As winter approaches in Canada, pet owners often worry about their feline friends and how well they can handle the cold. Your furry friend is a remarkable animal and not that far removed from their wild ancestors. You might wonder, how cold is too cold for cats?
While cats are known for their resilience and adaptability, there are limits to what they can comfortably endure. We'll explore the various factors that determine how cold is too cold for cats and offer tips on keeping them safe and comfortable during colder months.
Do Cats Even Like Snow?
If your cat enjoys any time outside, whether they are free range, walk on a leash, or have supervised playtime in the yard, then you might be wondering if winter and snow will put a damper on your cat's outdoor activities.
Do cats like snow? Can they handle the cold temperature of an average Canadian winter? The answer is, maybe.
Cats who are very comfortable outside are likely not going to mind trucking through snow for their daily adventures. Some cats actually enjoy it, while others may not be thrilled about the freezing white landscape.
The only way to find out is to take them outside and see if they bolt back indoors or carry on business as usual.
Many indoor/outdoor cats don't mind mild winter temps and are clever enough to come back inside or find shelter if they need a break from the snow, but if your cat is new to outdoor adventures, it's up to you to limit exposure to extreme cold and provide appropriate shelter or heat sources to keep them safe.
If your cat doesn't mind the snow, that's great, but it's important to keep an eye on them to look for signs of hypothermia, frostbite, and general discomfort from the cold.
What Temperature is Too Cold for Cats? (Celsius & Fahrenheit)
So, what temperature is too cold for a cat? Generally, cats are comfortable in temperatures similar to what humans enjoy – around 70°F (21°C). When the temperature drops below 45°F (7°C), most cats will start to feel uncomfortable and may shiver.
Below 32°F (0°C), the risk of frostbite and hypothermia increases significantly, and outdoor exposure should be limited.
Do Cats Get Cold? YES!
Cats, like humans, have varying tolerance levels to cold. It largely depends on their breed, age, health, and coat type. Breeds with thick, long fur, such as Maine Coons, are more adapted to colder climates, whereas short-haired breeds like Siamese cats may be more sensitive to low temperatures.
Kittens, senior cats, hairless cats, and those with health issues may have lower cold tolerance and require extra care.
Signs of Cold Stress in Cats
It's crucial to recognize the signs of cold stress or hypothermia in your cat. Cats have a habit of masking discomfort, pain, and injury, so it's best to be familiar with signs that your cat is cold, especially if they spend time outdoors.
Common signs that your cat is cold:
- Weak pulse
- Slow breathing
- Curling up in a ball
- Seeking heat sources
- Cold extremities
Some of these symptoms are more worrying than others, and one symptom on its own doesn't always indicate a problem, but a pattern of behaviours and symptoms are cause for action. If you notice more than one of these symptoms, take action. Prolonged symptoms especially in the absence of cold weather should be taken seriously and you should reach out to your vet.
Indoor Cats and Winter
Indoor cats are typically safe from the harsh winter elements, but they still need a warm and comfortable environment. Ensure your home is adequately heated and consider providing a cozy cat bed or a warm blanket in their favorite spots. Be mindful of cold drafts near windows or doors, which might be uncomfortable for your cat.
At Homes Alive Pets, we carry cave-style cat beds, like the FuzzYard Life Cat Cubby, to ensure your furry feline is snug and cozy. The bed's design lets your kitty hide while staying warm. You can even fold the roof of the cubby down to form a soft, padded basket
Another hut-style cat bed option is the Fringe Pet Shop Canvas Bed/Hut for Pets which is fashioned from durable and warm cotton and fibre filling. It also doubles as a cuddler-style bed.
The Catit Fluffy bed is great for a kitty who needs not only warmth but extra support. The fluffy bed lets your cat burrow into the bed for warmth while enjoying head or neck support with the bed’s raised edges. Place the bed anywhere because the non-slip bottom helps it stay safely in place even on tile or other flooring surfaces.
Provide your kitty with one of the Smart Pet Love Snuggle Dog Blankets to stay warm on a cold winter’s night.
