
Q: My cat loves to nap in the sun. Why is that, and do I need to worry that he’ll get sunburned?
A: Cats have made their way around the world and now live in all types of climates, but they are descended from desert animals. Their wild relatives like to bask in the sun during the day and hunt in the cool of the evening, and our domestic cats carry on that tradition as much as they are allowed.
We’ve all seen cats lying in a patch of sunshine, catching a few rays wherever they can. If your cat is indoors, you probably don’t need to slather him with sunscreen, but cats who have access to a catio or a yard with a cat fence preventing them from getting out can benefit from sun protection.
Cats most at risk are hairless or have thin, light-colored coats. If they go outdoors, put pet-safe sunscreen on their nose, ears, belly and tail, and protect the rest of the body with a T-shirt or other item of clothing — preferably one that provides protection from UV rays. You can find UV-protective clothing for pets online or at pet boutiques. The label should say “certified UPF 50+.”
For cats and dogs, avoid sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or salicylates. If licked, those ingredients can be toxic or even deadly. Your veterinarian can recommend pet-safe sunscreen.
Consider topping a catio with a cover made of fabric that’s treated to block the sun’s rays. You can also reduce your cat’s exposure to the most harmful rays by keeping him indoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at its highest in the sky and rays are strongest.
Finally, unless it’s medically necessary, don’t shave your cat. Fur provides natural sun protection.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.