How can I protect my indoor cat from getting a sunburn?

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Cats love to sun themselves. An indoor cat will lie in front of a sunny window and just watch the street—or constantly sit in front of a glass door to observe birds and other nature.

If you think that they’re protected by the glass, think again: Dangerous ultraviolet rays can penetrate a window so, even if the house is fully air-conditioned, skin can still be damaged without any obvious signs of sunburn. If your cat has light-colored fur, or if she is hairless, the risk of skin damage—skin cancer—increases.

Sunburn and repeated, excessive exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma, in cats. It can also cause skin ulceration, leaving the skin susceptible to opportunistic bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Sun exposure may exacerbate autoimmune skin diseases in which the immune system attacks skin cells, such as pemphigus and lupus. As the sun damages the skin, skin cells die and can release proteins that inappropriately trigger the immune system.

So what do you do with an indoor cat? Of course, the best thing is to keep them away from the windows, especially during the sun’s peak time, which is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. That’s probably not realistic, though, so use a window covering, light enough to keep the room sunny, but certainly something that would block UV rays.

If your cat has her own little house—a “kitty condo”—encourage her to play in it, because it will distract her from the windows. Or maybe distract her with toys or a food puzzle, all away from windows of course.

Also, apply sun block (one that’s specially formulated for cats, not humans) to vulnerable areas, such as nose, tips of the ears and around the eyes.

Always be sure there is plenty of fresh water available at all times to keep your pet comfortable and prevent any risk of sunstroke.

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