Skip to main content

Do cats get cold? How cold is too cold for cats in winter

Cat wrapped in blanket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The question ‘do cats get cold?’ is a common one amongst pet parents, especially during the winter months when making sure your kitty stays warm becomes more of a concern.

Whether your cat feels the cold will depend on a number of factors, including their coat type and whether they like to spend the majority of their time curled up asleep inside or prefer having lots of adventures in the great outdoors.

With winter in full swing, knowing how cold is too cold for your cat is vital for keeping them happy and healthy. Read on to find out everything you need to know to keep your kitty comfortable.

Do cats get cold?

Although cats are very adaptable creatures, they actually have a very similar body temperature to humans (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit) which means that if you’re feeling the cold, chances are they are too. 

The good news is that unless you have a hairless cat or a very short-haired breed, your fur baby’s warm coat will do a great job of insulating them against the cold if they spend most of their time indoors.

Outdoor cats are a bit of a different story because they’re at greater risk of hypothermia and frostbite if the temperature gets too low. Thankfully, outdoor cats are pretty good at knowing when it’s time to head back home.

"Most cats handle cold temperatures very well. Cats who are used to spending a lot of time outdoors know when it's time to come back in," says Michael Arpino, DVM at Veterinary Wellness Center of Boerum Hill (opens in new tab) in Brooklyn, N.Y.

That being said, it’s important you don’t leave your cat outdoors in the winter without providing them with one of the best outdoor cat houses as even cats with thick coats can be seriously at risk once the temperature starts to plummet if they don’t have access to warm shelter. 

How cold is too cold for cats?

According to Arpino, anything below 45 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for your cat. If the temperature dips below freezing, they are at high risk of hypothermia if they are outside for extended periods of time," he explains. But that number is merely a guideline, with other factors, such as your cat’s coat type and their weight, being equally important to consider.

"Hairless cats, cats that have been shaved down and/or groomed in any fashion that would cut the hair beyond a minor trim should never be outside in colder weather," Arpino explains. If your cat is a hairless or very short-haired breed, it’s much harder for them to regulate their body temperature, so even if they’re indoors all day, they’ll still need a sweater in the winter.

Obese cats have far more body fat which means they’re better insulated against the cold, but they do move slower than slimmer breeds, so that can cause problems if they’re prone to wandering far from home and get stuck in unexpected extreme weather.

Arpino points out that you’ll also want to keep a close eye on your kitty if they suffer from any kind of medical condition as ill health can put them at greater risk of hypothermia if they’re outdoors.

"Cats who suffer from endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism should never be out in the cold as they are typically cold sensitive. Cats with any illness including renal disease, heart disease, cancer, etc. should not be allowed outdoors in any weather," he says.

The bottom line is that fit and healthy cats with long hair or short but thick coats are fine to be outdoors until the mercury dips below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, when they need to be brought inside. Cats that are hairless or unwell should not be allowed to go outside during the winter months as they are at an increased risk of hypothermia. 

Cat being held by woman, looking over her shoulder in the snow

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Signs your cat is feeling the cold

Unlike we humans, our feline friends can’t just go and pop on an extra layer when they get cold or tell us that they’d like the temperature on the thermostat moved up a few notches. So, with that in mind, here are some signs to lookout for that will alert you to the fact that your kitty is feeling chilly. 

1. Curling into a ball

This is a popular sleep position for cats, so it definitely doesn’t always mean your little one is feeling cold, but if they’re tightly curled up with their tail over their nose and all their paws tucked into their body, it’s a clue that they could be trying to preserve body heat.

2. Cold extremities

Just like we humans will get cold hands and feet, a cat's extremities will also show signs that they’re feeling chilly. Feel their ears, paws, and the tip of their tail, as this is where they lose body heat from first. 

3. Hunching and puffing

We know, it sounds like some kind of new dance move, right? But cat’s who do what’s known as hunching (where they move closer to the ground) and puffing (where they puff up their fur) are likely feeling the cold.

4. Seeking out warm places

If you notice your cat has taken to sleeping on the radiator, burrowing under your bed covers, or wants to cuddle more than usual, it could be a sign they’re trying to give their body temperature a boost.

Tips for keeping your cat warm

Cat wearing a sweater and looking at a pot plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wondering how you can keep your kitty warm in the cooler months? Here's a few of our favorite tips and tricks...

1. Play dress-up

Okay, so not every cat will thank you for this one, but if your kitty isn’t averse to wearing a sweater or coat, popping them in one can be a great way of ensuring they stay toasty. If your fur baby is skeptical, try positive reinforcement using the best cat treats.

2. Try a self-warming or heated bed

The best cat beds include a great selection of self-warming designs that heat up without the need for electricity. These beds are typically made from an insulating blend of polyester that warms when it comes into contact with your cat’s body heat.

Another option is to try a heated pet bed. These use very low wattage, so they’re incredibly safe, and they're great for senior cats or those with mobility issues or joint pain as the warmth can help make them feel more comfortable. 

3. Elevate their bed

If your cat has a bed, it’s worth elevating it so that it’s off the ground. Because heat rises, a bed that’s placed on a chair instead of on the floor will feel much warmer to your cat. 

4. Provide a cozy blanket

Investing in a snuggly blanket is sure to get you a huge paws up from your pal. Place it in their bed for extra warmth or on their favorite piece of furniture. You can also warm their blanket in the dryer for a few minutes before you put it down for them to burrow into.

5. Bring out the cat toys

A great way to stay warm together is to have a few of the best cat toys on hand that you can use to engage in a fun play session. Feather wands, catnip mice or laser toys are all high energy options that will have your kitty feeling toasty in no time. 

6. Feed them a little more

When your fur baby has to work harder to regulate their body temperature, they naturally burn through more calories than they normally would. If you have some of the best cat food on hand, it can be worth giving them a little more to supplement the extra calories they’re using. 

7. Leave the heating on

Those frequently increasing energy bills are no joke, but if you’re able to afford to leave the heating on when you’re out of the house, your kitty is sure to thank you for it. If not, the tips above will help your cat stay warm when the heating needs to be switched off.

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.