Do Cats Get Sunburned?

This cutie pie's white fur and pink nose make her more prone to sunburn.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Oh, Mr. Sun: we can't live without him, but he sure can do some damage if we bask in his light for too long. Cats are no different. Even though they're covered in fur, they can still be affected by the sun's powerful rays. Keep your furry friend protected.

Types of Sunburns in Cats

Sunburns are also known as solar dermatitis. Cats may suffer a superficial partial thickness burn, which is the most common type of sunburn. This type of burn is similar to a first-degree burn and involves only the top layer of skin. The skin will appear reddish and will probably be sore to the touch, so if a kitty with this type of burn is touched and expresses that she isn't so happy, it's because she's in pain. Sunburns hurt!

A deep partial thickness burn is rare and is more severe. There may be blisters, though not common. The burn may travel beyond the first layer of the skin. Kitty's skin will be very red and veterinary care is needed. Beyond this type of burn comes the full thickness burn. This burn extends into every layer of the skin and can continue on into the tissue. A leathery look may result after the burn takes place and it's also not uncommon for the burn itself to appear white in color.

Preventing Sunburns

If you have either a white cat (especially those cuties with pink noses and ears), a light-colored cat or a hairless cat, take extra caution. These cats are super-sensitive to the sun and if they get too much, the dreaded sunburn could easily present itself. It's best to protect them by keeping them indoors and letting them enjoy the great outdoors from inside. If your cat does go out, apply sunscreen, especially to the areas that are covered in less hair. Repeated sunburns place a cat at a higher risk of developing skin cancer, similar to their human friends. White cats have an even greater risk.

Care of Superficial Thickness Sunburn

If your kitty displays signs of a sunburn, extra care and lots of TLC will be necessary. For superficial partial thickness sunburns, you will need the help of Kitty's veterinarian. The hair may need to be shaved so the vet can keep a close eye on the health of your cat and the progress of the skin's healing. The area will be gently cleaned and a topical treatment will be applied to soothe the skin and aid in healing. Silver sulfadiazine is a common ointment used to treat the burn. The veterinarian will most likely send Kitty home to be with you during this time and give you directions on the care required.

Treating a Deep Partial Thickness Sunburn

Hopefully your precious friend will never have to endure this in her life, but if the unlucky event arises, hospitalization will be required. She will need an IV to transfer fluids with essential electrolytes to sustain her. Cats in this condition may be in so much pain that they refuse to eat or drink. The veterinary staff will keep a watchful eye on her condition and keep her wounds clean. Daily bandage changes and application of ointment will be necessary.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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