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When he was quite young (about two years old), Harpsie got sunburnt ears. This was because he is a pale colour, and, like pale coloured humans such as me, he is more susceptible to sun damage.
Even worse, I did not realise that the sore areas on Harpsie's ears (which, in my defence, were not that red or obvious) were sunburnt skin. It was only when the vet pointed them out to me during a visit for some other reason that I realised.
In cats with light coloured coats, the ears often become sunburnt first, but the nose may also be affected. Both areas are then at increased risk of developing skin cancer (usually squamous cell carcinoma), just as in humans.
I was mortified that I was unwittingly exposing Harpsie to these risks. We immediately bought Harpsie his very own toddler roll-on sunblock, and we put this on his ears during sunny weather. Even if he wasn't going outside, he was still at risk of sunburn through the glass.
It's best to use a roll-on because it's less hassle for the cat, and a roll-on tends to be a bit thicker and creamier than a lotion, so it won't drip off. Our vet suggested a toddler product because they tend to be gentler than human products and therefore safer for cats. The brand we used was SunSense Toddler Milk Roll-On SPF50, an Australian brand which can be hard to find in the UK, though it is available from a number of sellers through Amazon. I had the vet check this over and was told it was safe for Harpsie, but check with your own vet about any product you plan to use.
A longer-term solution, which my cousin in New Zealand used on her horse, is to tattoo the ears. However, this would require general anaesthesia, plus Harpsie suited his blond ears, so we went for the less invasive solution
Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine a cancer researcher states that sun can cause skin cancer in cats.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine has information on protecting your cat ifrom sunburn.
E How has information about how to detect skin cancer in cats.
Since for many years we thought Harpsie had heart disease, we used to worry about him in hot weather, particularly since he is Persian with a thick coat. Cats are of desert heritage, and actually tend to cope relatively well with heat - you will notice they lie stretched out and don't move much. However, cats cannot sweat except through their paw pads, and as you have probably noticed, they don't pant either (in fact, a cat breathing with his/her mouth open is a medical emergency, and you should rush to the vet). Thus you may sometimes wish to help them keep cool, particularly if you're in the UK and are having to cope with the recent very hot summers with no air conditioning.
Obviously you need to provide water at all times, but during hot weather you may wish to provide your cat with an extra bowl of water close to his/her favourite resting spot.
When our air conditioning broke down during a New York summer, I used to sponge the cats down regularly with cold water. They didn't mind this at all, and I think it helped them feel more comfortable.
I also bought the cats cool pads. These are a neat idea: they are pads like cat beds which you soak in water for 20 minutes, then hang to drip dry for a further 20 minutes; they are then ready to use. They remain cool for around three days. Unfortunately, my cats only seem to like lying on them once they've stopped being cool!
Another suggestion for keeping your cat cool is to put ice in a bowl, then use a fan to blow over the ice.
Iams has some tips on dealing with hot weather.
About has important information about heatstroke.
This page last updated: 10 February 2008
Links on this page last checked: 31 July 2008
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