On 6 May I walked to the top of Ben Nevis with my wife. I’m not much of a hill walker, but had been warned what to expect. So I went prepared for wind, rain, snow, hail, you name it, but what I wasn’t prepared for was…the sun!
It was a glorious day, and in the 6 or so hours that it took us to walk to the top and get back down again the sun was on us the whole time. I got horribly sunburnt. My arms felt a bit funny on the way back, but I put it down to the exertion of the day. I’m colour-blind so didn’t appreciate that my skin was going red. As someone who spends his life hiding from the sun, it really took me by surprise. A painful lesson learned!
So what’s this got to do with anything? Well, some of our four-legged friends need to be protected from the sun too. The biggest problem we see with sun exposure is in white cats. Cats like to sun-bathe, but white cat’s have the same problem as middle-aged pasty-faced men. They burn.
Sunburn and Skin Cancer
Sunburn in cats is much like in people, and the long-term consequence of repeated sunburn incidents is skin cancer. White cats will frequently get skin cancer on the tips of their ears, often both ears simultaneously. Even though the type of cancer that they get from sunburn doesn’t often spread to other body areas, the only real treatment is to amputate the ears.
So if you have a white cat it’s important to defend them from the sun. The best way to do this is just to keep them indoors on a sunny day. If you’re unable to do this, then applying the highest factor sun cream possible to their ears will give them some protection. Cats will lick this off, so after applying the cream, keep them indoors for some time, while distracting them (food, play etc), to allow it to soak into the skin.