The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Is it too cold outside for my cat?

By Dr. Jacqueline Brister

cat in the snow

The modern-day domestic house cat is actually a descendant of wild desert cats. This could explain why cats in general are heat seekers and tend to snuggle up in the warmest place possible. But how cold is too cold for your cat? The exact answer to this question is difficult and depends on many factors. For cats, temperature tolerance (i.e., at what point a cat gets cold) can vary quite a bit depending on body weight, age, hair coat, and breed. For example, thin cats with short hair are going to get colder much more quickly than robust, long-haired cats. While exact temperatures are unclear, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that the ambient temperature remain above 50°F (and below 80°F) for animals in sheltered housing. Another good way to judge if the temperature is appropriate for your cat is to gauge how you feel. If you are cold, your cat is probably cold too.

What to Do For Outdoor Cats When it Gets Cold

Some cats do not have homes or cannot be prevented from going outside. It is important to provide them with a place to keep warm that is sheltered from environmental elements such as rain, snow, and wind. Ideally, this shelter would have a roof, adequate ventilation, and appropriate insulation to keep a cat warm. Blankets or straw bedding can provide additional insulation to the area. Be wary of using heating pads because they can quickly burn a cat’s thin and sensitive skin. Provide food and water near or inside the shelter – staying warm requires extra calories. Monitor the water source to make sure it does not freeze.

Is my cat too cold?

Cats' primary responses to being cold are to conserve heat, such as curling up, and to generate warmth, such as shivering. If a cat becomes too cold, he may develop hypothermia. This occurs when his body temperature drops below normal (<99°F) and occurs because he is losing more heat than he can generate. Symptoms of hypothermia are cold skin, slow and uncoordinated movements, and inability to respond normally to stimulation. Hypothermia can happen if a cat spends prolonged periods of time in cold and/or wet environments.

If you think your cat has developed hypothermia, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Take his temperature rectally to determine how low his body temperature is. If your cat is wet, make efforts to dry him off to prevent him from losing any more body heat. Begin efforts to rewarm your cat slowly and do not directly apply heat (i.e., don’t use a heating pad). An example of a safe way to rewarm your cat is to put towels in the dryer and then place him in the warm towels. Some cats with hypothermia will also have low blood sugar. If your cat is awake and aware enough to swallow, offer him a small amount of Karo syrup or some other form of calorie dense paste (e.g., Nutrical). Take your cat to the veterinarian’s office as soon as possible so they can continue to care for him further.

Related Ads
  • Best friends deserve the best care - Cat

    by Wes Dew | Dec 20, 2018
    Best friends deserve the best care.
    Nose-to-tail insurance coverage for pets. Peace of mind for pet parents.

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Connect with Us

Copyright 2005-2019

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.