Cats love to be comfortable, and they know how to look after themselves. Domestic cats live for food, their bed, and warmth. These are the essentials – its not something you can neglect. Thankfully with cats, if they want or need something, they will let their owners know and make it clear. But what about the cold? At what temperatures is dangerous for them and is there the possibility that it can even be fatal? I spent some time researching and will be sharing with you all that I managed to find here today.
So, can cats freeze to death? Cats can freeze to death. The average cat cannot typically survive in temperatures that are consistently below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for any extended period of time. Older cats are less adaptive, and require warmer temperatures.
Cats prefer and thrive in the warmth rather than the cold, which is the reason why you often see them snuggling up to radiators, lying under cars or in sunny spots outside.
There are numerous ways to keep your cat warm during the colder months – it’s especially easy to do when you keep your cat indoors.
This is usually not a concern for house cats and those that are never let outside.
However, even then if homes are kept too cold for too long, or cats are left in colder rooms, issues can easily arise.
Therefore, owners should make sure that they have some kind of heating device available at all times, even if it is just some blankets or access to a warm radiator. This will keep them happy.
If your cat must go outside, and it is bitterly cold, you should consider taking steps to make the conditions less stressful and comfortable.
You may consider putting a sweater on your cat; many owners often do this in the heights of winter.
There are plenty of brands and companies that sell such clothing, but you do need to make sure that your cat feels comfortable and its an appropriate fit before you let them out.
Other than this, installing a cat flap, and ensuring your cat doesn’t stay out in the cold too long are other appropriate and useful strategies.
Let us now take a closer look at the temperatures that cats can tolerate, what can be dangerous and other practical and proactive approaches to ensuring they stay sufficiently warm – irregardless of where you live and how cold it gets!
So, be sure to keep reading until the end to get all the information you need.
How Much Cold Can Cats Tolerate?
It is generally accepted that a young cat, that’s in good health, can cope in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But not for long. While they can adapt for a short while, its immensely stressful and they must retreat to the warmth soon after to prevent it from becoming fatal.
Generally speaking, cats don’t like the cold and will choose to nap near a heat source than wander around in uncomfortable climates.
Even feral cats have little tolerance for colder temperatures. Sometimes you will see them running in the snow, but it’s usually to get somewhere warm, such as under a car.
This is why you often find stray cats in abandoned buildings, or alleyways, where they will seek refuge in the most heated areas that they can find.
Older or an unwell cat however, are unlikely to be able to cope in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They are less resilient to stress and they need to be supported more in such conditions.
An older cat is more susceptible to getting extreme colds, and that can be fatal.
If where you live is cold, you must ensure that your cat doesn’t suffer for it.
If you keep your cat indoors, make sure that they have available heat sources to snuggle up to, keep doors and windows closed, and keep him away from any drafts. This will help them to regulate their temperature as and when they need to.
Cats are intelligent and learn about the environment and surroundings quickly. They usually will know exactly where to go to be comfortable in your home.
Can A Cat Survive Outside In The Winter?
Most cats live comfortably indoors with their humans, but other cats don’t have humans to care for them and must live outdoors. Some domestic cats also spend more of their time outside, and some owners are not around as frequently to keep letting them in and outside the home.
Feral and barn cats tend to live outdoors, and they are generally more robust than domestic felines. They live outside in all temperatures and therefore develop and build up resilience to it. However, even then, some don’t survive the cold winters.
If you live in a particularly cold area, you want to give your cat the ability to roam in the winter, you want to keep the rodent population down in your neighborhood, or you are not around to frequently let your cat in and out of your home there are some things you can do.
Consider the following three ways you can help cats be safe, fed, and warm even during the coldest of winters:
Provide A Shelter
You can purchase a cat shelter, or you can make your own. Either way, they can provide a place for your cat to retreat, get out of the extreme weather and retain some heat.
The best shelters are insulated, water-resistant and provide multiple entrances/exits. This best-seller on Amazon is ideal. Its cost-effective, easy to assemble and takes away the challenges of building your own.
If you do decide to make your own, there will be some things you will need to consider.
Make sure that the entrance is small enough to keep predators out and the cat/cats safe. The size of the shelter should be about two feet by three feet and at about 18 inches high. A house this size can shelter up to three cats comfortable.
The doorway should be between six to eight inches in width; this will enable you to attach a plastic flap to keep out the rain, wind, and snow.
Insulate the shelter using straw, never use hay, and you can cut mylar blankets to size. You can put the shelter on a pallet to raise it off the ground.
Make sure that the shelter is located out of the way of high-traffic areas, as this won’t help the cats feel safe.
Provide Food & Water
Cats that live outside need extra calories to help them keep warm. Cats like their food warm, so put slightly warmed cat food out at regular intervals every day, leave out enough dried food in addition to canned food.
Felines tend to become dehydrated very quickly, so make sure that these cats have access to clean, fresh water too. Be sure to regularly check the water to ensure it hasn’t frozen ove.
