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How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?

If you share your house with one or more cats, then you already know that their needs come first — and if you forget, they’ll be more than happy to remind you.

That’s why you run every decision by them first — including what temperature to set the thermostat to. Unfortunately, they’re not great at shouting out numbers (does “meow” mean 72° or 73°?), so you’ll have to guess what setting they prefer.

As it turns out, though, setting the thermostat at the wrong temperature can have serious consequences for your cat. Below, we’ll explore what settings are simply too cold — as well as reveal which ones are “just right.”

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Can You Make It Too Cold for Your Cat?

You would think that since cats are running around with fur coats on all the time, any temperature too cold for a cat would be way too cold for you as well.

As it turns out, though, that’s not the case. Cats can get cold surprisingly easy, and it turns out that 70°F seems to be the magic number.

Anything below that is likely going to be too cold for your cat, especially if you have an older feline. Senior cats are more sensitive to cold, and lower temps will be harder on their joints, so try to keep your home a little warmer for their sake.

Cats are even more susceptible to cold when they’re sleeping, so you might want to try to make the house warmer when you know that they’ll be snoozing. You can always bring the temperature back down when they’re up and active.

Of course, that could mean baking all day and then turning the heat off at night while your cat runs around at 2 a.m., but that’s part of the joy of having a cat, isn’t it?

What Happens If My Cat Gets Too Cold?

cat near a fireplace
Image Credit: zkittler, Pixabay

For most cats, getting a little chilly won’t do anything more than make them uncomfortable. They’ll likely respond by finding someplace warm, like a spot in the sun or a cozy blanket.

Older cats, though, may start to feel more physical discomfort if they get cold, especially if they have joint problems. You’ll want to avoid that, of course, so try to keep them warm and toasty at all times (and consider putting them on a joint supplement).

Also, some cats get colder more easily than others. As you might expect, this can be due to the amount of fur they have, so a long-hair cat may be able to tolerate lower temperatures than a Sphinx.

In extreme cases, your cat could start to experience hypothermia. This is dangerous and potentially fatal, but fortunately, it’s not likely to occur from running the A/C too much. Unless you’re leaving the door and windows open during a snowstorm, you’re probably safe.

Mild hypothermia is a possibility if you live in a frigid climate and refuse to run the heat often, but that’s not a life-threatening form of the condition. Your cat will be fine with a blanket and a hot water bottle if you suspect that they’re suffering from mild hypothermia.

Signs Your Cat Is Cold

You want to keep your cat comfortable, but you also want to keep your energy costs down, so how are you supposed to know when it’s time to turn the heat up? There are a few telltale signs that your cat is starting to get a little chilly.

First of all, don’t look for shivering. Some cats shiver when cold, but this isn’t a universal indicator, so you could miss other signs if that’s all you’re looking for.

Many of the most common signs are fairly easy to spot with a little common sense. If you see your cat curled in a tight ball or snuggling with other cats, it’s a good indicator that they’re trying to preserve body heat. That may be a reason that they’re snuggling up to you too (although this might discourage you from turning the heat up).

They may also stay close to heat sources, like your vents or any appliances that give off warmth. You should check all these locations to make sure they don’t become dangerously hot, as you don’t want your cat to get burned.

These are all signs that your cat is cold, but they shouldn’t be seen as particularly worrisome. If, however, you’re worried about hypothermia, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Stiff muscles
  • Shallow breathing or panting
  • Dilated eyes
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of consciousness

How to Keep Your Cat Warm

Most cats are more than capable of keeping themselves warm without any assistance from you — that’s what their coats and tails (and your lap) are for. However, if you want to make sure your kitten stays comfortable, there are a few ways you can help.

cat with blanket
Image Credit: ajcespedes, Pixabay

First, make sure they have access to blankets or a warm windowsill that they can curl up on. This allows them to regulate their temperature on their own, as they can simply get up and move once they’re sufficiently warm.

You can also set beds around the house to give them comfortable spots that will also preserve their body heat. There are even heated options available if you want to go above and beyond.

Try to keep the house as warm and toasty as you can as well. If you can’t afford to run the heat that much, then make sure you preserve what heat you do have by keeping the windows, walls, and doors well-insulated. This has the added benefit of reducing your energy costs, not to mention keeping you more comfortable.

You can try to rev up their engines by getting them to play; this should raise their internal temperature while also boosting their mood. Having them chase a feather toy or play with string is a healthy, entertaining way to keep them warm.

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A Warm Cat Is a Happy Cat

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to worry about your cat becoming deathly ill as a result of getting too cold (unless they get stranded outside in a blizzard, of course). However, keeping your cat warm should also keep them happy — and that will no doubt make you happy as well.

The magic number seems to be 70°F, so keep your home at least that warm at all times. If you decide to let the mercury drop below that number, though, ensure that your cat has plenty of places to go in order to keep warm.

After all, if you let your cat get too cold, they might get mad — and there are few things more terrifying than the prospect of a vengeful cat.

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Featured Image Credit: Dimhou, Pixabay