Keeping Cats Warm In Winter
In this blog, we will explore important considerations for cat owners during the colder months in Australia. We cover various topics including identifying signs of a cold cat, creating warm and cosy spaces, cat clothes, grooming and coat care, proper feeding and hydration, as well as essential cat safety precautions. Read on for insights and helpful tips to ensure your cat's well-being during the chilly season.
Signs of a Cold Cat
Above: Cuddling up against heat sources is a sign of a cold cat
It's important to note that while cats have thermoregulation - natural mechanisms to keep warm, extreme cold can still be dangerous for them. In severe winter weather conditions, it's advisable to keep cats indoors to protect them from frostbite, hypothermia, and other cold-related risks.
Here are some common signs that your cat may be feeling cold:
Shivering: Cats shiver to generate heat and maintain body temperature.
Seeking warmth: Constantly seeking warm spots or cuddling up against heat sources.
Curling up tightly: Cats naturally curl up to conserve body heat.
Lethargy and reduced activity: Cold temperatures can make cats feel sluggish and less active.
Cold ears, paws, or nose: Unusually cold extremities indicate heat loss.
Change in behaviour: Irritability, restlessness, or seeking more attention.
Piloerection: Raising fur to create an insulating layer of air.
Increased metabolism: Metabolism slightly increases in colder weather.
If you observe these signs in your cat and suspect they are feeling cold, it's important to take measures to provide warmth and ensure their comfort.
Creating Warm Spaces
Cats tend to spend less time outdoors during colder months. They may seek shelter indoors to avoid the chilly weather. It's essential to ensure that cats have a warm and safe indoor environment during winter. Set up cosy spots in your home, with cat beds and blankets.
Heated Cat Beds
Heated cat beds come in various forms. Some feature built-in heating elements, while others use self-warming materials that reflect a cat's body heat back to them. There are also electric heated beds that require a power source and have adjustable temperature settings.
Above: Wool is a self-warming material.
Lambskin Rug Sold at Made Moggie
Heated cat beds can also provide therapeutic benefits for cats with certain conditions. For example, cats with arthritis or joint pain may find relief and comfort from the warmth, which can help soothe their muscles and ease discomfort.
It's important to choose heated cat beds with safety features, temperature control, and energy efficiency. Consider your cat's preferences and behaviour when choosing a heated cat bed. Some cats like a flat, mat-style bed, while others may prefer a cave-like bed that provides a sense of security and privacy.
Remember, not all cats will require a heated bed. Cats with thick fur or those living in temperate climates may not need additional warmth. Always observe your cat's behaviour and comfort levels to determine if a heated bed is necessary.
Self-Warming Cat Beds
Cat caves or cat tents are popular options for providing self-warming spaces for cats. These enclosed structures are typically made of soft, insulating materials that help trap and retain a cat's body heat. Here's how cat caves or tents can be self-warming for cats:
- Cat caves or tents made of insulating materials retain a cat's body heat.
- Enclosed design minimises drafts and keeps warmth inside.
- Cat's nesting instinct is satisfied, promoting relaxation and heat retention.
- Some fabrics have heat-absorbing properties for sustained warmth.
Above: Wool Cat Caves retain a cat's body heat.
Large Cat Caves Sold at Made Moggie
It's important to note that while cat caves and tents offer self-warming features, they may not be sufficient in extremely cold conditions or for cats with specific temperature regulation needs. In such cases, additional measures like heated beds or environmental heating may be necessary.
Elevating Your Cat's Bed
Elevating a cat bed off the floor onto a higher surface such as a table, shelf, or chair helps provide insulation from the cold, reduces contact with cold surfaces and drafts, and creates a cosier and warmer spot for your cat to rest.
In most cases, cats do not require clothing to stay warm unless they have specific circumstances or conditions that warrant additional warmth. However, hairless or short-haired breeds and elderly or sick cats may benefit from clothing in colder weather.
When deciding whether to dress your cat in clothes, it's important to consider their individual needs and preferences. Cats generally dislike wearing clothing, so it's essential to monitor their comfort level and ensure they are not stressed or restricted by the garments.
Above: Cats generally dislike wearing clothing, but specific circumstances may warrant it
Here are some temperature guidelines to consider:
Generally, cats can tolerate temperatures down to around 7°C (45°F) without needing additional clothing.
If the temperature drops below 7°C (45°F) or if your cat shows signs of discomfort, such as shivering or seeking warm spots, you can consider dressing them in a vest, jumper, or jacket.
For hairless breeds or cats with short hair, you may want to consider clothing at slightly higher temperatures, around 10°C (50°F) or below.
Remember, every cat is unique, and their tolerance to cold can vary. It's important to observe your cat's behaviour and consult with a veterinarian if you have concerns about their comfort and well-being in cold weather.
