A cat’s emotions are affected by the weather. Domesticated cats have desert-dwelling ancestors, so they like the sunshine. Adverse weather conditions can change a cat’s mood, even before the weather change happens. That’s because cats can sense that weather changes are on the way.
In sunny climates, cats are more cheerful and energetic. If it is cold, wet, and windy, cats tend to be more withdrawn and lethargic. External meteorological conditions dull a cat’s senses of smell and hearing. This can leave them bored and depressed. Thunderstorms are a fear trigger for cats due to their aversion to loud, sudden noises.
A change in feline behavior could be linked to variances in meteorological conditions, either existing or impending. Take steps to make your cat feel more comfortable during extreme weather conditions.
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Does a Change of Seasons Affect Cats?
Cats’ moods have long been linked to the weather. While cats appear unaffected by their environment, it is believed that they have various emotional responses.
Many cats are happiest and most active during the summer months. Sunshine brings out the best in a cat’s nature. Gloomy weather can have the opposite effect, so winter can be a tough time for felines.
Brain Imaging in Behavioral Neuroscience discusses how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) changes the human brain chemistry. It has not been confirmed whether the same applies to cats. However, observing a cat during the winter suggests that cats are also adversely affected. Some cats display signs of anxiety and depression just before bad weather arrives.
Cats used to enjoy a reputation as weather prognosticators. In the 18th Century, sailors would observe the behavior of resident cats on ships. If the cat began acting strangely, it was assumed that a storm was coming. The crew would take appropriate measures to protect themselves.
This is not just superstitious folly from a bygone age. Cats are acutely aware of their surroundings, including changes to the atmosphere. This is what makes them effective hunters. Cats use these keen senses to detect changes to barometric pressure. So, cats can ‘smell’ when a storm is coming.
Cats often seem happiest when the sun is shining on them. In the summer, it is common to find cats basking in the sun’s rays. This could be a cat sunbathing outside, or a cat indirectly absorbing sun through a window.
This is partly due to their heritage. Cats have wild ancestors that lived in the desert. This makes many cats natural sun worshippers.
However, thick-haired breeds, such as the Maine Coon or Siberian cat, prefer a cooler climate. These are the exceptions. Your cat is much likelier to be contented and more cheerful during the warmer months of the year.
Sunlight provides a cat with energy. Just because cats spend many hours a day sleeping, it doesn’t make them lazy. Cats burn energy every time they hunt, and constantly remain aware of their surroundings. Cats doze to maintain energy in between these flurries of activity.
Cats also have small bodies with minimal fat. This means that, if the weather is really cold, they burn calories just to stay warm. This can leave a cat exhausted and in a bad mood.
When the weather is sunny, your cat can relax and enjoy the sensation of the sun against its skin. It will have an abundance of energy, explaining why your cat may be more playful during the summer. This general sense of contentment makes cats more affectionate during warm weather.
Cats can be exposed to too much direct sunlight. Cats are not always the best judge of when they are overheating.
Excessive body temperature can be distressing for cats and significantly affect their behavior. If your cat is grooming to excess or panting, it is overheating. Limit your cat’s sun exposure.
The mood of an indoor cat may not vary drastically during the winter months. Your cat may be more lethargic, perhaps sleeping for longer. Your cat is conserving energy for when it is needed most.
Outdoor cats will be more troubled by cold weather, especially shorthaired breeds. The cat will be unable, or unwilling, to engage in its usual routine, preferring to soak up heat from artificial sources.
Lack of Natural Light
A feature of cold winter months is the absence of light. Throughout the coldest months of the year, days are shorter and nights are longer.
Some cats experience a sensation similar to SAD due to a lack of natural light. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
While this means the cat is not dependent on light, its absence will be noted. As Cell and Tissue Research explains, feline brains still need serotonin to feel happy. This can be in short supply during the winter.
Rain is a mood-killer for cats. Regardless of whether your cat ventures outside, the rain will have an emotional impact. Outdoor cats are most affected as they will be unable to go hunting or exploring.
The obvious explanation for this is the feline aversion to water. Most cats hate getting wet. The process chills a cat to the bone, and it can take a long time to warm up.
In addition, rain washes away scents from the streets. Your cat cannot smell prey, or use scent to negotiate its territory. Trapped inside, the cat may grow bored and depressed.
For indoor cats, rain is a source of anxiety. They will remember when rain has led to storms (thunder and lightning). Many cats also find a safe hiding place, where they wait for the rain to pass.
Storms (Thunder And Lightning)
Thunderstorms are anxiety triggers for cats. The loud noise of rumbling thunder frightens cats. The cat does not understand the source of the noise.
In addition, many cats sense storms coming before they arrive. The cat smells and detects changes to air pressure. This means the cat will grow aggravated and skittish before the storm even starts. By the time of the first thunderclap, the cat is already feeling very nervous.
Most cats prefer to hide during a storm. If this is your cat’s preference, leave them to it. Check periodically, offering reassurance, if required. If you can, set up territory in a soundproofed area to reduce anxiety.
If you are afraid of storms yourself, mask this fear as best you can. Cats can detect human emotions. If you give your cat the impression that storms are frightening, they will grow increasingly tense. If you remain calm and indifferent, your cat is likelier to follow your lead.
The wind carries a wide array of scents and sounds, leading to a form of sensory overload. The cat will struggle to distinguish what threats are nearby and further away, leading to significant anxiety.
The weather and climatic conditions can have a significant effect on a cat’s mood. Just make your cat feel more comfortable and ride out extreme weather together. Your cat’s behavior will eventually normalize.