You are advised to place food and water near the shelter but not inside them. Never use metal containers but opt for ceramic or plastic bowls instead.
Knock On The Hood Of Your Car
Cats seek warmth in car engines as well as underneath the body of the car. This is a great heat source, but it also poses a danger if you do not know they are there before you travel.
Its a good idea to knock on the hood of your car or honk the horn to startle any hiding cats. While this may seem impolite, it does ensure that they are safely out of the way before you start your engine.
Be mindful of the antifreeze drips as the liquid is sweet but highly toxic to felines.
What Happens If A Cat Gets Too Cold?
If a cat feels cold, they will first and foremost actively seek out warmth wherever they can get it. A cold feline will seek warmth inside a garage, a shed, a warm bush, under the hood, or bodies of parked vehicles, mainly if they were just driven.
A cat that’s outdoors and too cold will be determined to get indoors and be warm. They may cry and whine until someone lets them in, or they may even enter other peoples property in an effort to warm up.
If a cat gets too cold, for too long, it can be fatal. We will know explore this further in the section below.
Can Cold Weather Kill A Cat?
Cats aren’t invulnerable to the pernicious effects of the cold weather despite their fur. They can easily suffer from the same uncomfortable and harmful weather conditions that humans can.
Cold weather can kill cats, particularly young cats, and older cats, as they are the most vulnerable. Cats can get hypothermia from the extreme cold and freeze to death.
Apart from hypothermia, there are other aspects to the cold weather, which are detrimental to cats.
In the winter, there are a few substances to be aware of. Rock salt is one such substance; it is used as a de-icer on the sidewalks and roads during the cold weather.
Cats often can’t help licking up the salt, in small quantities, it can make a cat vomit, if ingested in large amounts it can be deadly.
Anti-freeze is another substance to watch out for as one teaspoon could kill a cat. Make sure to wipe up antifreeze spills straight away and store antifreeze where it can’t get knocked over and licked up by a cat.
Frostbite can be concerning – it usually occurs on the ears, toes, and tail. If your cat has been outdoors in freezing temperatures, you must examine their skin for areas that might look pale. If you think you see pale spots, take your cat to the vet for an examination as soon as you can. This is not something you should neglect or hope to get better in time.
Cats often get lost in the cold weather, as conditions can make it hard for them to find their way back home.
The usual sights and smells of their neighborhood are obscured by snow and frozen ground. So, if you let your cat outdoors, make sure that they have a collar with ID tags.
Alternatively, you can install perimeters around your property to ensure they do not wander off and get lost.
How To Keep Your Cats Warm In Cold Weather?
The solution to keeping your cats warm in the winter is simple: keep them indoors when and where you can.
If it’s not suitable to bring your cat indoors, make sure that they have somewhere to go outside that can provide warmth. This could be a heated shed, garage, outdoor cat house or even a designated room in your house like a laundry room. Make sure that you have a source of heat that your cat can get close to feel comfortable.
Cats need extra calories in the cold weather, especially as they tend not to move around as much.
Make sure that their food is warmed slightly before feeding it to them and offer them some dried cat food as well.
Make sure that your cats have access to freshwater each day and make sure that the water doesn’t freeze over.
Cats must keep well hydrated in the winter weather. Make sure that your cat has plenty of toys to play with to keep him occupied; cats need to have some playtime throughout their day.
Cats are warm mammals; feeling cold stresses them out and can harm their overall health. It is in your cat’s best interest to live indoors with you during the heights of the winter or as the temperatures taker a turn for the worst.
Snow, extreme rain and frost are clear examples that the conditions are not ideal and are not ideal for them to be subjected to.
However, it must be said that while preferable it isn’t always possible. Climates can change quickly and there are many things that can happen that mean you need to be away or you are not around enough to let your cat in and out.
Nevertheless, you should provide your cat with adequate shelter, and a place for your cat to retreat to to stay warm and dry. This is all that truly matters.
Feral cats need some TLC as well; even if they are more resilient. Even if a cat is not yours, it is in your best interest to care for them because they keep rodents away.
If you can keep a cat indoors with you, that’s ideal, but you may also want to consider leaving some warm food out – even for the stray cat community. Having those extra calories available can make all the difference. It gives cat extra energy to put to use in keeping them warm and safe.
You can make your own shelter or purchase one; either way they are very effective and many owners swear by these during the height of winter.
If you have a cat that loves going outside from time to time, you may even want to consider putting a sweater on them before they approach the cold – while they may look silly – safety is more of a priority.
A real cat lover hates the thought of anything wrong happening to a cat, and the idea of a helpless feline out there cold and hungry is very upsetting.
While it may be accidental and unintentional, a lot of cats do suffer – sometimes to their detriment.
Be sure that you are not that owner whom neglects the basic needs of their pet.
- Do Cats Get Cold At Night?
- What Temperature Is Too Hot For Cats?
- Should I Leave Water Out For My Cat At Night?
- Can I Leave Wet Cat Food Out Overnight?
- Can Cats Have Night Terrors?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.