Outdoor Cats and Cold Weather
For outdoor or feral cats, winter can be particularly challenging. If your cat spends time outside, make sure they have access to a warm, insulated shelter, preferably elevated off the ground and protected from wind and moisture.
Straw bedding is better than blankets as it doesn’t retain moisture. Ensure they have access to unfrozen water and consider increasing their food intake, as they’ll need more calories to stay warm.
Safe Heating Solutions
If you're using additional heating elements to keep your kitty warm like space heaters or heated beds for your cat, safety is paramount. Ensure that all heating devices are pet-safe and never leave your cat unattended with an open flame or a heater that could be knocked over.
Instead of running a heating device, why not invest in a K&H Pet Microwavable Pet Bed Warmer? The warmer stays heated for up to twelve hours. Your cat will love curling up on the comfortable bed.
Winter Grooming and Skin Care
Cold weather can dry out a cat’s skin. Regular grooming helps remove dead fur and improve circulation, keeping their coat in good condition.
Be cautious about bathing your cat in winter, as this can remove essential oils from their coat. If necessary, use a moisturizing cat shampoo or consult your vet for skin care recommendations.
When to Keep Your Cat Indoors
During extreme cold, blizzards, or icy conditions, it's best to keep your cat indoors. No matter how well-adapted your cat is to the cold, extreme weather conditions can be dangerous.
If your cat is used to warmer temperatures, it's important to acclimatize them gradually to colder conditions. This can be done by allowing short, supervised periods outside and gradually increasing the duration.
Cold Weather Dangers to Your Cat
When the mercury dips, other dangers besides the cold emerge. Antifreeze, which is used more frequently in colder months, is extremely toxic to cats. Be vigilant about any spills in your garage or driveway and store all chemicals securely.
An outdoor cat in winter will seek shelter in odd places. Always, check your car before starting it, as cats might seek warmth under the hood or near the engine.
Cats are remarkably adaptable creatures, but as responsible pet owners, we have to ensure they are safe and comfortable during the colder months. By understanding your cat's specific needs, watching for signs of discomfort, and taking the necessary precautions, you can ensure your feline friend stays warm and healthy all winter long.
Besides being more active, outdoor cats in winter will use more calories to keep themselves warm. It's a good idea to increase feedings for your outdoor cat if they will be spending a lot of time outside in the cold. Monitor their weight to prevent excess weight gain or weight loss.
Small portion changes are recommended. You can increase regular portions by up to 10%, or offer a mid-day snack to help increase caloric intake. Meal toppers, like Shay's Way Atlantic Salmon Meal Topper, are a great way to boost nutrition and calories without making drastic changes to your cat's diet.
Can Cats Wear Clothes?
Another solution for cats that refuse to give up their outdoor playtime in winter is pet clothes. Cat clothes can help to insulate your cat on a walk, but finding the right style and size can be a challenge.
Additionally, cat-specific clothing is tough to find. Small breed dog clothes will fit most cat breeds, but they just aren't always designed for their shape and comfort. The best place to start is to stick to soft and flexible garments like pet sweaters that won't impede their movement or stride.
The next step is to train them to be comfortable in their clothes. Most cats completely panic when you put clothes on them. They act like their legs don't work and just fall over, or they frantically try to escape their new kitty straightjacket. This will take lots of practice and some bribery. Most importantly, your cat should always be supervised when wearing clothing.
Cat clothes are the right solution for every cat, but it can be worth trying if the weather gets cold enough.
Best Winter Cat Breeds
Cats are heat-seeking creatures, but some cat breeds are built for winter and can tolerate colder temperatures. These breeds may not love the snow, but won't let it stop them from their favourite daily adventures. Here are some of the best cold weather-loving cat breeds:
With their large size, tufted ears, and bushy tails, Maine Coons are often referred to as the "gentle giants" of the cat world. In addition to being muscular and active, they have a dense coat that helps to keep them insulated in the cold.
These big floofs are extremely playful and agile despite their size and are typically happier when they have access to the outdoors. They make great adventure cats, even in the winter, because they can handle colder weather and rougher terrains.
