The weather is warming up, and the sun is starting to shine more, which means kitties (if allowed outside) will be wanting out more and will be spending more time in the sun.
That’s a good thing right? Depends on the fur color.
White cats, or even just those with white ears and faces, are VERY susceptible to sunburn, due to the lack of pigmentation in their skin and thin fur coverage of those areas.
Why is this a problem? One word; Cancer. More specifically; Squamous Cell Carcinomas.
That adorable pink skin on our white furred kitties, if constantly sunburned (or even just one really bad sunburn), can lead to cancer. Their ears and noses are particularly susceptible due to thin fur coverage.
We unfortunately learned this fact a bit to late.
During the summer of 2013 our Q.B. 2.5 went from this:
Q.B. 2.5’s cancer came on so suddenly and progressed so quickly that the only viable option was removal of the entire ear pinna. Thankfully we did catch it before any tumors developed.
According to our Vet, this type of cancer can usually be caught a bit sooner, when only the tips of the pinna are affected so the removal area is only half of the ear pinna.
Q.B. 2.5 wasn’t one of those cats.
Signs and Symptoms
PetMD.com states the most common signs and or symptoms are:
- Red, crusted sores on the edges of the ears
- Redness may come and go
- Bleeding ulcers on the ears
- Ulcers on the ear that slowly get bigger
- As sores get larger, ear tips may disappear, ear may become malformed
- Sometimes, sores on the face
The most common treatment option is surgical removal of the affected area with a touch extra (removal of the ear pinna does NOT affect their ability to hear), but cryotherapy (freezing), topical chemotherapy, or radiation treatment may be used as needed.
Both petMD.com and The Merck Manual for Pet Health say the best preventative measure is to keep them inside, if they like to sun (as all kitties do) you may want to add a UV screen or tint to your windows to be extra safe.
If you can’t keep them inside (I know not all cats take kindly to the ‘inside only’ transition), then sunblock is needed! Yes, they do make sunblock for pets, but please consult your veterinarian for what they recommend (since some human sunblocks can be used safely but not all) and where to purchase some. When applying please remember to avoid contact with the eyes!
So please keep an eye on those ears and noses of our white furred kitties! I hope this helps keep any of you white furred kitty owners from learning the hard way like we did.
Now that we know better, we can take the proper precautions to protect Belle and Memphis, who are also white and avid sun-bathers, safe from those UV rays.