by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
“If there is a spot of sun spilling onto the floor, a cat will find it and soak it up”
– Joan McIntosh.
Since we protect ourselves and our children from the sun using sunscreen, it seems logical to do the same for our cats that are at risk of sunburn or skin cancer. However, while sunscreens do prevent the absorption of harmful rays, this may not be the best option for them since they contain chemicals that can cause harm to our cats.
The sun emits two types of ultra-violet rays; UVA which causes premature aging and skin cancer and UVB which causes sunburn. Cats need protection from both of these.
Those most at risk are cats with white fur and those with thin coats and hairless, shaved or bald patches. Blue-eyed cats may be at a higher risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Cats themselves have a few thoughts against sunscreen; it has a smell which interferes with their ability to be aware of their surroundings, it has an unnatural feel, and they ingest the ingredients while grooming.
To be used successfully, any sunscreen must take these factors into consideration. The ingredient list is equally important as cats groom constantly and ingest harmful chemicals.
Things to look out for in a sunscreen for cats:
Preferably made for cats – not for dogs.
Factor 15 or higher.
Does not contain zinc oxide.
Does not contain aspirin, salicylic acid, lists octyl xalicylate, Homosalate, Octyl Salicylate and Ethylhexyl Salicylate.
Does not contain para-amino benzoic acid and ethanol alcohol.
While titanium dioxide is recommended, it is harmful for cats when ingested so should only be used on areas the cat will not groom – in my experience cats groom everywhere, even paws used for grooming are licked clean.
Hypoallergenic, fragrance and dye-free products could be considered, depending on the ingredients.
Can be used on sensitive areas, e.g. noses.
Spray options must first be sprayed onto hands or cotton wool then applied to cats – do not spray directly onto a cat.
Ask your vet for his recommendations, bearing in mind the points listed above.
This chart gives alternative names for ingredients – please read labels carefully before applying any chemical substance onto cats www.skinacea.com/sunscreen/uv-filters-chart.html#.WeNtL40UkRo
Catios and outdoor spaces should be fitted with covers that prevent or reduce ultra-violet rays.
The best option for cats is to keep them out of the sun between 10am and 2pm, the hottest times of the day. Even snoozing on a windowsill is still exposure to harmful rays of the sun.
Applying a UV film or filter to windows is an option, make sure that it filters or reflects the UVA rays as well as UVB; most specifications I could find only referred to ‘UV Rays’, which can be misleading.
All the wild cats that I have seen have thick tabby coats and no white fur or skin. This helps them blend into their environment and reduces the likelihood of skin cancer.