White Cats and Sunshine Don’t Mix

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:

QB with ears

Q.B. 2.5 with perfectly healthy ears

To this:

QB without ears

Q.B. 2.5 shortly after his suture removal and re-growing his fur

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.

A Cat's ear inside and out

Here is a photo from The Merck Manual for Pet Health website

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

Treatment Options

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.

Prevention

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!

QB without ears 2

Staring out the window near the end of his recovery period wishing he could go outside

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.

Belle and Memphis on the deck

Belle and Memphis sharing a sunbathing spot.

 

 

7 comments on “White Cats and Sunshine Don’t Mix

    1. Victoria Carter
      Victoria Carter

      It was very nerve-wrecking, and made us feel guilty for not having been aware of the possibility. But we are happy he is back to his old self.

    1. Victoria Carter
      Victoria Carter

      We didn’t either, and thank you very much for sharing! I’m sure there are still many people out there that don’t know too!

    1. Victoria Carter
      Victoria Carter

      Your welcome, and thank you for sharing, I’m just sorry we had to learn the hard way and that Q.B. 2.5 had go through it.

  1. Brendalyn Drews

    Our little Nessa is a white kitten, thanks for posting such an informative article. We have thought about making a “catio” for our cats to go outside once in a while but I’m glad at this point our cats are indoor cats!
    Brendalyn Drews recently posted…How to Treat Tapeworms in CatsMy Profile

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