HEALTH & CARE

How Cold is Too Cold for Cats: Deciphering Your Cat’s Chilly Discomfort

very cold cat
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Extreme weather can be a threat to your cat’s health. While indoor cats may be safer than their outdoor counterparts, there are times when keeping your cat indoors is not enough. Some cold temperatures may prove to be unbearable even for thick-furred cats. This calls for your vigilance as your kitty’s caregiver to ensure that he is as safe as possible. This begs the question: how cold is too cold for cats?

Addressing the question of how cold is too cold for cats in a house alone may not offer you all the help that you need. We will go further and bring you up to speed with everything concerning cats and cold weather. This will help you better prepare your cat to get through the cold season effortlessly, dispel any misconceptions, and also give you a way to deal with any issues that may arise in the process.

Did you know that certain factors dictate exactly how your kitty deals with cold weather? Regardless of this, we will let you know which temperatures are too cold for him and give you tips on how to work around this. If by any chance your cat ends up with one or two negative effects of cold weather, is there a remedy to cure him with? Keep reading for more details on all these.

Factors That Make Cats Susceptible to Cold

Cats are homoeothermic. This means that they are able to maintain constant body temperatures in varying environments. This is achieved by the ability to regulate their body heat internally. This capacity is, however, diminished or enhanced by a number of factors.

#1: Breed

sphynx cat is cold

Some cat breeds tolerate cold weather better than others. This is due to their unique build and coats. Long-haired felines are able to regulate their body temperatures better than their short-haired counterparts.

Breeds such as Maine Coon, Siberian, Ragdoll, and Persian have thick and long fur. This traps air, which offers insulation from the cold environment. Breeds like the Norwegian Forest Cat are even adapted to walking on cold surfaces by having fur-covered paws.

Short-haired breeds like the Siamese, the Scottish Fold, Devon Rex, and the Oriental Shorthair lack enough fur cover to keep the cold at bay. On the other hand, cats belonging to hairless breeds are more susceptible to hypothermia than other felines. Sphynx, Bambino, and Dwelf breeds have exposed skin and will require extra care in an effort to keep them warm in cold weather.

#2: Age

Kittens do not tolerate cold weather well. Their soft and fine undercoat, as well as the outer fur, are still in the process of development. This makes it not sufficient in insulating your kitty from extreme cold.

Old cats are also vulnerable during cold spells. Their bodies are not able to regulate body temperatures well. Cats become more sensitive to temperature changes as they age. This is mostly attributed to a weakening immune system and reduced food intake.

#3: Size

kitten getting warm in the shoe

Bigger cats are able to stay warmer in cold weather compared to smaller ones. Their bodies have more fat that is burned up to generate heat when it gets cold. Smaller and slim cats have a diminished capacity when it comes to generating heat.

The continuous fat layer beneath a cat’s skin also keeps it insulated from the cold. This layer is thicker in bigger cats as compared to smaller ones.

#4: Health

Health plays a big role in keeping your cat warm during cold weather. While sick cats will generally have diminished body function, those who suffer from hypothyroidism tend to be more sensitive to cold temperatures.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s speed of metabolism; it determines how fast or slow consumed food is broken down to produce heat. Inflammation of this gland is referred to as hypothyroidism. It leads to a reduced release of digestive hormones, hence less body heat production.

#5: Grooming

The cold season should not be an excuse for not grooming your cat. Apart from being uncomfortable and sometimes painful, when fur becomes mated, it offers little insulation.

Grooming should, however, be done carefully. If you do wash your cat, ensure that you thoroughly dry him. The wetness of his fur reduces insulation. This will especially affect cats with thick coats. Evaporation of the trapped moisture cools him further, making him more vulnerable to the cold.

Shaving also reduces the cat’s ability to insulate himself. During summer, shaving would not be a cause to worry, but the winter weather may be too harsh on such a cat. This will especially affect indoor cats who occasionally venture outdoors.

How Cold is Too Cold?

cat getting warm in the blanket

Despite the fact that cats can keep warm even in cold weather thanks to their homoeothermic nature, temperatures of 320 F and below may be too dangerous for your cat. This may vary depending on the above factors. However, chances are that if you are feeling cold, your cat is also feeling cold.

Apart from a thermometer that will show you the exact temperature, here are some other signs that will tell you that your house is too cold for your cat.

