Much like humans, your cat’s mood is also impacted by weather changes. Some of these seasonal mood swings even mirror the same feelings that humans experience. The starkest changes will happen between different seasons, as well as between sunny and stormy days. Just like some people get the winter blues or hate those rainy days and Mondays, your cat can feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if it’s an indoor or an outdoor cat.
Cold weather leaves cats feeling more lethargic, tired, and hungry than usual. In some cases, the lower temperatures and lack of sunlight cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Cats dislike rainy weather, thunder, and lightning storms due to the wetness and the loud, sudden noises. Hot weather triggers the onset of mating behaviors in many unfixed cats, but it can also lead to lethargy, overheating, sunburn, and heatstroke.
Mildly warm, sunny weather is preferred by cats. They’ll retain a comfortable temperature while resting since their body temperatures slightly drop upon sleeping. It is a common misconception that only cold weather can cause sickness in cats. The truth is that both extremes (freezing cold and blistering heat) can leave your cat feeling sick.
Can Weather Affect Cats’ Behavior?
Old superstitions and folklore believed that cats could predict weather changes. Such beliefs stemmed from observations of cat behavior-altering right before weather changes occurred. Cats are, indeed, more sensitive to atmospheric changes due to their heightened senses.
More specifically, cats can sense changes in atmospheric pressure with their inner ears. This will affect how they act, feel, and behave in the following hours (or days).
While the cat may not explicitly know a storm is coming, it will know the air feels denser. This will give it a chance to react to the new information. Perhaps it will become antsy, or perhaps it will decide to bunker down for a while.
So can cats sense bad weather? In a way, yes. However, cats react to many kinds of weather. Since many of the signs relate to your cat’s mood and general health, you can’t exactly use your cat as a substitute for the weather channel.
Does Cold Weather Affect Indoor Cats?
Cold weather may cause your indoor cat to become frisky or more active and playful. This happens due to the desire to keep warm. Activity levels may increase because your cat:
- Wants to exercise to keep its blood pumping
- Is searching for a source of warmth elsewhere in the house
Even though indoor cats are not exposed to the elements, outdoor temperatures can still be felt through windows and in the house. That’s especially true if the temperature inside is not kept constant.
According to Conservation Science, because indoor cats may be frisky in cold weather, their appetite may change accordingly. They will use more energy because maintaining a certain body temperature, especially if the outside environment is colder, consumes calories. That’s also true if they’re exercising more due to the desire to keep warm.
As such, cats need more food to compensate for this use of energy. Your cat’s appetite may increase, and it will be more responsive to treats or food it’s refused before.
However, ensure that an underlying problem does not cause changes in activity or appetite levels. Cats’ activity and appetite levels can change not only because of the weather but also because the feline is in pain or sick.
Negative Changes with Cold Weather
Unfortunately, cold weather can affect indoor cats in negative ways as well. That’s especially true if there is a lack of sunlight. Here are a few examples of what cold weather may do to your cat:
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Stiffness and inflammation in the joints
- Dry skin
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a psychological phenomenon that can occur in humans and animals. According to CNS Drugs, SAD usually results from spending an extended period of time without sunlight. Sunlight exposure is linked to the production of serotonin. That’s a hormone that boosts one’s mood and energy, among other things.
Therefore, if your cat is deprived of sunlight for a long time, its serotonin levels may be low. That can potentially result in seasonal affective disorder. If your cat has SAD, it may exhibit behavioral changes, such as:
- Accidents in the house
- Feeling lethargic
- Fur loss
Activity levels can change either way; your cat can either increase activity or decrease as a result of the cold weather. It is not uncommon for the cold to make your cat lethargic. However, if the cat is not receiving a sufficient amount of exercise, that causes issues all on its own.
The lack of movement, combined with lower temperatures, can cause stiffness and inflammation in their joints. This can be uncomfortable or painful for your cat, which discourages it from moving even more.
Cats may also experience dry skin in colder temperatures, much like people do. Dry skin can be itchy and uncomfortable for your pet. Such conditions also leave cats susceptible to other ailments, such as:
- Flaky skin
- Skin infections
- Matting of the fur
Lethargic? Check On Your Cat
You should not be too worried if your cat becomes lethargic during cold weather. However, if it is accompanied by certain symptoms, then lethargy may be a reason for concern. If your cat is lethargic and exhibiting some (or all) of the following symptoms, then they may be too cold:
- Loss of appetite, especially for their favorite foods
- Inattentiveness or lack of alertness
- Pale gums
- Fixed gaze
- Barely detectable heartbeat
The latter symptoms are considered emergencies, and you should warm your cat as soon as possible. Cats should maintain a certain body temperature, at about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, they could get hyperthermia, other sicknesses, or freeze to death.
Does Rainy Weather Affect Cats?
Rainy weather, depending on your cat’s breed and personality, can affect it positively or negatively. Cats usually do not like water because of what water does to their fur. Water makes their fur heavier, which makes movement far more difficult. If they are outdoor hunters, this hinders them from hunting properly because of the additional weight.
