How Much Cold Can Cats Tolerate?

how much cold can cats tolerate

When adventuring outside with your cat, it’s important to know how far you can push your cat to the limits before it can potentially become dangerous.  So how much cold can cats tolerate exactly?

A good rule of thumb is if your cat is healthy, any temperature above freezing (32°F), should be safe. There are many different climates in the world. You may live on the warmer side of the world, but that doesn’t mean your cat will not encounter dangerously cold weather.

Here’s a few frequently asked questions and a few tips about cold weather and cats.

How Cold is Too Cold?

If you live in California, then you don’t have to worry too much about your cat freezing to death. The weather here in California rarely gets cold enough to worry. On the other side of the world, this may pose a different risk.  If you live in an area that snows, or gets very cold during the night, then it would be wise to familiarize yourself with how well your cat can deal with cold. 

One of the main factors on how your cat will deal with cold weather is his age and health.  If you have an older cat with a few health problems then a 40 degree night can be dangerous. It’s harder for an older cat to fight extreme colds due to old age. They are always more susceptible to illness and injury.  On the other hand, if you have a young, healthy cat, then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about.

If the temperature dips below 32°F, then this is where severe health problems can occur.  Frostbite and severe hypothermia will start to become prevalent in this type of weather. Even if your cat has a nice thick coat, it will most likely not be enough to reverse the side effects of hypothermia.

Do Cats Like Cold Weather?

In general, cats prefer to be warm over cold.  Take a look at your cat when he spreads his body in front of the sliding glass door when the sun is out.  Have you ever seen your cat snuggle up next to a fan  or air conditioner vent?  I sure haven’t. This type of behavior shows that they favor a slight warmth over being in the cold. Warmth stimulates comfort and security.

Most of the time when you pet your cat they are very warm to the touch.  Their fur coat is what is keeping the warmth in their body from escaping. One of the main reasons a cat always feels warm to the touch is because their body is naturally about 2 degrees higher than us humans.

It’s a good thing that frozen nights are far and few between in most states.  If you live in a state where the weather constantly drops below freezing at night, it would be a good idea to keep your cat indoors.  You can’t always stop your cat from running out the door, so it’s a great idea to at least have your backyard prepared in case your cat needs a warm place to sleep during the night. 

An outdoor cat house like this one from amazon would be a great choice to leave outside for your cat. If your cat fails to find a warm place to sleep, they will most likely choose the outdoor cat house which can keep them warm until the morning.

Ways to Keep Your Cat Warm

There are many ways to help keep your cat warm.  The first step you can take to keeping your cat warm is to not let them outside in the first place.  Strictly keep your cat indoors to prevent any potential danger of freezing if you live in an area that gets dangerous lows during the night. Sometimes it’s not easy keeping your cat locked up inside your home all day. If letting your cat out is a must, then it would be wise to at least have them prepared for what lies outside.

What do you do when the weather is cold outside?  You dress warmer! Using this basic concept of dressing warmer also works for your cat. Picking up a sweater like this one for your cat will help keep his body temperature in the higher range even if he were to get outside. Putting a sweater on a cat may sound silly, but it can mean the difference between a dangerous temperature and a tolerable one.

If your cat has never worn a sweater, shirt, or a jacket before then it would be a good idea to ease them into wearing one in the house. Once they are comfortable wearing one in the house, you can let them out with one on.

Even if you don’t live in an area with dangerous temperatures, you may still need to know how to keep your cat warm. Traveling with cats is becoming more and more common. If you decide to take your cat camping or to any other type of outing, you will need to be aware of the temperatures. Always make sure to have a fire running in the background or some type of heating device to keep the temperature at a reasonable level at night if you are in a new area with your cat that you are unfamiliar with.

How Do I Know if My Cat is Cold?

If your cat is indoors, you can simply observe the type of behavior that he displays.  He may try to sit in the sunlight through the sliding glass door.  He may also hide under blankets or cushions on the couch.  Your cat may even jump into your lap for affection as well as to stay warm. 

Have you ever seen your cat in a seated position with all of his paws tucked under his belly?  This type of position will help him stay warm and conserve energy.  If you have lots of rugs or blinds in your house, your cat will find spots where the sun beams into your house onto the rugs or carpet.  This is similar to if your cat were to lay down near the sliding glass door where the sun is most prominent.

If you cat gets very cold, he may shiver.  You can see them shivering as well as feel them trembling if you are holding them.  This is one of the most prominent signs that it may be time to warm up your cat.  Letting your cat become too cold can lead to serious health issues.  He may start sneezing, avoid food and water, act lethargic, cough, or even have nasal discharge (runny nose). 

If your cat becomes ill due to cold weather, you should immediately pack up and go to the vet.  Untreated colds, just like in humans, can lead to bronchitis or even pneumonia if not treated properly.

How to Tell If an Outdoor Cat Is Cold

If you have an outdoor cat, they will exhibit similar behavior to indoor cats.  They will look for sunny spots in the grass to sit and spread out on.  They will look for sheds to keep warm in, dumpsters, a garage, and even a warm bush to try to take a nap in.  You might even find them in the laundry room outside tucked inside a few warm blankets.

It is also common to find cats under the hood or bodies of parked cars if they were recently driven.  The heat dissipating from the car’s engine will attract any cat that is feeling cold or under the weather.  Not only does a car provide a warm environment, but will also make them feel safe from danger since they will be hidden from the outside world. 

An outdoor cat may also whine or cry at the door waiting to be let in from the cold weather. If you let them in and they go to a warm place in your home, then you know it will be because it was too cold for them outside.

Final Thoughts

Cats are warm creatures.  They prefer to stay out of the cold and in the heat whenever possible.  If you have an indoor cat, then you do not have to worry too much about trying to keep your cat warm. 

They will naturally find the warmest spots in the house.  If you have an outdoor cat, then it would be a good idea to dress them with a sweater as well as having an outdoor cat house that can provide them with shelter from the cold.

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