  • Your cat is curling in and under blankets, rugs, and any other items that provide heat or warmth
  • Being overly clingy to you or even getting inside your clothes
  • Assuming a tucked-in position to conserve heat
  • Trying to locate and lying in warm and sunny spots in the house and moving with them while avoiding cold surfaces like tiles
  • Shivering and trembling

How to Keep Your Cat Warm During Cold Weather

Cats have internal body mechanisms that regulate their body temperatures. Their coat also helps them adapt to temperature changes in the environment. This enables them to keep warm in cold weather as well as cool down during hot spells.

However, during extreme cases of cold, they require extra care to keep warm. Below are some ways that will ensure your cat stays warm in the house during such weather.

#1: Providing a Heated Cat Bed

orange cat lying under the blanket

Most cats enjoy covering themselves up in your blankets. Apart from security, they enjoy the warmth that your body provides. This works if you don’t mind it. If you do, you can still ensure he enjoys the same warmth in his bed. Having a heated cat bed will keep him warm as he sleeps.

Depending on his sleeping preference, there are varieties of cat beds available just for cats. These include flat and donut-shaped ones among other designs. Care should be taken to ensure that the bed heats up to only about 100oF, which is within a cat’s body’s temperature.

Heated cat beds are ideal for senior cats who may have painful joints that act up in cold weather. You can also avoid accruing huge power bills by acquiring the automatic ones. These feline beds have sensors that turn off the heat when the cat steps off.

In case you find purchasing such beds costly, you can improvise a cozy one. Such can be made by padding a box with warm blankets. The flaps should be left on to keep off cold drafts. You can heat the blankets by wrapping them with heating pads.

Care should be taken to ensure that the temperatures are kept within his body range to avoid the cat from being burnt.

See Also: Cat Bed DIY

Cold tiles and floors conduct heat away from the cat bed. Even if the bed is heated, ensure that it’s elevated. It should be placed a few feet from the floor as well as from walls.

#2: Keeping your House Warm

If you are feeling cold, so is your cat. Ensure you leave the thermostat at about 77oF when you leave for work. This is sufficient to keep adult cats warm in cold weather. Both kittens and seniors need to be kept warm even in temperatures considered to be normal for adult cats.

New-born kittens should be kept in rooms with a temperature of 96 – 100oF for the first three weeks. This can be lowered by 5 degrees every week thereafter until it reaches 70oF. Senior and sick cats will require the thermostat to be set within the same range as for kittens.

Another way to keep the house warm is by allowing the sun to warm it. Leaving the curtains open during the day will allow the sun to stream in. Cats enjoy sprawling themselves on sunny spots around the house. Ensure that such spots are accessible to your cat.

You can do this by moving around furniture that obstructs such spots. Placing his favorite mat or blanket in sunny spots will also encourage him to take advantage of the sun’s warmth.

Also, having a humidifier in the house will add moisture to the dry winter air. This will keep you and your cat more comfortable in the cold months.

#3: Keeping Windows and Other Openings Closed

cat sitting on closed window

Cats enjoy sitting by windows to survey what is happening outside. If your cat has such a favorite spot, then ensure the window is kept shut during cold weather. Any opening will bring cold drafts.

When outside temperatures are too low, such spots can be too cold for the cat to sit on. Invest on heated perches to help him enjoy the view comfortably.

Entrances and exits should also be made kitty proof. This ensures that he doesn’t venture outside where temperatures are way lower than inside the house. Install stoppers on the doors that will keep cold drafts off.

#4: Ensure your Cat is Feeding Well

A cat who feeds well will have enough energy to keep warm during cold weather. In case his appetite has reduced, take the initiative to assist him to feed and drink more.

This is the time to give him his favorite food and treats. Kittens and seniors should be assisted to ensure they have enough to keep warm.

See Also: DIY Cat Treats

#5: Invest in Some Warm Clothes for Your Cat

orange cat wearing white sweater

While cats with long and thick fur can adapt well to cold weather, short-haired and hairless kitties require assistance. This is more so during extreme winter weather. Warm jackets made specifically for cats will keep your cat warm.

In case your house is tiled, then get him some feline boots. Any clothes that you decide to buy or make should be fitting. This will avoid him getting caught in sharp edges or constricting him.