This cold resistance is largely due to their thick, long, and water-resistant coats and the dense fur around their large paws that act as protective mittens while they trudge through the snow.
Norwegian Forest Cat
Originating from the cold and rugged fjords of Norway, these cats are well-adapted to harsh conditions. With their thick double coats and tufted paws, they are built to withstand the coldest winters.
This large and husky cat breed was born for adventures with a thick woolly coat and large snowshoe-like paws. They thrive outdoors and love to explore, climb, hunt, chase, and play in just about any climate.
Norwegian Forest Cats are a high-energy breed. Allowing them the opportunity to play outside can help to reduce unwanted or destructive behaviours at home caused by boredom and under-stimulation during the winter months.
The Siberian cat is a breed that hails from the vast and rugged landscapes of Siberia, in Russia. These cats have a rich history that stretches back centuries. Bred by the indigenous people of Siberia, they were highly valued for their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and their exceptional hunting skills.
Renowned for their thick, triple-layered coats and water-repellent fur, Siberian cats are built to withstand freezing temperatures and harsh climates. This, combined with their friendly and sociable nature, made them ideal companions for families living in cold climates.
Their strong and muscular legs make them great jumpers and runners, so trekking through dense snow is not a problem for Siberian cats. It's a great way to encourage exercise.
Typically known for their adorable, round faces, large eyes, and limp ear tips, the Scottish fold may be a surprising addition to our winter cat breed list. Though most Scottish Folds are perfectly content indoors, they are an extremely playful and curious breed that loves to explore.
Cuteness factor aside, Scottish Folds are a well-insulated breed. Their fur is dense, providing a warm layer to protect your cat in cold weather. They are also a muscular breed which helps them to maintain body temperature when the mercury drops.
As one of many cat breeds that are prone to weight issues, regular outdoor playtime can be a fun way to encourage exercise, especially in winter, when it's easy for pets to develop lazy habits.
A stunning fusion of Persian elegance and Siamese spirit, the Himalayan is a fluffy, elegant, and playful cat breed. Their long, thick fur helps keep them well insulated in the cold, making them a great winter adventure companion.
They are sensitive to warmer temperatures and actually prefer cool climates. Sub-zero temps can still be dangerous for Himalayan cats, but mild to moderate winter temps are perfectly fine.
Their short muzzles, or "pushed-in faces" are a contributing factor to their temperature preferences. Their breathing is often less efficient, which makes thermoregulation more difficult. Cooler temps help keep their body temperature low, and their thick coats keep them insulated from the cold.
Even the most cold weather-loving cat breeds can be in danger in the wrong environment. Extreme cold can present dangers no matter how thick or fluffy your cat's coat is, so it's important to limit your cat's exposure to extreme cold, snow, and ice, and provide safe and insulated shelters for outdoor cats who will be outside unsupervised.
Additionally, some cat breeds are not well suited to cold climates, even indoors. Hairless breeds, like Sphynx cats and Peterbalds, are extremely sensitive to temperature changes and will need your help to regulate their body temperature. This might mean keeping your home a little warmer in the winter or even outfitting them with sweaters.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cats in Winter
Can cats play in the snow?
If you are wondering do cats like snow then the answer is, yes. Cats can play in the snow, but they should be closely monitored for signs of discomfort or cold, and their time outside should be limited in very cold weather.
Do cats shiver when cold?
Yes, like humans, cats may shiver when they are cold as a natural response to increased body temperature.
Do cats get cold inside the house?
Cats can get cold inside the house, especially in homes without adequate heating or if they have access to particularly drafty areas.
What temp is too cold for cats?
Temperatures below 45°F (7°C) can start to be uncomfortable for cats, and temperatures below freezing (32°F or 0°C) can pose significant health risks, such as hypothermia and frostbite.
Can cats survive cold weather?
Cats can survive cold weather if they have access to a warm, insulated shelter and are not exposed to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods. However, prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures is dangerous.
How to keep a cat warm in winter?
To keep your cat warm in winter, provide a cozy, insulated bed or blanket away from drafts, maintain a warm indoor temperature, and consider using a pet-safe heated pad or bed, especially for older or thinner cats.