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Pet owners warned of sun dangers after Belfast cat has ears amputated

Cat owners are being warned to keep their cats indoors and apply sunscreen during the hottest days of the summer after a cat had her ears amputated.

A cat welfare charity, Cats Protection, has issued advice to owners, warning them of the dangers of letting cats lounge about in the sun.

One cat that passed through the charity’s care had to have the tips of her ears removed due to sun damage.

Smurf in her new home. Photo: Cats Protection

Smurf from Belfast was picked up from the streets last autumn. Believed to have been in a car crash, she was rushed to a vet who removed her right eye and ear tips, which had been badly sun-damaged, before she was eventually rehomed.

Smurf’s owner, Kate Large, told the PA news agency: “She wasn’t in Lisbon or Madrid. She was outside in Northern Ireland for less than a year, with the amount of sun we get in Ireland and this was the damage it caused.”

The 49-year-old, who volunteers at the shelter, said prior to adopting Smurf, she had not been aware cats could get such severe sun damage.

“Most people are great cat owners and would be mortified if their cat got cancer due to what technically is their lack of education,” she said.

Smurf with her owner Kate Large. Photo: Cats Protection

She adopted Smurf after a previous kitten she had taken in died from a mutated coronavirus, which left her self-isolating for seven weeks.

“Smurf is just a really easy cat,” she said. “She’s so grateful, she had to fight so hard for a basic, decent life. I look at her and think, to me, she is perfect.”

The charity is trying to raise awareness of the effects of sun damage, which can be severe even in indoor cats.

Sarah Elliott, central veterinary officer for Cats Protection, said: “Cats are notorious for their love of lounging around in the sun but, just as with humans, this can be a very dangerous activity when the sun is at its hottest.

“Even on a cold day, when the sun is bright then there is still the potential for damage to occur.

Photo: Cats Protection

“Pale-coloured cats like Smurf are particularly at risk, or indeed any cats that have unpigmented white noses or ears. It may take a few years before the damage is visible but, once the early stages of cancer set in, cats require urgent veterinary treatment to prevent it spreading. However, following a few simple steps will help to protect pets from the sun.”

Owners are recommended to keep their pet indoors when the sun is at its hottest, and speak to a vet about suitable sunscreen for their animal.

They should provide plenty of shade for pet cats when they are outdoors and ensure they have enough water. To stop cats overheating, place a plastic bottle with frozen water inside a towel and place it in an area the cat frequently visits.

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