#6: Play More with Your Kitty

Exercise will keep your cat warm in cold weather. Schedule some playtime to ensure he doesn’t spend his whole day sleeping.

Dangling games should keep him from jumping up and down. Chasing games like laser pointers will also aid in increasing his activity. While at work, leave balls and toy mice that he can play with, and in turn, stay warmer.

See Also: How to Play with Your Cat

Possible Health Problems Due to the Cold Weather and the Remedies

cat caught a cold

Cold weather comes with a host of problems. It is easy to assume that felines are spared due to their furry bodies. Cats can indeed survive low temperature depending on several factors. However, an extremely cold environment even indoors can render the furriest cats vulnerable.

Here are the two most common effects cold weather can have on cats.

#1: Hypothermia

This is abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia is most common in outdoor cats that have been exposed to extremely cold or windy environment. Cats that get wet out in the cold can also get hypothermic.

This does not mean that indoor cats can’t get affected; if they are exposed to cold air for long enough, you might find yourself dealing with this.

Hypothermia is dangerous; as the body temperature reduces, other systems in the body slow down. This can lead to neurological disorders, cardiac problems, kidney failure, and breathing problems. If quick action is not taken, this can lead to death. This is even worse in very young kittens and geriatric cats.

Hypothermia can present itself in different ways depending on the severity. It can be mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Mild hypothermia comes with a body temperature of 90-990 F. This is accompanied by shivering, cold skin, inactivity, and lack of mental alertness.
  • Moderate hypothermia is characterized by temperatures of 82-900 F and stiffness in muscles, reduced blood pressure, and breathing difficulties.
  • Severe hypothermia, on the other hand, records temperatures below 820 F, an inaudible heartbeat, difficulty or inability to breath, and a possible coma.

Mild to moderate hypothermia can be handled at home. However, a visit to the vet may keep you more at ease and rule out any danger. Taking care of it at home requires you to wrap your cat in a warm blanket.

Place him on a heating pad or place hot water bottles next to him. Wrap the heating pad or the bottles with a thick piece of cloth or a towel to avoid burns. Observe your kitty for some time to see if he responds to the heat. You can also check his body temperature to see if it improves.

If there is no improvement, you suspect severe hypothermia, or you are unsure of the situation, take him to the vet immediately while still wrapped in the blanket.

The vet may have to do warm water enemas, IV fluids, or use a ventilator to help speed up your cat’s recovery. His recovery will depend on how fast you respond to the onset of these signs.

Once his body temperature has stabilized, keep him under observation for a few more days. If you notice anything that causes you concern, you should take him to the vet for check-up or review.

#2: The Worsening of Arthritis

If your cat is arthritic, he can experience more pain during the cold season. You can help him wait out the season using the following tips.

  • Help him exercise the joints: This can be done by ensuring that he moves. It ensures that the joints don’t become stiff and more painful.
  • Keep his weight in check: Your cat may be less active when it is cold. It may be necessary to reduce his calorie intake to ensure that he does not put on extra weight which will cause more strain on the already sore joint.
  • Use medications or supplements: Some medications and supplements can help alleviate your cat’s suffering. In spite of this, they should only be administered after consultation with your vet. If your cat is already on medication, check with your vet to see if the dose can be altered. Note that human medication can be fatal for cats even in small doses and hence should not be given under any circumstances.

Wrap Up

tabby cat wearing large scarf

Several factors determine how cats react to cold weather. These include breed, health, age, and grooming. Despite cats being homoeothermic in nature, extremely cold temperatures in your house can be detrimental to their health. This can also lead to coma or death. Temperatures 320 F and below are considered too cold for your cat.

Even without a thermometer, if your house feels cold to you, it is cold for your cat as well. Thankfully, cats can express themselves very well when it comes to this and can project several signs that clearly show that they are feeling cold.

A little vigilance can help you work around these factors and also ensure that you make your house conducive enough for your cat to wait out the season.

Should you find your cat suffering the consequences of extreme cold, you can either alleviate your cat’s suffering at home or take him to the vet depending on the severity of the situation. With proper care, your cat should be back to normal within a short time.

Did you find this information helpful? Please share your cat’s experience with the cold season and methods that you used to help alleviate the situation. Leave us your feedback below. Also, don’t miss out on our article on how to tell if a cat has a fever to make sure you have all the bases covered.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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