Your cat loves spending time around the sunny spots in your home. But why does he prefer lounging around those areas?
Do Cats Need Sunlight?
No cats do not need sunlight like humans do. Humans need sunlight to create vitamin D whereas cats get their vitamin D from their diet.
Vitamin D is considered an essential nutrient in both cats and humans because it is not produced by their bodies. To get enough vitamin D, people need to spend some time under the sun, eat foods that contain the nutrient, or use supplements.
Cats, on the other hand, cannot get vitamin D from the sun. Their furs act as a barrier between their skins and the sun, preventing them from absorbing ultraviolet light. In one experiment where a portion of fur was removed from cat subjects to expose skin revealed that cats are incapable of producing vitamin D as humans do.
Instead, cats rely on the food they eat to get their supply of the vitamin. The vitamin requirements of cats will depend on their age. Kittens and pregnant queens require at least 750 IU/kg of the vitamin while adults need at least 500 IU/kg.
In both humans and cats, vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium and the promotion of optimal bone health. Additionally the vitamin aids in boosting immunity as well as reducing inflammations.
But too much of a good thing can be bad. Excessive amounts of vitamin D can lead to poisoning in cats. This is why you should not exceed the recommended amounts of the vitamin.
Vitamin D poisoning usually occurs when a cat ingests a vitamin supplement formulated for people. Signs of vitamin D poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased water intake and urination.
Why cats seek warmth
If your cat does not need to sunbathe to get his fill of the sunshine vitamin, why does he like to lounge around warm places?
One possible reason why cats actively seek warm places is because of their roots. Cats descended from desert-dwelling wild cats who can tolerate intense heat. These ancestors had short coats and lean bodies, allowing them to thrive in warm climates.
Even up to today, domestic cats with short hair and slender bodies thrive in warmer places. On the other hand, cats with long fur and stocky bodies are more than capable of handling cold weather.
Another reason why some cats like warm places is because external heat allows them to conserve their energies. Sunlight and other sources of heat allow cats to lower their metabolism, enabling them to use the energy they conserve for other purposes like hunting and playing.
Sun safety for cats
While sunbathing is not necessarily harmful to cats, overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to a slew of problems.
Cats with little to no fur like the Sphynx are vulnerable to sunburns. However, even if your pet has thick fur, some of his body parts like his ears, nose, and lips, may also get sunburned. Other at-risk cats include those with light-colored coats and those that recently suffered from hair loss.
Your cat does not need to spend hours outdoors to get sunburned. Even cats that live exclusively indoors can succumb to the condition if they stay near windows without UV filters.
The symptoms of sunburn in cats are similar to those of people. In a sunburned cat, you will notice patches of red and dry skin. Touching these areas can be painful for your pet so be careful when handling and treating your cat to avoid unnecessary scratches and bites.
Minor cases of sunburn typically resolve by themselves. However, for severe cases, you will need the help and guidance of your vet. In some instances, the vet will recommend shaving the affected area and the application of topical ointments
To prevent sunburns, you should limit your pet’s access to the sun, particularly during summer and the warmest times of the day.
If you allow your pet to go out, apply sunscreen for pets on his most vulnerable areas. Indoors, you can put clothing on your pet to provide him with additional warmth. Consider installing a filter or a solar shade on the windows near your cat’s favorite spots.
Like people, cats can also get squamous cell carcinoma, also known as skin cancer. The condition arises when a cat’s skin is always exposed to the sun’s rays.
Skin cancer in cats can initially manifest itself in the form of lumps and red spots. However, not all spots and bumps can lead to cancer. If you notice either of these on your cat, get him examined by the vet. When skin cancer is detected early, the condition can be treated through radiation or surgery.
Your cat may love warmth but it does not mean that he is immune to overheating, especially during summer. Heatstroke is a serious medical condition that can adversely affect a cat’s internal organs.
Before succumbing to heatstroke, a cat will first undergo heat exhaustion. At this point, your pet will become restless as he tries to find respite from the heat. If he cannot escape from the heat, he will exhibit a few symptoms including:
- Rapid breathing
- Redness in the mouth and tongue
If your cat cannot find relief from the heat, he might experience seizures or collapse.
To prevent heatstroke, you should provide your cat access to cool areas. It is also a good idea to draw the curtains down to prevent more heat from coming into your house.
Your cat should always have access to fresh water. During days of intense summer heat, you can provide your pet with ice cubes to help him cool off.
If you allow your cat to go outside, restrict his access to places that tend to get hot like the garage or your greenhouse. Under no circumstance should you leave your cat inside the car.
If your pet shows signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, bring him to the vet for proper treatment.
Cats do not require sunlight
Your cat might have the propensity to stay in warm, sunny places. However, sunlight is not essential for his health or wellbeing. He just finds comfort in these places, due in large part to his ancestry. It is alright to provide him access to such places, especially during winter. But come summertime, you should help your pet keep cool.
Image: istockphoto.com / Konstantin Aksenov