Sunburn advice issued to cat owners

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Cat owners are being urged to protect their pets from sun exposure as rising temperatures puts them at risk of developing sunburn and skin cancer.

Cats Protection says cats with white or pale coloured ears or noses are particularly susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays – with some needing drastic surgery to repair sun damaged skin.

Ahead of Sun Awareness Week (May 8-14), the UK’s largest cat charity has issued advice to owners to keep cats indoors during very sunny weather.

Cats Protection’s Education Veterinary Officer Sandra Milburn said: “We regularly have cats coming into our care with early or advanced stages of skin cancer caused by sun exposure. In many of these cases, we need to amputate the ears to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Like many of us, cats love the warm weather and enjoy lounging around in the sun. However, just as with humans, too much sun exposure can be very dangerous and owners should take precautions to protect their cats.

“White cats, or those with unpigmented white noses or ears, are at the greatest risk. It may take a few years before the damage is visible but, once the early stages of cancer set in, it is important cats are given urgent veterinary treatment to prevent it spreading.

“The good news is that you can protect your cat by keeping him or her indoors during the hottest part of the day, particularly during the summer months. It’s also a good idea to provide lots of shady areas in the garden where your cat may like to snooze – whether it’s a large shrub or artificial shade, such as a small pop up tent.

“There are also sunblocks available that have been manufactured specifically for use on animals, some of which have been designed to be lick-proof. Your vet should be able to recommend one or source one for your cat. It is very important that it is suitable for cats, as they can be more sensitive than some other animals to the chemicals included. Please check with your vet before using anything intended for humans on your cat.”

One cat currently recovering from surgery to remove both her badly-sunburned ears is Pearl, a 16-year-old former stray being cared for at Cats Protection’s Derby Adoption Centre.

Manager Helen Wood said: “Poor Pearl was in quite a state when she was found as a stray, with both ears having sustained serious damage as a result of sun exposure. Sadly, her ears could not be saved and both needed to be removed to prevent the spread of skin cancer.

“Fortunately, she has coped brilliantly with this and is now looking for a new home. Her new owner will need to ensure she stays indoors during hot weather to protect her from further skin damage.”

Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity, with over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 centres helping around 500 cats a day, or 200,000 a year.

For more information about the charity, please visit www.cats.org.uk