- Cats with white or light fur and/or a short or thin coat are particularly prone to skin cancer
- Not all types of feline skin cancer are caused by exposure to sun, but it is a leading cause
- Commonly affected areas include the skin around the eyes and nose, and tips of the ears
- Keeping your cat out of strong sunlight and using specially-formulated sun cream can reduce the risk
- Check any suspicious growths on your cats as some can be fatal without early intervention
What causes skin cancer in cats?
Although not always linked, skin cancer in cats is often caused by exposure to the sun. Cats with a light or white and/or thin or a lack of fur are most at risk, especially if they have suffered sunburn at any point. Some studies show that the compulsive licking of certain areas can also damage the skin and increase the chance of skin cancer. Certain breeds may also be at a higher risk.
What does sunburn look like on cats?
Sunburn can appear as red skin or hair loss. The most common areas affected are the nose, belly, inside legs, ear tips, the skin around the lips and eyes, as well as any other area where skin pigmentation is low.
How do I protect my cats from sunburn and sun-related skin cancer?
Discourage your cat from lying in the sun during times of peak UV intensity, usually between 10am or 3pm, either by keeping them inside or ensuring that they remain in a well-shaded spot. If that is not possible, use sunscreen to protect their skin. Look for a specially-formulated feline sun cream as these will be the safest and most effective, but if you are unable to find this, opt for one suitable for human babies instead. Check that it is fragrance-free, comes without an ingestion warning, is non-staining and of an SPF of at least 15, ideally 30. Ingredients such as zinc, which are found in many adult sun creams, can be toxic to cats if licked. Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply during sun exposure.
What are the symptoms of skin cancer in cats?
Skin cancer in cats can take many different forms, including lesions, ulcers, scabs, warty lumps and bumps on the skin. They may be black, brown, grey, pink or red in colour. Look out for any unusual lumps and bumps on your cat and seek veterinary help if you find anything unusual. If the cancer is growing on the nose, you may notice nosebleeds, breathing difficulties and nasal discharge.
Most lumps and lesions found in cats are benign but early intervention will give your pet the best chance of recovery if the growth is found to be cancerous.