Soon it will dawn and the sun will appear on the horizon; intense and bright as usual. The solar bath is the best time of the day: who has not seen their cat lying on its belly enjoying the warmth it provides? It seems that its resistance to heat has no limit, and its state of relaxation and enjoyment pleases us.
Cats are mammals and, like all mammals, they need to maintain their body temperature. Especially when sleeping – his preferred activity -, because during the hours of sleep his metabolism works more slowly and his body temperature drops. When a cat wants to sleep, what it really looks for is warmth, whether from the sun, from its cozy bed, from our lap, from a radiator, or even from an electronic device. Our pet will not find anything simpler and at the same time more rewarding than enjoying the pleasure of a nap in the sun.
Although cats like the sun, we must take precautions and ensure that our pet does not take it in excess, especially in summer, especially if it is a cat with white hair or little fur.
The solar spectrum is made up of visible (40%), infrared (50%) and ultraviolet (9%) rays. In ultraviolet (UV) rays we distinguish UVA – they are the most abundant, they pass through the atmosphere and penetrate deep into the skin – and UVB – which are slowed down by the ozone layer in the atmosphere and act more superficially on the skin -. Part of the ultraviolet rays is reflected off the skin and coat, but another part is absorbed.
What are the benefits of sunbathing for cats?
A moderate absorption of ultraviolet radiation from the sun is a healthy contribution for the cat since UVB radiation allows the synthesis of vitamin D (calciferol) in the skin, necessary for the absorption of calcium and the formation of bone structures. However, the contribution of vitamin D that triggers solar radiation is not very significant with respect to the amount that our pet needs to obtain through their diet. Let’s not think that the sun will supply a balanced diet.
What harm can the sun have for cats?
Excessive or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause severe damage to the cellular components of the skin. The rays can damage the epidermis and the superficial blood vessels of the dermis. In addition, they stimulate the production of free radicals, modify the structure of keratinocytes and alter the natural protection mechanisms of the skin. When the local immunity of the skin is altered, the risk of bacterial infections in the area increases. Prolonged exposure to harmful levels of ultraviolet rays can cause changes in the deep structures of the skin and the possible appearance of tumors. White-haired or furless cats are the most vulnerable to these effects. In the rest of the races, the edges of the ears, the nose, the lower eyelids and the lips are the areas with the highest risk of presenting injuries.
Diseases or damage associated with the effects of the sun will depend on the intensity of the radiation, the exposure time, the density of the animal’s coat, pigmentation of the hair and skin, and individual susceptibility factors such as the presence of a concomitant disease or other problems skin. The main effects to watch out for will be:
- Burns: they are the most immediate and visible damage. When they are deep they can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infections
- Solar or actinic dermatitis: presents reddened skin, hair loss, irritation and inflammation of the area. When exposure increases, scabs, ulcers and blisters may appear that produce intense itching
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Chronic skin damage can lead to malignant transformation of cells, leading to a tumor.
- Hyperthermia or heat stroke: mainly in the summer season when temperatures rise to oppressive levels. Cats do not sweat, and to release heat, they pant or lick each other
Although these diseases are not very frequent in cats, it is advisable to prevent these risks. So we should try to prevent our cats from being exposed to the sun’s rays, especially at peak times of the day and for a long time. We will have to resort to the use of sunscreen creams, specific for cats, and apply them in the areas of greatest risk. Creams marketed for humans should not be used as they can be toxic to the animal.
Finally, in the event of any suspicious injury, we must go to the trusted veterinarian as we always do in the event of any possible doubt that may arise about the health of our furry dog. Let us always make them feel safe, because WE LOVE THEM, WE PROTECT THEM.