Cats enjoy the warmth of the sun and hate being cold. Leaving a cat to grow cold for too long leads to a risk of hypothermia. A cat that is too cold will show a range of signs and symptoms that warn you of the problem.
Do not let the ambient temperature of your home drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, your cat will maintain its ideal body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Provide your cat with plenty of opportunities to warm up, such as blankets in its claimed territory. Monitor your cat’s behavior and, if necessary, take its temperature to ensure that it’s optimal. Keep your cat away from draughts and anything else that could lower its temperature too much.
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Is My House Too Cold for a Cat?
A cat’s body temperature should typically run between 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a little warmer than a human. Our own bodies are comfortable at around 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
There will always be fluctuations in a cat’s body temperature. As Science explains, a cat will automatically become slightly cooler while sleeping. This will not be enough to place a cat in any danger, though.
The ideal room temperature for a cat is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This will enable the cat to maintain optimum body temperature. This is the average temperature of a home during the winter season.
This is all based on a typical cat. Longhaired cats will retain warmth easier, as their fur will offer protection. A hairless cat, such as a Sphinx, will feel the cold much more. This must be taken into consideration.
If the room temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia becomes more of a risk. Healthy adult cats are hardy and skilled at moderating body temperature. Be mindful of this risk, though.
Hypothermia in Cats
Hypothermia is a condition that sees the body lose heat faster than it can be replaced. Hypothermia in healthy cats due to low room temperature is rare.
As The Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care explains, a cat is likelier to develop hypothermia during surgery. This is because the cat’s heart will slow, reducing blood flow. However, extremely low temperatures can also cause hypothermia.
Feline hypothermia unfolds in three stages, with differing symptoms. The body temperature of your cat dictates its level of hypothermia.
|Mild Hypothermia (90-99 degrees)||Muscular weakness, shivering, lack of concentration|
|Moderate Hypothermia (82-89 degrees)||Stiff muscles, reduced heart rate, shallow breathing|
|Severe Hypothermia (below 81 degrees)||Dilated eyes, panting, weak heart, loss of consciousness|
It is extremely unlikely that room temperature will see a cat drop below mild hypothermia. Anything more severe suggests a medical issue. Even mild hypothermia must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Mild hypothermia can be treated at home with blankets and hot water bottles. Moderate or severe hypothermia must be addressed by a vet.
How to Tell When a Cat is Cold
Do not rely on your cat to shiver when cold. Not all cats display this behavior. You will need to observe your cat carefully and look for telltale warning signs. In addition, keep an eye on your thermostat. Remember, a house below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for a cat.
No matter what the ambient temperature, a cat should always have the option to warm up. Most cats have multiple sleeping areas in a home. Ensure that at least some of these contain blankets. Cats can warm themselves up quickly if necessary. When the cat feels comfortable, it will move to somewhere cooler again. Key signs that your cat is cold include:
- Sleeping in a ball or the fetal position
- Sleeping alongside another cat to share body heat
- Hunching and puffing fur
- Sitting beside heat sources
- Clinginess toward humans
If you ignore these warning signs, your cat may develop hypothermia. You can check if your cat is cold by touching its ears, tail, and paw pads. These are the parts of a cat’s anatomy that heat escapes from.
Taking a Cat’s Temperature
These readings will usually be accurate, but this is an invasive process. Many cats will resist and prevent you from taking their temperature. If you wish to proceed, you can do so in one of two ways:
Rectal thermometers are the most accurate way of measuring a cat’s temperature. Most pet stores will stock these items. You will have two options, digital or mercury.
Digital thermometers are more expensive, but recommended. They yield faster results and are less invasive than mercury thermometers. Mercury thermometers are made of glass. This means that you will need to proceed with a great deal of caution. To take your cat’s temperature rectally, follow these steps:
- Play with the cat as you want it as tired and docile as possible
- Restrain the cat, ideally by wrapping in a soft towel
- Calm the cat with petting and treats
- Ensure the thermometer reads below 96 degrees Fahrenheit
- If using a mercury thermometer, shake it
- Apply lubricant to the tip of the thermometer (Vaseline is fine)
- Gently insert the thermometer around an inch into the cat’s rectum
- If using a digital thermometer, wait for a beep
- If using a mercury thermometer, leave it in position for two minutes
- Remove the thermometer and let your cat free
The results of the thermometer should read above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is not the case, your cat is too cold. Immediately focus on providing your cat with warmth in whatever way you can.
Ear thermometers are less intrusive, but they are more expensive. And, not all cats are happy with intrusion into the ear.
If you wish to use an ear thermometer, check how your cat will respond. Tickle or stroke your cat around the ear. If it bites, scratches or flees, this will not work. Your only option will be to restrain the cat and take a rectal temperature. If your cat permits you to touch its ears, take these steps:
- Calm the cat down with petting
- Pick up the cat, holding it tightly against your body
- Restrain the cat with a towel as it will start to squirm
- Hold the thermometer horizontally and insert it deeply into the cat’s ear canal
- All ear thermometers are digital, so wait for a beep
Once this occurs, you can release the cat and assess the reading. As with a rectal temperature, anything below 100 degrees Fahrenheit is a concern. Your home is too cold for your cat’s comfort and this must be rectified.
Why Is My Cat So Cold?
Ensure that your cat is not sitting beside a draught. Many cats enjoy watching birds from windows, for example. If the window is cracked, this will make the cat cold. Your cat may also be feeling a chill from an air vent.
Another common reason for low body temperature in cats is wet fur. Many cats dislike water because it takes so long for them to warm up again afterward. If you have recently bathed your cat, focus on warming it up.
Cats that roam outside may also experience a prolonged low body temperature. Cats often find shelter from extreme weather, such as heavy rain or snow. This is not always possible, though.
If your cat comes home wet and cold, focus on increasing its body temperature. This is especially important if the cat stayed out overnight. Appropriate room temperature will not be sufficient in these instances.
Medical explanations for a cat to be cold, even if the room temperature tops 70 degrees Fahrenheit, include:
- Respiratory infections
- Lack of food intake
- Consumption of toxins
- Shock (usually following physical trauma, such as a fall or road traffic accident)
- Side effects of anesthesia or medication
If your cat remains cold for 24 hours, or displays other signs of ill health, seek advice from a vet.
How to Warm Up a Cat
Apply central heating if you have it or use portable heaters. Just ensure that these are cat-safe. A curious feline may create a fire hazard.
This will be enough to aid a cat that is slightly chilled. In many cases though, you will need to directly warm up your cat. Blankets in the cat’s bed are the easiest way to achieve this. Few cats can resist warm, soft materials. Other simple ways to keep a cat warm in the home include:
- Hot water bottles
- Heated blankets or mats. Keep these on a low temperature to avoid skin burns
- Insulated windows and walls
Physical exercise can also increase your cat’s body temperature. Reach for a favorite toy and encourage play. The more your cat moves, the more its circulation will improve. This will result in a higher body temperature.
You could treat this as an opportunity to cuddle your cat. Some cats will seize the opportunity to enjoy such physical closeness. Naturally, this is not a sustainable long-term option.
If your home maintains a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your cat will not grow cold. Dropping below this level places your cat at risk. If in doubt, adopt a higher base temperature in the home.