How do indoor cats stay warm in the winter?
How to keep your cat warm this winter
There’s no denying that cats are heat-seekers, often finding the best spots around the house for one of their many naps. Their usual favourite spaces are probably a little cooler than they’re used to during the colder months. And while they have their own layer of protection against the chill, there are still things you can do to make sure your feline friend is warm, snug and safe when the temperature drops, both indoors and outdoors.
Do cats get cold?
Yes! Just like us, our cats feel the cold, with some less equipped for the harsh weather than others. Your cat’s breed, age, thickness or length of their coat and height, for example, are all important factors in their ability to adapt to the change around them.
Remember: Your cat’s ears, nose, tail and paws are more exposed than the rest of their body regardless of coat length.
How to tell if your cat is cold
Cats tend to hide their discomfort, making it difficult to spot the signs of a chilly cat. You’ll need to be extra observant of your feline friend during the winter months to make sure they’re comfortable. Look out for:
- Cold extremities (ears, paws and tip of their tail)
- Curling up into a ball
- Shivering or trembling
- Seeking warmth
- Wanting cuddles with you
How can I keep my cat warm?
Keep them indoors
Keeping your cat inside can help keep them safe, warm and comfortable. With proper care, attention, and stimulation, you can help make sure you’re meeting their physical and mental exercise needs during this time.
Warm and cosy bedding
A soft bed and plenty of blankets can provide your cat with plenty of warmth during the winter. Hammock beds that attach to a radiator or a covered igloo bed can give your feline friend a cosy and snuggly place to sleep.
Remember: Elevating your cat’s bed even a few feet can help protect them from drafts and put them in reach of warmer air.
Take advantage of natural warmth
The sun can still shine in the winter, and by leaving your curtains open during the day, your cat can enjoy the extra warmth generated by the rays.
Play with them
To keep your cat warm and entertained, set aside time each day for some interactive fun which will help boost their body temperature
Share your bed
If you’re feeling the colder weather, too, why not consider letting your cat share your bed with you for extra warmth?
If your cat is still heading out on their adventures, it’s important that they’re protected. You can leave a cardboard box filled with blankets and covered with a bin liner as shelter from the cold if they’re not quite ready to come inside.
Other important winter safety tips for your cat
Beware of fireplaces both inside and outside your home. Never leave your cat unattended around a fire and always ensure you use a safety screen to keep your pet as far away as possible, even when you’re around.
Keep antifreeze out of reach and out of sight as it’s extremely toxic to pets. If your cat goes outside, make sure to look out for signs of poisoning in case they’ve managed to digest some without you knowing. These include:
- Drooling saliva
- Looking depressed
- No interest in food
- Extreme thirst
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet immediately.
Check your car engine before you start up and drive off as cats can sometimes crawl into engines to seek warmth warm. Even if your cat stays indoors, a quick inspection can save a neighbour’s cat if they’ve decided to hide under your bonnet.
Keep using tick and flea treatment to help keep your cat safe from the pesky parasites as they can survive in colder temperatures!
For more advice on ways to keep your cat happy, healthy and warm during the winter months, speak to your vet.
Can outdoor cats survive Minnesota’s sub-zero temps?
We’ve all seen one: the occasional stray cat wandering the streets. You may wonder how they stay warm during these extra cold months, and even be tempted to take one inside where they’d be protected from the harsh winter elements.
Because cats are more capable of seeking shelter on their own (and they can fit into small, protected spaces) they’re less likely to suffer the effects of freezing temperatures. Still, subzero temps can cause serious medical issues like frostbite and hypothermia — both of which can result in death.
So what should you do when you see a cat outside during the winter?
Determine if the cat is feral, a stray, or someone’s pet
The obvious first thing to look for is a collar and/or tag. But even happy, healthy family cats aren’t always wearing a collar. If the kitty you encounter isn’t wearing a collar, look at body language.
- Pets or owned roaming cats are generally socialized and are comfortable with people.
- Strays may have no desire to interact with humans, but will make an appearance when food is around. (And some strays can be just as friendly as owned kitties.)
- Feral cats want nothing to do with people, and coaxing them with food or treats is completely ineffective. Feral cats are also more likely to injure humans who try to handle them.
Help feral cats in your community
Feral cats are resilient, adventurous, and accustomed to living outside. They don’t want to be around people and don’t want to live inside a home. Since they live in colonies in a territory they know well, they’re able to cope with below zero temperatures. While it’s often difficult for some animal lovers to accept feral cats really are happier living outdoors, unlike their domesticated counterparts.
Feral cats seek out abandoned buildings, deserted cars, and even dig holes in the ground to keep warm in winter months (and cool during the summer heat). If you have feral or community cats in your neighborhood, here are a few ways you can lend a helping hand:
- Set out extra food during winter. Increased food portions help them conserve energy. Wet food takes less energy to digest, but should be served in heated pet food bowls, which can be found at most pet stores. Providing dry food, which won’t freeze, works for frigid temperatures as well.
- Set out fresh water twice a day. Heated pet bowls are perfect for this as well.
- Make an outdoor feral cat shelter. Bigger shelters aren’t always better because heat disperses quickly.
- Stray and feral cats gravitate toward warm places in winter. Before starting your car, tap your hood to make sure a cat isn’t hidden underneath the car or inside the engine for warmth. Also, check between your tires and wheel wells.
Caring for community cats can provide a mutually beneficial relationship. Studies show that caring for animals improves people’s mental and physical health by increasing compassion and giving caretakers a sense of purpose.
Bring stray/pet cats inside to prevent frostbite
If a cat approaches you and is willing to socialize, it’s probably an owned pet. Check for an ID tag. If you still don’t know where the kitty resides and the temperatures have plummeted below freezing, you may want to bring the cat into your garage, a sheltered porch, or even indoors. At Animal Humane Society, we often see kitties with horrible frostbite during the coldest months of winter, which can mean the loss of external body parts, like limbs or ears.
Whether or not you choose to provide shelter, alert your neighbors that a friendly cat might be lost and in need of help. Snap a photo of the kitty and share on your social networks (like Facebook or Nextdoor). You can also create a found pet post on Petco Love Lost.
If no one comes forward to claim the kitty, consider bringing it to Animal Humane Society. Call our Pet Helpline at 952-435-7738 to schedule an appointment. When you arrive, we’ll scan the animal for a microchip and give the animal an initial evaluation for placement.
If you choose to use a live trap during winter months, make sure the trap is placed somewhere that would protect a trapped animal from cold, whipping wind.
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