do cats fatten up for winter?
Cat Food and Hydration

Do Indoor Cats Eat More in The Winter?

When the Autumn and Winter months arrive and the temperature drops, you may find that your cat is demanding food with greater frequency and urgency. This is perfectly normal. All cats eat more food when it’s cold.

During the winter, cats are about 15% hungrier than normal. As ambient temperatures begin to cool, cats’ body temperatures will drop. This means that cats burn more calories simply to stay warm. Cats also sleep more during the winter, lowering their body temperature further.

Taking care of cats during winter is not always as simple as offering them extra food. Sudden changes to diet can cause stomach upsets, and no cat will thrive in the longer term if it gains too much weight.

Do Cats Eat More When it’s Cold?

Cats are rarely shy about informing their owners that they feel hungry. This behavior is most prominent during the Winter and Autumn. It’s common for cats to follow owners around a home, asking for additional meals and treats.

This elevated level of hunger is linked directly to the sleepiness of felines during the winter months. Cats like to doze away most days but, while awake, cats are constantly on high alert. This stimulation to the senses is exhausting, meaning that cats need to rest more to replenish their energy levels and remain alert.

Cats sleep even more in the winter as that’s what they do in the wild. If your cat was to rely on hunting for its meals, it would find prey scarce in the snowy, wintery months. So, a cat will instinctively sleep more to preserve energy, even though you provide it with plenty of delicious food. However, cats like to retain a sense of independence.

As explained by Science, a cat’s body temperature drops by around 30 degrees Fahrenheit while asleep. This temperature will be restored upon waking by burning calories, starting with excess fat stores in the body.

These calories need to be replaced by food, so it stands to reason that cats need more calories during the winter. Every time the cat falls asleep, it will burn more calories upon waking. Healthy cats will only have so many calories to spare.

This issue is compounded by the fact that staying warm will burn calories. Any time that a cat’s body temperature drops below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, its body will automatically react. These calories, much like those burned following sleep, must be quickly replenished.

do cats eat more when it's cold?

Do Indoor Cats Notice That it is Winter?

You may wonder if indoor cats even notice that the winter has arrived. Many people react to the change in ambient temperatures by utilizing artificial heat sources in the home. This will be detected by cats, who will naturally gravitate to fires and radiators in the winter.

This helps a cat to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Even a warm cat will acknowledge the onset of winter. Like all mammals, cats are governed by circadian rhythms – the balance of light and darkness. As cats spend prolonged periods looking out of the window, they will notice the change in seasons—namely, shorter days and longer nights.

As per Behavioral Neuroscience, a cat’s hunger is heavily influenced by starlight and moonlight. This means that sitting by a radiator will not manage your cat’s hunger pangs. It will still look for additional food during the winter.

It will be up to you to learn whether this acknowledgment is paired with a low body temperature. Taking your cat’s temperature is the most reliable barometer of this. You can also look for other signs of cats feeling cold, which include:

  • Ears, paws, and the tip of the tail are cool to the touch.
  • Wrapped tightly in a ball when sleeping.
  • Huddling with other cats, especially when the animals do not usually get along.
  • Constantly seeking physical interaction with owners, including sitting in your lap.

If your cat appears chilly, its diet should be amended accordingly. Your cat’s hunger is not purely psychological. The reduction in ambient temperature is also impacting its general health and demeanor.

Do Cats Need More Food in the Winter?

According to Science Daily, cats require around 15% more calories in the winter. This means that it stands to reason that they need more food. This could be provided through meals, snacks, or treats. Here are some options:

Bigger Meals:Larger meals provide more of a pre-approved source of nutrition for cats. Just be mindful that your cat may demand these larger servings during the spring and summer.
Smaller Meals, More Often:If you serve your cat food twice a day, change this is to four times a day. Add a little more food than usual each time. Ensure you adhere to the feeding schedule.
Enhanced Meals:Enhance meals by pouring some broth over cat food or adding chunks of meat. This will provide warmth and additional calories.
Free-Feeding Kibble:Keep feeding your cat its regular wet food, but leave a supply of dry food accessible. This can make up the additional 15% of calories.
Regular Snacks:Chunks of chicken or meat can be given regularly to keep hunger pangs at bay. This will make it easier to moderate additional calories.
Treats:Treats provide a small burst of calories and energy. Just consider any sugar content and the impact this has on feline teeth. Also, remember that cats can grow addicted to treats.

