The best way to keep your cat safe in cold weather is to keep them inside, especially once temperatures drop below freezing. Cats who are left outside in frigid temperatures can get frostbite and hypothermia. Sometimes cat owners think that because the cat has a “fur coat,” that it’s ok for them to be out in the cold. It’s not. Educating yourself about cats and cold weather is crucial for your cat’s health and wellbeing.
When is it Too Cold for Cats to Go Outside?
Cats should not be outside whenever the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, even if they’re accustomed to going outside. As a general rule, any time the temperature is 45 degrees or less, cats can become uncomfortable outside and, depending on the cat’s age, fur and health status, they can be in danger when it starts getting cold. If it’s raining or snowing and the cat becomes wet, the danger of their suffering from frostbite and hyperthermia is increased.
If your cat regularly goes outside, it can be difficult to get them to stay inside during winter. If it’s too cold, make your cat stay inside by securing entrances and exits. If they get out, make sure they are well fed and have access to warm shelter. Set up a cat shelter outside or consider adding a cat door to your home. During the winter months, you should provide more exercise and mental stimulation for a cat who’s used to going outside. Try interactive toys to keep your cat entertained. Providing a window perch or a cat tree placed in front of a window will make them more content to stay inside (if there’s a bird feeder in view, even better!) For more tips to make your cat content to stay inside, read my article, How to Keep Indoor Cats Happy.
Dangers of Cold Weather for Elderly Cats
Going outside in cold temperatures can be particularly dangerous and uncomfortable for elderly cats or cats with health issues such as arthritis. The older your cats get, the less they should be allowed outside during the winter. As they get older, cats can be less able to find their way outside, are less able to keep their body temperature up, and can suffer from pain and stiffness in their joints making being outside in the cold not just uncomfortable, but dangerous.
Tips to Keep Your Cat Warm in the Winter
1. Provide extra food. Staying warm burns more calories and being well fed will improve your cat’s immune system and ability to cope with colder temperatures.
2. Provide warm blankets around the house and in their cat bed.
3. Set up a cardboard box for your cat. This is an easy and inexpensive way to help your cat to stay warm in the winter. Put a blanket inside a cardboard box and place the box in a quiet place. You might put some cat nip inside the box to get your cat interested in going inside. The cardboard box will retain heat and may quickly become your cat’s favorite hangout in the winter! Another option is to purchase a cat cave.
4. Purchasing a thermal cat bed will provide extra warmth during colder months, especially for senior cats or cats suffering from arthritis.
5. Don’t turn the heat down too low when you leave the house. If it would be too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your cat.
For more information about keeping your pets warm and safe during the winter, read my article, Pets Cold Weather Safety.
If you’re concerned about cats living outdoors during the winter, read my article, Keeping Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter.
Remember, Your Cat Can’t Speak Up!
Sometimes our lives get busy and it can be easy to forget that our pets may need special care at times. Try to make a habit, every fall, to start making adjustments for your pets to be comfortable and safe during the winter!
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