Too cold for cats

How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?

This past Winter had some record-breaking temperatures. When the temperatures get frigid, we know how to keep ourselves warm inside our home. We turn up the heat and cuddle up in our blankets, comfortable socks, and fuzzy sweaters.

Our pets may not always have control over getting warm enough to stay safe. They can’t put on sweaters or fuzzy socks. If we’re not careful, we can let it get too cold for our cats, even if they’re technically inside the home.

Cats have a reputation for being resilient and cautious animals, but they need to be taken care of like any other pet. If your cats are anything like my two babies, you have one that loves to be inside and one that would always prefer to be outside. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that she’s out there.

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In general, my “outdoor” cat is really well behaved outside. She stays on our property, she doesn’t really bring any unwanted pests inside the house, she does her business, and then spends the rest of her time on our porch. I made sure to do some extra research on how the weather impacts our pets so I could stay prepared on when I absolutely needed to bring them back into the house.

How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?

Cat in the snow in winter

So how cold is too cold for cats? Hypothermia and frostbite are two major threats to your cat when it comes to cold weather. These are risks you take when you allow your cat to be exposed to below freezing temperatures. As a general rule, it’s best to keep everyone out of that kind of weather, unless you own a polar bear.

Cats are resourceful, and if they are feeling too cold they will search for warmth. I’m sure you’ve found your cat on occasion nestled deep in your clean laundry, or in between your pillows. This doesn’t always mean that they will be able to find an adequate source of warmth if they are left outside.

Precautions to Take When Your Loves the Outdoors

One thing you might consider is building an outdoor shelter for your cat. If you place the shelter in an area where the cat usually hangs out, it will seek warmth from your shelter first. This can be a small wood shelter complete with comfortable bedding, enough space to move around, and a wide enough entrance.

Of course, the most obvious way to keep your cats safe and warm is to keep them inside throughout the entire winter. You may think that the garage counts as an indoor option. In reality, the garage can be just as cold as the outdoors, unless you have it heated.

Make sure that you discuss all of these options with your family and get them on board. If you come to a decision to keep the cat indoors all Winter, it does you no good if your spouse or children keep letting it out. Above all, keeping your pet safe is a family affair, and everyone needs to participate.

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Some Cats React Differently

When you’re thinking about the way cold weather affects your cat, you may want to take into consideration a few traits about your cat specifically. A few things you may want to consider include the cat’s age, health, breed, and daily routine.

Your Cat’s Age

It should be no surprise that younger cats are more resilient than older cats. This is definitely a factor in how they respond to the cold. In addition to perhaps moving slower, older cats may suffer from vision problems, various health issues, even arthritis.

A Cat’s Health

A cat with health issues may have a harder time finding shelter. They also already need extra attention and care, this applies to keep them warm in frigid temperatures. If you or anyone you know has arthritis, you know that cold weather hurts and aggravates their condition. Cats are no different.

Taking Into Consideration Your Cat’s Breed

Some breeds of cats have thicker coats, and these breeds are generally able to withstand a lower temperature than other thin coated cats. This does not mean that your long-haired cat can just hang out outside in below freezing temperatures. It’s a good idea to keep your cat out of terrible weather no matter the breed.

Daily Routine Has a Big Impact

We’ve discussed that some cats may be more inclined to spend time outside versus others. The cats that are more comfortable outside are better at finding shelter. On the other side of the coin, cats who would rather stay inside are comfortable in their indoor surroundings and may have a harder time finding shelter if they found themselves in uncomfortable temperatures.

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So What Are the Specific Temperatures?

Grey cat needs a battery

A cat’s temperature generally hovers around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, 38.9 degrees Celsius. What we really don’t want is the cat’s temperature to dip below 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius. This puts your cat at risk for hypothermia.

Keep it simple and just take into consideration that if you are too cold, your cat is probably also too cold. Perhaps you pull out the big comfy blankets when the temperature dips, why not do the same for your cat? Both of my cats have one of my older, but still snuggly, blankets that I put into their cat bed when the Winter begins.

Preparing You Cat for Winter

Make sure you have plenty of food and water for your cat. You may not know it, but you have a tendency to become dehydrated easily in very cold winters, it’s the same for your house cat. If you live in a Northern state, you may also run the risk of being unable to leave to the grocery store during icy conditions.

I mentioned before that it’s a good idea to give your cat a comfortable blanket, but also keep in mind that you can make your cat’s bed an absolute warm haven. If you can’t afford a heated cat bed, you should consider keeping the bed in the warmest areas of the house. A special bonus area would be a spot that is hit with some warm sun rays during the day.

A heated bed is a great option, but I can’t bring myself to invest in one. I think an area where the heater blows warm air is just as useful. If you do decide to buy a heated bed, make sure it has an automatic shut-off feature.

What If You Have a Barn Cat?

In general, you should be able to keep your cat in the barn during cold weather. They are better at dealing with cold weather compared to your average house cat. They usually have several spots in the barn that they can find to curl up and stay warm.

It’s not a bad idea to add a level of comfort to your barn cat’s environment. Some people keep a heater keeping a section of the barn extra warm. Hay is also a nice option to keep the kitty warm, but you can also add extra bedding for an added touch.

Again, it’s so important to keep a good supply of food and water in the barn. Definitely find a way to ensure that the cat’s water won’t freeze. You may even be able to find a heated water bowl, but you also want to make sure that the water bowl is larger than your average water dish.

I don’t know anyone who finds it necessary to bring their barn cat inside during the winter months. With food and water, these cats are easily able to keep warm during the harshest winters. If you have multiple, they will likely snuggle up together, and they have no problem with it.

What About the Neighborhood’s Stray Cats?

3 stray cats up to trouble

So your neighborhood has a stray cat that you see fairly often. Maybe you even have your own little nickname for the kitty. You can’t afford to bring it in as your own pet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do your part to keep the cat safe in the harsh winters.

Consider leaving out some extra food for the cat on your porch. Stray cats aren’t picky about the food they get, and they would likely appreciate the extra calories. Leaving water out is a great idea to keep the cat hydrated. A little goes a long way.

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Setting up a space heater on your porch creates a nice little haven while keeping it close to the house automatically shield the cat from strong or extra chilly winds. If you have any heating pads lying around, consider putting one on a larger pillow. Make sure that the heating pad is only slightly warm and won’t get too hot, or it can cause a fire hazard.

Creating a small shelter is probably the best thing you can do for the stray cat. It shields it from harsh winds, adds a level of warmth, and keeps it comfortable. It also provides a safe place for it to sleep, eat, and drink water.

Make sure that the whole family knows what you’re doing, and they won’t shoo the stray cat away when they see it.

Final Thoughts

Our pets are family members, best friends, useful housemates, but above all, they are living things that deserve to be safe during freezing weather. Keep your cat safe, and have peace of mind that it will be comfortable during the most uncomfortable part of the year.

"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett

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