What Should Cats Eat in The Winter?

Even though your cat needs to eat more in the winter, it must still eat appropriately and in the correct amounts. Treats will provide calories, but they are an unsustainable food source for any feline. Avoid quick fixes of fatty or carb-heavy foods. These build fat reserves. Your cat will enjoy them, but all the usual caveats about the feline diet still apply.

Offering broth and fresh meat are the recommended course of action. Lean, high-protein foods are least likely to cause a stomach upset or long-term health concerns. Keep a supply of dry food (kibble) easily accessible. This is vital at night as a cat with access to food is less likely to disturb your sleep to get a snack.

Is your cat is prone to gluttony? Some cats will eat an entire bowl of kibble at once, then meow at you for more. A timed feeder can keep your cat’s consumption manageable, releasing food at set intervals.

Why Do Cats Put on Weight in the Winter?

Cats eat more and move less during the winter. So, it’s safe to assume that your cat will fatten up during the coldest months of the year. Your cat is not just being greedy, as this extra weight is a necessity. The more body fat your cat has, the more calories it has available to burn and stay warm.

You need to keep your cat’s weight gain to a safe and acceptable level. The easiest way to achieve this is by increasing your cat’s activity levels. Typically, it is recommended that you play with your cat twice a day. During the winter, try to increase this to 3-4 daily play sessions per day.

How Much Weight Gain is Dangerous for Cats?

Cats will rarely be shy about eating too much, and winter is not an excuse to neglect moderation. As per the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, obesity can lead to feline diabetes and other health concerns.

Obesity is defined as a mass 20% or more above a cat’s ideal body weight. Of course, this depends on the breed of cat. Some have a lower base weight, others higher. The average cat weighs 10 lbs, so anything above 12 lbs is harmful.

If in doubt, weigh your cat. Bathroom scales are fine. Alternatively, use those provided at a veterinary surgery. Most owners can tell if their cat is overweight by sight or touch tests. Check for the following warning signs:

  • Inability to feel the ribs during petting
  • Low-hanging belly
  • Breathlessness when engaging in basic exercise, such as walking to a water bowl
  • General lethargy and reluctance to move
  • Inability to run or jump

Never let a cat grow overweight to dangerous levels. In addition to the risk of diabetes, obesity increases the threat of heart disease, joint damage, and urinary tract infections. Keeping your cat in shape will add years to our cat’s life.

do cats need more food in cold weather?

Do Indoor Cats Lose Weight in the Summer?

Cats grow 15% hungrier in the winter, so they should theoretically be 15% less hungry in the summer. They should eat less when it’s warm. In reality, they revert to the mean, although some cats do have a reduced appetite in hot weather.

Steadily start to reduce the additional food that you have been serving to counter the cold. Some cats will be initially demanding, expecting to continue eating at the same rate as the preceding months. A new normal will need to be established. Others will accept reduced intake without complaint.

Your cat will usually be more active in the summer. Some older cats may prefer to bask and doze in the sun, but many will seize the opportunity to explore their surroundings. This natural inclination to exercise will help moderate weight. 

Cats find prey more plentiful during the summer. This taps into the same instincts that encourage cats to stay warm in the winter. Your cat will find lots of stimulation and inspiration to hunt and move during the warmer weather.

All cats, whether indoor or outdoor, will eat more during the winter. Do not be alarmed if your cat seems hungrier once the temperature drops. Just think carefully about how you offer additional calories, and take steps to adjust your cat’s caloric intake as soon as the weather starts to warm up.