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How to keep a cat warm in the winter

Cat sleeping in a basket in winter season advice

Help your cat stay warm this winter

© Shutterstock

Winter is coming! And while our cats are notoriously independent, it's the one time of year when they always need our help. Because despite their furry coats and instinct for finding the warmest spot on the bed, cats can still catch a chill during the cold months. So here's a guide to keeping a cat warm during winter.

By Ashley Murphy

Published on the 11/10/2020, 17:00

For us humans, winter is the time of year when we wrap up in everything we can find to keep warm: a blanket, a big coat, a onesie, etc. But how do cats managed to keep warm in the winter? For indoor cats, it is quite simple, they will also be able to find warmth in your house, weither it's on your laps, under your bed or in your closet. For outdoor cats it is a little bit more complicated and you will have to provide some extra equipments to ensure your cat isn't cold. Long exposure to cold can be really dangerous for your cat, so if you have an adventurous cat, it's probably best to keep it inside (or at least at night).

We'll look at how to keep an outdoor cat safe, as well as some top tips to protect elderly and vulnerable cats when the temperature drops to the dreaded zero!

Can cats tolerate cold weather? 

Cats are well adapted to the winter weather. Their fur coat gives them some protection from the cold weather, and cats are great at finding a snug spot to hunker down during winter days.

What temperature is too cold for cats? 

Even an outdoor cat or feral cat will struggle to stay warm when temperatures plummet towards zero. Their body temperature will start to drop, which can lead to hyperthermia or frostbite. Both are extremely dangerous and potentially fatal. Older cats, kittens, and cats with underlying health issues are more at risk. So keep them inside where they're safe, warm, and snug.

Will my cat be OK outside all night? 

Organisations like Cats Protection recommend keeping your kitty in at night. It reduces the risk of accidents and keeps the cat warm during cold spells. But not all felines are suited to the indoor life, and denying them the chance to go exploring at night could damage their mental health.

If your cat stays out all night in the winter, then it's worth investing in a cat shelter for the garden. You buy outdoor cat houses from most pet retailers. Standard cat houses come with a flap to prevent intruders, a place to put food and water, and even a litter tray. You can also furnish them with heating pads or heated cat beds. These pressure-sensitive pads switch on when your cat lies down on them, providing instant warmth on cold nights.

Do cats need heat in winter? 

Even indoor cats need a little help staying warm in the winter. Most of the time they'll curl up on your lap. This is their chance to soak up some of your precious body heat. They might also try to sleep on (or even in) your bed at night. If you prefer your own space at night, then pad out your pet's cat bed with a few extra blankets.

Indoor cats never have to worry about the winter! So here's a look at the perfect house cat breeds.

Do cats like being wrapped in blankets? 

Cats love blankets, but you should avoid the temptation to wrap your kitty up like a burrito. It will keep them warm, and it will look cute. But cats don't like feeling physically restricted. It makes them uncomfortable and anxious. Instead, just lay the blankets on the sofa or near the cat's bed. Your kitty will snuggle their way into them.

How do you know a cat is cold? 

Shivering, weakness, and lack of physical co-ordination are the most obvious signs that a cat is struggling with the cold. Muscle stiffness, dilated pupils, and an irregular heartbeat are also a common symptom of over-exposure. In extreme cases, the cat may develop severe breathing problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a veterinary service ASAP.

Do I need to leave the heating on for my cat? 

You don't need to leave the heating on for your cat during the day or overnight. The warmth retained in your home and their furry coats are enough to keep cats nice and toasty, even during the winter.

What is the ideal room temperature for cats?    

A room temperature of around 21°C  is ideal for most cats. But you might want to turn it up a little bit for elderly and short-haired cats. 23°C is a good number for these guys.

What is the best temperature for cats? 

23°C  is the best temperature for cats as it helps maintain their natural body temperature; this is between 38°C to 39°C.

Do cats prefer heat or cold? 

Cats prefer the warm to the cold. This is why you'll find them stretched out by the window on summer days or curled up on your car bonnet as they soak up some rays.

How can I keep my cat warm at night?

A few extra blankets will keep your cat warm at night. Heated pads and heated cat beds are excellent options for cats who need a little more warmth, such as older cats, kittens, or hairless cats.

How do cats stay warm? 

Cats have a higher body temperate than humans, which helps them fight off the cold during winter. Plus, their fur works as an insulating layer that reduces body heat loss.

The majority of healthy kitties will have no problems getting through the average UK winter. Just take some precautions during particularly cold spells. For example, you might want to keep them inside overnight until the cold front passes. The only cats who might need more assistance are the elderly and those with less hair. But some blankets and extra-close snuggles should be more than enough.

Frequently asked questions

Do indoor cats get cold?

Where do cats go in the winter?

Are cats less active in winter?

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