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How to Keep Cats Warm & Healthy in Winter (Vet Answer)

red cat sleeping in basket near winter window

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Written by

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats, just like us humans, are warm-blooded animals. This means that our metabolism allows us to control our body temperature instead of it being completely dependent on the environment—like in the case of reptiles. However, there’s still a limit. Just like we can’t survive extended periods in excessive cold temperatures, neither can our feline friends.

Cats need to be within a certain environmental temperature to survive. That being said, different breeds have different cold tolerances. For instance, the Norwegian Forest Cat has a better tolerance to cold weather than an Arabian Mau Cat. In any case, keeping your cat warm during winter will definitely help to keep them healthy. Keep reading for some easy ideas to help you safely achieve this.

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Shelter

Regardless of the season, every kitty should always have access to some kind of shelter. In places with very low winter temperatures, ideally, every cat should be kept indoors and safe from freezing temperatures. If your cat is not an indoor cat and is used to flap cat doors or automatic cat doors, make sure that these entries into shelter are always working and never blocked, especially during the winter season. If your cat’s living area is normally in the garage or a basement during extreme winter seasons, you should consider moving them inside the house where it is warmer. Every cat should have a shelter to keep dry, warm, and safe from the cold winter weather. Just because they have made it through a past winter does not guarantee their safety this year.

tabby cat on a cat tree in a room
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Insulation

Having smaller-sized bodies, cats have a greater surface of their total mass exposed to the environment and, as a result, they lose body heat faster than bigger creatures. Providing a smaller, insulated place for them to hang out helps maintain their body temperature. A more compact space will add an extra layer of insulation that is warmer than a big, open room. Pod-style beds, insulated cat beds with a roof, wool, plush cat caves—or even if your budget is very limited, a cardboard box—will provide added insulation and help your kitty keep warm during winter.

Blankets

Provide your cat with additional plush and blankets to help them keep warm and cozy. You might want to consider creating more than one cozy insulated option with blankets for your cat to have a variety of toasty areas to visit around your home. And remember to keep the blankets fresh and clean by regularly washing them just like you do with your own bedding.

a gray and white shorthaired cat lying on a blanket at home
Image Credit: coryr930, Pixabay

Heating Pads

Another excellent way of keeping a cat warm during winter is using heating pads, there are several options. Some are microwavable, which allows you to make sure they have a steady temperature and that can last at least enough for your kitten to have a reliable heat source while they sleep.

We recommend supervising your cat while they use an electric device like an electric heating pad, and make sure you do not allow your kitty to lay directly on top of the pad, rather, put a blanket or cushion between them and the device.

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Bundle Them Up

Just like we wear winter sweaters and jackets, cats will need extra layers to keep warm and healthy in winter, especially when going outdoors. This point is especially important and is a must in the case of hairless cats—who need to dress up during winter even while indoors. There are a ton of options for cozy, warm cat coats and you can definitively have a lot of fun enjoying your kitty runway show or dressing it up in winter-themed outfits.

sphynx cat in sweater sitting on cat bed
Image Credit: Max Simonov, Unsplash

Self-Heating Cat Bed

Self-heating cat beds are an excellent option to guarantee your cat has always a warm and safe place to sleep and nap during wintertime. These are by far the easiest and safest as they maintain a consistent, warm temperature and provide insulation. We recommend always adding blankets to make it easier to change and clean them regularly to keep your cat warm and healthy.

Make Room In Your Bed

As you most likely already know, cats love napping and sleeping next to you (or literally on top of you) and one of the reasons for this behavior is the heat source that you provide. This is especially important during wintertime. You might want to consider offering your cat some space in your bed. But be warned—once a cat is used to sleeping in your bed in winter, chances are you won’t be able to have your own bed next summer!

a young woman with cute cat sleeping in bed
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

Diet

If cats are exposed to colder environmental temperatures, their metabolism will burn extra calories in order to keep their body temperature. A slight increase in their diet amount or on the caloric content of the feed is alright during the colder winter season. You can take advantage of this and prepare with additional healthy cat treats to use during bonding, training, and playtime! However, you should be mindful about quantities and ideally consult with a veterinarian to avoid overfeeding your cat and making it gain unhealthy extra weight.

Regular Brushing

Some cat breeds develop undercoats during winter. In these cases, it is especially important to regularly brush your cat. This practice helps to keep a healthy coat and avoid matting. Regularly brushing your cat should already be a part of your routine, but this is especially important during the wintertime as you want to avoid having to trim your cat’s hair due to knots and mats.

brushing cat fur
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

More Playtime

Another excellent way of keeping your cat warm and healthy during the wintertime is to engage in more playtime with your pet. Interactive toys, laser pens, cat trees—the idea is to get that kitty moving! The extra activity helps your cat stay warm from the inside out, just like when humans work out. Engaging in playtime with your cat is extremely important as it keeps them physically and mentally stimulated and it is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between you and your beloved kitty!

Electric Space Heaters

These powerful little devices can be a great trick for keeping things warm inside, but be extra careful with electric heaters when it comes to your cat. If you decide to use them, never leave your cat unattended in the same room when one is running. Depending on your cat’s habits, the added cables might represent a hazard, and the cat could accidentally bump the heater, get dangerously close, or even just lean against and cause a dangerous fire situation.

Avoid any heater with exposed heat elements. Some pet-friendly options on the market have a protected heat element and are not easy to tilt. Oil-filled radiators are the safest option as there are no exposed heat elements, they include a thermostat, and are difficult to tilt.

a portable space heater on a slab
Image Credit: yueban, Pixabay

Fireplace

If your cat has any respiratory issues such as feline asthma, please avoid the fireplace. If your cat is healthy, feel free to use this as a heating method for them. But, as with other options, supervise your cat whenever they are in the same room as a fireplace. Make sure the fireplace has added protection to safeguard your cat from getting burned or causing any dangerous fire accidents at home. Never leave a cat unattended near a fireplace.

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Conclusion

When it comes to keeping your cat warm and healthy during wintertime, there are lots of resources available! Your cat should always have access to the warmer areas of the home, and you, as a responsible and loving cat owner, should make sure that your cat always has access to shelter, insulation, extra beddings, and maybe even their own winter coat!

Electric heating pads and space heaters, as well as fireplaces, might represent a hazard for your cat, so ensure supervision when using these. Finally, winter provides added opportunities for you and your kitty to snuggle and play—so you can always fall back on sharing your body heat with your furry friend.


Featured Image Credit: VGstockstudio, Shutterstock

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