While we may be daydreaming about the arrival of winter with a light fluffy snow covering, have you ever stopped to think about whether or not your cat is as happy about the cold weather as you are? Sure, they may have a fluffy coat. But you can get cold even when you’re bundled up, so what if it’s the same for our kitties?
Should we be getting them ugly sweaters to wear this winter, too?
Can My Cat Get Cold?
Of course! Just like any other animal, cats’ bodies will attempt to bring their temperature up to par when they’re in cold environments. Cats can even develop hypothermia and frostbite if left in cold enough environments for too long.
How Can I Tell if My Cat is Cold?
If your cat is starting to feel cold, they may present any combination of the following symptoms.
They Can’t Get Enough Snuggles
When our furry friend leaps up and begins purring as they curl themselves into our lap, it melts our heart. But sometimes this affection is more pragmatic than anything. Sometimes, cats will snuggle up to us in order to steal some of our body heat. Not that we ever mind, of course. But if you notice your cat is constantly jumping back up to cuddle with you, consider whether or not the inside of your house is warm enough for them.
Cool cats (sorry….) may begin to shiver in order to raise their body temperature. However, remember that shivering can also be indicative of your cat having a fever. While this may seem contradictory, consider this: if your body temperature was significantly elevated, wouldn’t it be possible that a warm house could feel a bit too cold for you?
If your cat’s shivering is coupled with lethargy, rapid breathing, decreased grooming, or loss of appetite, then it’s possible your cat has a fever. If you suspect a fever, you’ll want to verify your hypothesis by checking the cat’s temperature with a pediatric rectal thermometer. You can read more about how to safely check your cat’s temperature at PetMD. But, possibly a better idea, for most of us, is a quick trip to your Vet to check out your kitty!
They’re Hanging Out by Warm Places
Once they start feeling cold, cats aren’t going to wait around to fix the problem. Instead, you’ll probably find them snoozing on top of the radiator or by air vents if the heat is turned up. You may even find them buried underneath blankets or snuggling in your bed sheets!
Their Extremities Are a Bit Chilly
If you suspect your cat may be feeling cold, gently reach out and start feeling their tail, ears, toes, and nose. If these feel cool to the touch, your cat is likely uncomfortable and would appreciate some help warming up.
How Cold is Too Cold for a Cat?
Just as with so many questions about proper pet care, there is no singular temperature that can be considered “too cold” for every cat. According to Dr. M.A. Crist, Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: “Determining what temperature is too cold for your pet can depend on many different factors, from fur thickness and length to body mass.“ However, it’s generally accepted that kittens, senior cats, and sick cats should never be kept outdoors when the temperature is below 45º Fahrenheit.
Crist says that it’s also clinically accepted that indoor cats, who are not acclimated to cold weather, should not be left outside when the average daily temperature is below 45º Fahrenheit. He goes on to also say that even cats who are acclimated to outdoor temperatures should always have access to warm shelters.
What’s the Ideal Temperature for Cats?
Many people don’t realize that a cat’s normal body temperature is quite a bit warmer than a human’s. While a human’s core body temperature should fall around 98.6º Fahrenheit, a cat’s body temperature should hover between 100.5º and 102.5º Fahrenheit.
Given that their body is adjusted to being at a higher core temperature than ours, cats are generally able to tolerate slightly higher external temperatures than us. Conversely, cats may also feel much colder during winter than you or I would, especially if you don’t turn up the heat often.
Luckily, cats are notoriously skilled at rooting out the most comfortable spots throughout the house and setting up shop there when they feel a need for additional warmth. That being said, there are still a number of ways you can help Whiskers to stay a bit more cozy during the winter.
How Can I Keep My Cat Warm?
Get Them a Cat Bed
Any old cat bed can help your cat feel more comfortable during cold weather! You can even build your own bed with just two sofa cushions and a couple of tightly wrapped up blankets. You don’t have to devise an elaborate solution to keep your cat warm
Of course, you could also treat your four-legged friend to a covered bed; that way they’ll begin to warm up the second they lay down. Some cats also really enjoy the added sense of security offered by enclosed beds. Consider getting a cave-style or triangular A-frame bed if your cat enjoys being in small spaces. Otherwise, try a donut-style beds; they offer a warm, padded base with walls that your kitty can snuggle up to.
Also, remember that heat rises, so it’s best to place your cat’s bed up high! However, if your cat is elderly or has mobility issues, consider getting a slightly elevated bed with an attached ramp.
Give Them Heat
In the middle of really cold weather, you may also want to think about placing an electric heating pad under your cat’s bed. Just remember to switch it off when you’re asleep or out of the house, as a number of accidents can occur when a cat is left alone with a heating pad. Heated sills will also provide warmth and comfort to a cool cat (we’ll wait for the a-paws). But a much better option is to buy a heated cat bed. These have now become quite reasonable price-wise—as for my cats–they just adore their warmed-up beds!
Snuggle with Them!
The only, truly free option on this list is to give your cats some extra TLC. Not only will you be helping them stay warm, but you’ll get to spend some quality time with them! Besides: who doesn’t love a good afternoon cuddle with their feline fella?
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