Cat Grooming & Coat Care
As the temperature drops, cats' fur naturally thickens as a protective measure against the cold. However, this thicker fur can also make them more prone to matting, which can impact their ability to keep warm and lead to discomfort. Therefore, regular grooming and coat care are essential during winter to prevent matting and ensure your cat's comfort and well-being.
Above: Wood Pin Brush Sold at Made Moggie, reaches all fur layers. Photo by Noosa Country Cat HotelHere are some cat grooming tips to keep in mind:
Brushing frequency: Brush your cat's coat once or twice a week during winter, or more often for longer or thicker fur.
Use appropriate tools: Use a slicker brush or grooming comb suitable for your cat's fur type. For long or dense coats, consider a brush designed to penetrate layers of fur.
Start gently: Begin with gentle strokes to help your cat relax. Gradually increase pressure and stroke length as they become more comfortable.
Focus on problem areas: Pay extra attention to areas prone to matting, like armpits, belly, and behind the ears. Comb these areas carefully, starting from the edges of mats and working inward.
Break up mats: Loosen and separate small mats or tangles using your fingers or a mat breaker tool. Take your time to avoid causing discomfort.
Shave off knots: If removing a knot would cause discomfort for your cat, using a Cat Trimmer to shave it off is a suitable alternative.
Seek professional help if needed: If your cat's fur becomes severely matted, professional grooming assistance may be necessary to ensure their well-being.
Monitor skin and coat health: Keep an eye out for skin irritation, dryness, or other abnormalities while grooming. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any concerns.
Remember to make grooming sessions positive and rewarding for your cat by providing treats or praise.
Adjusting Feeding & Hydration
Monitoring your cat's food and water intake during winter is crucial as it plays a significant role in helping them maintain body temperature and stay adequately hydrated.
Above: Cats need more calories in colder months.
Cat Bowls sold at Made Moggie
Here's why it's important:
- Cats need more calories in colder months to generate and maintain body heat.
- Adequate hydration is essential for overall health, even if cold weather reduces their thirst drive.
To address these needs, consider the following:
- Consult your veterinarian for specific dietary requirements during winter.
- Adjust portion sizes to prevent weight gain while meeting energy needs.
- Offer warm meals or occasional warm treats for comfort and food intake.
- Monitor water consumption and provide fresh water (daily) or a pet water fountain.
- Wet or moistened cat food can increase moisture intake.
By monitoring your cat's food and water intake during winter and making necessary adjustments, you can help ensure they receive the right amount of calories to maintain body temperature and stay adequately hydrated. Regularly consulting with your veterinarian will help address any specific dietary needs or concerns for your cat during the winter season.
Cat Safety Precautions
Winter poses hazards for cats, so it's crucial to take precautions. Here are potential dangers and safety tips:
Open fireplaces and heaters: Use barriers to prevent burns.
Toxic substances: Store antifreeze securely and use pet-safe alternatives.
Warm car engines: Cats may seek warmth under cars and in engine compartments. Prior to starting your vehicle, ensure to check for cats. Give hidden cats an opportunity to escape by tapping on the hood or honking the horn.
Hypothermia and frostbite: Keep cats indoors during extreme cold.
Icy surfaces and snow: Use pet-safe ice melts and clean paws after outdoor trips.
Limited visibility: Keep cats indoors during low-light conditions or use reflective collars so cars can see them better.
Dry indoor air: Use humidifiers to prevent skin and respiratory issues.
Above: Honk your horn or tap on the hood before starting your car to give hidden cats a chance to escape
By being aware of these hazards and taking appropriate precautions, such as keeping cats indoors, pet-proofing the home, and providing a warm and safe environment, cat owners can help protect their feline companions from potential winter-related dangers.
Heart-Warming Cat Stories
Keeping Stray Cats Warm in Winter
Check out this short heart-warming video showcasing a Utah man who is transforming coolers into cosy cat shelters. Phillip's initiative aims to provide feral cats a refuge from the winter cold. In his own words, "to me, living creatures deserve to have their basic needs met".
Reference: Fox 13 News Utah. (2019). Utah Man Creates 'Cat Coolers' to Help Feral Cats Escape Winter Cold [Video].
In this next inspiring YouTube video, a carpenter puts an incredible amount of time into creating a home for his neighbourhood stray cats. It’s a long 20 min video, but It gives you a true appreciation for the time that has gone into this cat shelter, and for the man behind it. Not only is he kind to cats, but he recycles too!
Reference: Red Tie Projects. (2021). I Created The Most High-Tech Home For Neighborhood Felines--You Won't Believe What Happened Next! [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiS1tKKstmw