While cats are feisty, resilient, and can generally take care of themselves, our domestic cats need some help when the cold weather starts. So, how do we know what temperature is too cold for cats, and what can you do to help them? The answers depend on various factors we’re going to discover.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Cats?
Determining what temperature is too cold for cats depends on the age, breed, fur, health, and body mass. An average daily temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for cats. If cats remain in a place with a temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they may suffer from hypothermia and possibly frostbite.
Factors Affecting a Cat’s Tolerance to Cold Temperatures
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that the ambient temperature remains below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for pets in sheltered housing.
While there’s a recommended temperature for cats during the cold season, these things may influence our cats’ reaction to low temperatures.
- Size and Weight: Small bodies have less fat, which acts as the body’s natural insulator.
- Coat type: Cats with thick, double-layered coats tend to withstand the cold better. Likewise, breeds that come from locations with cold climates allow them to survive in cold temperatures naturally.
- Coat color: Black or other dark-coated cats can absorb significant amounts of heat from the sunlight, keeping them warmer than light-coated ones.
- Age: Senior, kittens, and sick cats can’t regulate their body temperatures properly as opposed to healthy cats in their prime years. About 90% of cats over age 10 have arthritis, and cold temperatures can increase pain to the joints.
- Living Environment: Cats who spend most of their time outside have better tolerance to cold weather compared to cats who usually stay in a sheltered place. Indoor cats who have no experience staying outdoors may panic in a cold environment, preventing them from thinking about how to protect themselves.
Hypothermia in Cats
Hypothermia in cats happens when the body temperature gets dangerously low or drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. An elderly, very young, or sick cat with health problems may die if the temperatures are well above the freezing point.
When cats suffer from hypothermia, the central nervous system becomes depressed, preventing the heart from pumping blood throughout the body. Signs of hypothermia include:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Dilated pupils
- Low heart rate
- Excessive shivering
- Slow or labored breathing
- Slow response to stimulations or commands
- Stiff or sluggish movements
- Weakness and lethargy
If you think your cat is developing hypothermia, it’s advisable to call your veterinarian right away. You can try to rewarm your pet using towels, although you should not apply direct heat.
Frostbite in Cats
When the environmental temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a cat’s blood vessels close to the skin constrict or become narrow, injuring the skin and other tissues. While frostbite can happen to any part of a cat’s body exposed to low temperatures for a prolonged period, it normally occurs on the ears, tail, and paws.
Cats left outside may not be able to get themselves to safety once frostbite takes place. It may take a few days for you to notice the signs of frostbite, so it’s important that we know them:
- Discoloration of the affected skin area (pale, bluish, or gray)
- Blackened or dead skin
- Brittleness or coldness of the affected skin area
- Blisters or skin ulcers
How to Keep Cats Warm in Cold Temperatures
Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor cat, it’s our job as furry parents to ensure their safety and comfort. These are simple ways to keep our pets warm when the temperature drops.
Adjust the Thermostat
A good rule of thumb is to set the thermostat between 69 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit when we’re at home. Cats with large bodies or thick coats may need temperatures on the lower end of the said range.
We can adjust the thermostat to no lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit when we’re out during the day. Keep the temperature warmer if you have young, senior, or sick cats.
Find the Right Sleeping Area
Cats typically have preferred sleeping spots. However, they tend to change places in the winter months, seeking the house’s warmest areas.
During the day, we can place the bed near the windows, and keep the blinds or curtains open to let the cat enjoy the sunshine’s warmth. We can also set up several beds in areas of the house where sunlight can enter through windows or doors.
Provide a Heated Bedding
Try using a heated cat bed during the cold seasons. Another option is to look for comfortable padding, warm fabric, or even a fluffy blanket. Fleeces and faux furs are also good for keeping cats warm.
Aside from that, consider how your cat likes to sleep. If it prefers to stretch out, it might need a spacious bed. If your pet loves to curl up, then consider getting a round bed.
Prepare a Cold Weather Diet
Pets burn calories to help them keep warm. Hence, they would need more food to burn in cold temperatures. In addition, make sure your cats have access to plenty of water.
Choose Sweater Weather Clothes
Clothes, especially sweaters, should not hang loosely or have gaps that prevent cats from staying warm. However, clothes shouldn’t be too tight, or else cats may get skin irritation or blood circulation problems.
How Do I Know If My Cat Is Cold?
Some cats may not easily adapt to cold weather, so it’s not ideal to leave them unprotected. Otherwise, we may see your cat shivering, trembling, curling up, cuddling into warm spaces, or avoiding cold flooring.
Are Cats OK in the Cold?
Cats should be fine in the cold as long as there’s proper care. Breeds with thin bodies and short hair feel cold quicker than long-haired ones. Cats like the Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest, Siberian, Scottish Fold, Himalayan, and Ragdoll thrive better in cold temperatures because of their dense and warm fur.
We understand our cats best. With the time we spend taking care of them, we should know what makes them uncomfortable, especially in cold temperatures. Nevertheless, be sure to consider the age, breed, health, and lifestyle when helping your cats prepare for the sweater weather.