It also takes a long time for cat fur to dry out. Wet fur can make cats extremely cold, offsetting their body temperatures. They must maintain their natural body temperature to prevent sickness. Thus, you need to keep your cat dry if it’s been outside in the rain. This is even more important in breeds with long fur coats, as this increases the amount of time it takes to dry out.
However, rainy weather does not always negatively affect cats. Certain breeds have more water-resistant fur. Thus, it allows them to tolerate the rain more than other breeds. These include, but may not be limited to:
- Maine coon
- Turkish van
On the other hand, past experiences can override this. If a cat has had a poor experience in the past with water, it may come to fear water as a whole. This is common in rescue cats. Rain may be associated with wetness, cold temperatures, and other unpleasant experiences.
Does Windy Weather Affect Cats?
There is no common trend among cats and windy weather. Whether windy weather affects cats depends on their past experiences and how strong the wind is.
If you live in a place where storms commonly accompany windy weather, cats and windy weather may not mix well. Cats may associate the windy weather with incoming storms and become scared. They are also sensitive to other people’s emotions as well. If you fear windy weather or storms, your cat will mirror how you behave in those situations. It may become fearful or stressed in windy weather like you.
Additionally, windy weather can also knock things over in your yard or nearby. These noises may startle cats, as they do not like loud, sudden noises. This can induce unintentional stress.
Does Thunder and Lightning Affect Cats?
Cats have keen senses. There is a reason why sailors previously believed that cats could predict storms. They were brought along voyages or long trips as an early warning system to dangerous weather.
Before a storm, warm, moist air from the ground moves up and cools as it rises. This cold air creates condensations and forms clouds. Cats can sense these changes in air pressure that coincide with incoming storms. When they do, they may or may not behave differently.
Do Cats Get Scared of Storms?
Thunder and lightning can frighten cats due to the booming rumbles and sudden flashes of light that they cause. It’s a cat’s first instinct to hide from such noises since they immediately seem threatening. Hiding during storms is an adaptive behavior that has protected their ancestors in the past. Therefore, it has not disappeared in domestic cats.
Hiding and waiting out thunder and lightning storms is normal for cats. However, this behavior can be maladaptive, especially if they continue to hide long after the storm has passed. If they refuse to leave their hiding spot, even if they need to eat, this should be a reason for concern. There may be some underlying issue that is causing this intense fear.
Remember that cats have keen senses, too. They are sensitive to both environmental changes and changes within their owners. Some believe that cats can smell the ozone gas that is produced by lightning. As such, they can sense thunder and lightning storms incoming through that way.
If their owners fear thunder or lightning storms, they will reflect how their owners behave in those situations. If you act scared and stressed during storms, your cat will also begin to exhibit fearful behavior and signs of stress.
Does Hot Weather Bother Cats?
Hot weather can most certainly bother cats, especially if they are:
- Exposed to it for extended amounts of time
- Unable to cool off naturally
According to Iowa State University, in warmer weather, cats are more lethargic. Because they are less active, they require less energy. Consequently, they may seek out food less often than they normally do and have a smaller appetite. This is not always something to be worried about.
Hot Weather and Mating Behavior
Warm or hot weather is associated with the mating season. The longer daylight hours and warmer weather trigger mating behavior in cats. However, this may depend on their age.
Cats are polyestrous, which means they can technically mate at any time in the year. Nonetheless, mating season is more commonly associated with warmer weather. As a result, hot weather may cause cats to exhibit mating behaviors. For female cats, this is referred to as estrus or heat cycles.
A bout of estrus can average to about 6 days. Meanwhile, the entire heat cycle can last within a range of 1 to 6 weeks. Some of the signs of estrus include:
- Increasingly affectionate
- Demanding of attention
- Rolling on the floor
- Raising rear end and kicking back legs (when back or spine is stroked)
- Increasingly vocal
- More frequent urination
- Spraying of urine on objects
Male cats do not usually go into heat like female cats do. However, they do perform urine spraying during mating season. That’s especially true if another female has previously marked that area. They may also attempt mating with other female cats, either in or outside the home.
With that said, hot weather does not cause mating behavior in cats that have been fixed. If a male cat is neutered or a female cat is spayed, it’s unlikely to perform any of the above behaviors.
Negative Effects of Hot Weather
Weather that is too hot can have adverse effects on cats. The main consequences of hot weather include:
You may think that a cat’s fur coat is enough to protect it from the harm of sun exposure. However, this is far from the truth. Sunburn can, indeed, happen in cats, and it looks similar to sunburn in humans.
If your cat’s skin has become irritated or red after long periods of sun exposure, then it may have a sunburn. Cats may flinch or have adverse reactions toward any form of petting or touching in spots that have been sunburned.
If you want to ensure that your cat does not get sunburned, there are cat-friendly sunscreen options.
