The changing of the seasons is upon us once again. As the temperatures begin to dip down into chillier digits, remember that the winter season is only just beginning. You probably know how cold is too cold for your kids to be outside, but do you know how cold is too cold for cats?
If you live in the Midwest or northeastern parts of the country, you know that it’s only going to get colder from here. Finding out how cold is too cold for cats mostly depends on where you live. If you’re in an area that’s known for heavy snow, the weather might turn dangerous for cats quicker than you think.
Check Your Thermometer to Figure Out How Cold is Too Cold for Cats
Cats are extremely independent creatures, so they’re pretty capable of taking care of themselves. However, even stubborn cats feel the harsh effects of winter. While cats do have a warm coat that will keep them protected during temperatures above freezing, once the temps fall below 32 degrees, your cat is in danger.
Once it’s below freezing, cats are susceptible to dangerous medical conditions like hypothermia and frostbite. Not only are these situations harmful, but they can also be life-threatening.
Hypothermia occurs when a cat’s body temperature falls below average. Normal for a cat is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on how bad it is, cases of hypothermia can range from mild to severe, and severe cases can also be a precursor to a cat showing signs of frostbite.
Frostbite in cats is caused by the combination of extremely low temperatures and high winds. Cats are most susceptible to getting frostbite on their toes, tail, and tips of their ears. Frostbite is defined as damage to the tissue, and without treatment this tissue will die. One of the reasons that frostbite is so dangerous is because signs of it are not immediately clear. It can take up to a few days to notice anything, meaning the condition could become more severe without you knowing.
Keeping cats out of severe weather is an easy way to prevent these problems from occurring. However, if it’s not feasible to bring your cats inside, understanding how cold is too cold for cats can help you know when to protect cats that live their lives outdoors.
How Cold is Too Cold for Cats? Indoors vs. Outdoors
If your cat is strictly an inside cat, a good rule of thumb to follow is if your home is too cold for you, it’s most likely too cold for your cat. While it may be important to you to save money on the heating bill, moving your thermostat up a few degrees could be the difference between a happy, healthy cat and an unhappy, sick one.
Keeping cats outdoors is a different story. Outside cats generally live shorter lives than cats that live indoors because they face a higher exposure to dangerous situations. Outdoor cats run into problems when temperatures fall below freezing. Without shelter, they can develop hypothermia and frostbite, and their chances of surviving the winter grow slim. There are many ways you can help ensure your outdoor cat has a safe place for the cold nights, but the important thing is to be proactive so your cat is protected.
While a snuggly fleece bed is great for an indoor cat to keep warm, it won’t do well for an outdoor cat. Building shelters or providing a warm space in a barn or garage are great ways to get outdoor cats ready for the winter. Along with warmth during the winter, don’t forget about food. Making sure that food and water are placed somewhere they won’t freeze are necessary to making sure your outdoor cat is well-nourished. If you’re wondering how cold is too cold for your cat, it’s probably too cold. Making sure you have a well built shelter can be the difference between life and death for your cats.
Shelters are easy to make as long as you use the right materials. A good shelter is just big enough for your cat to turn around in. Building it too big won’t allow for the shelter to reflect the cat’s body heat, and she won’t be able to stay warm. Wood or plastic are good building materials, as long as a sufficient entrance hole can be made. Straw, shredded newspaper, and packing peanuts are all great for bedding. They reflect body heat and are easy for cats to burrow in. You can even include a pillowcase filled with one of these materials to ensure for a easy place to sleep.
While a blanket might seem like a good idea, it will actually chill the cat because it will absorb body heat rather than reflecting it. Folded newspapers and towels work the same way, so make sure you keep these out of your shelter.
For food and water, thick plastic insulated bowls work best to keep things from freezing. You can even use solar powered water bowls to make sure it stays warm. If you’ve built an extra warm shelter, you can keep food inside and away from the door because the cat’s body heat will keep it warm. Always make sure the water is kept outside the shelter however, because if it’s spilled, a wet shelter will struggle to be warm and can do more harm than good.
Taking the extra steps to prepare your outdoor cat for the cold months ahead will help you stay worry free, and keep you from asking how cold is too cold for cats.