In extreme cases of sunburn and sun exposure, skin cancer can develop in cats. Cats with white fur and/or thinner fur coats are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Skin cancer can also develop in cat breeds that do not fulfill the previous criteria. That’s because sun exposure for long durations can still affect areas on the cat’s body that have thinner patches of fur, such as the:
The most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This can result in the formation of scabs, non-healing wounds, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Intensely hot weather can also result in heat strokes. However, there are several signs before cats reach this point that will let you know if they are too hot. Most of them are behavioral and include:
- Excessive grooming, as their tongue helps them keep cool
- Seeking out cold surfaces
- Increased drinking frequency
- Sweaty paw pads
Cats that are overheating should not be left alone without help or without the means to cool down naturally. Otherwise, they may get heatstroke. This occurs when the body temperature is elevated beyond what is normal. This results in stress and damage to the body.
Heatstroke can be fatal. After all, increased bodily temperatures can damage the cat’s inner organs and tissues. If your cat is exhibiting any of these signs, it is critical to cool it off as soon as you can:
- Rapid heart rate
- Discolored gums and tongue (dark or bright red)
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive panting and/or drooling
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Does Humid Weather Affect Cats?
Humid weather often comes hand in hand with hot weather. Because of that, of course, humid weather affects cats, and not in a positive way.
Much like hot weather, humid weather and cats do not mix well. Uncontrolled humidity can prevent them from cooling down naturally, resulting in heatstroke. This is especially dangerous in cats because they cannot sweat to cool down like humans do. Instead, they must rely on external factors to prevent overheating, such as:
- Cold floors
- Water drinking
Excessively humid weather may cause your cat to become lethargic and exhausted. It can also result in cramping and heat stroke if humidity and heat levels are not controlled.
As mentioned, heatstroke is life-threatening to cats. Maintaining adequate ventilation and livable temperatures in your home is a necessity for comfortable living and survival. Cramping may also occur from elevated body temperatures and the loss of bodily fluids from dehydration.
What Type of Weather Do Cats Like?
Both cold and hot weather can make cats sick. Thunder, lightning, and windy weather can scare cats. So, is there any weather that cats actually like? Despite all of the negative consequences of it, bright, sunny, and warm weather is ideal. Many cats like it and your cat will be happiest on a warm summer day.
Of course, this does not mean that your cat will enjoy any sunny, warm weather. Extreme heat, dryness, or humidity can make your cat sick or even be fatal if left unchecked. However, leaving your cats in the sunshine should be no problem at all if you are monitoring the:
- Humidity levels
- Amount of sun exposure
- Cat’s access to food, water, and shade
In that case, it may even elevate the cat’s mood.
What’s The Best Temperature For A Cat?
Most cats require a certain temperature range. A cat’s body temperature ranges near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, averaging around 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, you should not be keeping your cat in such temperatures. It needs to keep the inside of its body warm relative to its outside temperatures.
This is because many organs and chemical processes that occur in the body work best in those temperatures. As such, the recommended temperature of a cat’s home should range between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is not realistic for many owners to keep their homes at this range constantly. After all, it can get expensive (especially if you live in areas with constantly fluctuating temperatures). Seasonal changes come with seasonal temperatures. Therefore, in order to mitigate these changes, you should adjust your home to compensate.
In colder months, it is best that owners provide spots of warmth, such as:
- Even just good, old-fashioned cuddles
In contrast, during hotter months, be sure to provide plenty of:
- Water access
- Any form of ventilation (fans, cooling systems, etc.)
- Shaded areas
Why Do Cats Like Sunshine?
Cats do prefer sunshine. This is for two main reasons:
- It is in their genetics
- Sunshine helps retain warmth during sleep
According to the Library of Congress, a common ancestor of all domestic cats was found: Felis silvestris lybica. This is a wildcat that lives in Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia. Domestication was found to have originated in the Middle East and Egypt. These regions have desert ecosystems. Thus, it may be in cats’ genetics to like the sun, as their ancestors originated and grew in warm climates.
On a simpler note, sunshine helps retain warmth during sleep and is very relaxing. The body temperatures of cats—and many other animals, for that matter—drops during sleep. To prevent feeling too cold, cats like to seek out spots with natural sunshine beforehand.
This allows cats to stay warm and comfortable while they sleep. As such, owners frequently see their cats napping by windows or glass doors during the daytime. They might even move to a different location in the house, depending on where the sun is, just to feel the warmth.
Do Seasonal Changes Affect Cats?
Cats and humans are not much different, especially when it comes to shifting moods with the seasons. Spring and summer bring warmth and sunlight that can improve a cat’s mood and comfort. It also triggers the onset of heat cycles or mating behaviors.
Winter and fall are usually the cold, wet, gloomy seasons of the year. This can result in lethargic cats and even bring about seasonal sadness. Of course, the intensity of temperatures or changes in temperatures with the season depends on where you live geographically.
Regardless, cats are still affected in the same ways. Even if your pet is an indoor cat, this does not save it from feeling the effects of the weather or changes in temperature. It is relying on you to keep it safe and comfortable.