How to tell if your cat is cold (and what to do about it)

There are few things more unpredictable than the ‘Great’ British weather. 

One thing we can guarantee is that throughout the year, the cold days will far outnumber the warmer ones.

And as the temperatures drop, it’s imperative we provide a blanket of warmth and comfort for our pets. 

Do cats get cold? Yes, they do. 

It doesn’t matter whether you have an indoor cat who loves snuggles on the sofa, or one who loves nothing more than playing outside; all felines are susceptible to the cold. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep them warm and we’ll get on to that later in the blog but first, here’s how to tell if your cat is cold.

8 signs that your cat is cold

  1. Shivering. Just as we start to shiver when we get too cold, so do our cats. Shivering is the body’s automatic response to the cold, a way of elevating its temperature by quickly tightening and relaxing muscles. If your cat is wet, dry them off immediately, using warm blankets to help raise their body temperature. If your cat won’t stop shaking, or you don’t think it is linked to icy-cold conditions, speak to your vet. 
  2. Cold body parts. Snuggling up with our cats on the sofa is one of life’s greatest pleasures; their soft, warm fur is better than any hot water bottle. Being this up close and personal with your feline means any drop in body temperature, and you’ll know straight away.  A cat’s tail and ears are the two parts of the body that will lose heat first, so if those areas are cold to touch, your furry friend is probably feeling the chill. 
  3. Slow breathing. Laboured breathing in cats is very noticeable, and easy to detect. It may be that you hear them struggling to breathe, or you see their stomach or chest moving more than normal. Respiratory distress can be brought on by a variety of triggers illness, injury, obesity. A low body temperature could also be a contributing factor. 
  4. Lethargy. You may think that a cat who is trying to get warm would be increasingly active. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. As a cat’s body temperature begins to drop, so does their appetite for activity. Warm them up, and watch them go. 
  5. Seeking out warm spots around the house. Has your cat started cuddling up to you more than usual? Are you noticing they’re lying in front of the fire, or next to the radiator, almost every day? A chilly cat will do all it can to seek out warmth, so it’s up to us to ensure they’re nice and toasty in the first place. 
  6. Curling up in a ball. Finding our felines curled up in a ball is a regular pet parent sight, so much so, you may not have given much thought as to why they do it. Comfort and a sense of security are two of the reasons which is why you’re most likely to see them doing it at bedtime but the need for warmth can be a contributing factor, too. By rolling themselves up into a ball, cats are able to retain body heat. 
  7. Mental confusion. As a cat’s body temperature begins to drop, they can begin to exhibit signs of confusion. This can include forgetting to use their litter box, bumping into furniture, and increased vocalisation. You may also begin to notice other behavioural changes such as a loss of appetite, or increased acts of aggressiveness.  
  8. Weakness. A cat who is no longer feeling a slight chill, but is battling mild to moderate hypothermia, will most likely begin to show signs of weakness. Hypothermia is where a cat’s core body temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include general weakness (struggling to get up or stumbling as they move), muscle stiffness, and a slowing heart rate. 

How to keep your cat warm (5 main tips)

  1. Provide safe shelter. If you have a cat who likes to roam free outside, first of all, always keep an eye on the weather. Cats are resilient creatures, but if there’s a sub-zero snow blizzard on the way, you’re going to want to keep them indoors. There’s no issue with letting them out in slightly cooler temperatures, but maybe provide safe shelter in your garden in the form of cardboard boxes with blankets. That way, they can enjoy the best of both worlds. 
  2. With a warm, comfy bed. The comfier the bed, the warmer your cool cat’s bound to be. Make sure they always have a blanket to hand, and let them arrange it anyway they see fit. If you don’t think blankets are going to cut it at night, or your fidgety feline keeps pushing them away, it may be worth investing in a heated bed or mat. Supervise your cat’s first few uses of the bed/mat, regularly checking the temperature to ensure it’s at the perfect level.  
  3. Cuddle more. We very much doubt we’re going to have to say this one twice. Who doesn’t love a good snuggle with their cat? As we’ve already mentioned, a frosty feline is going to seek out warm spots around the house, and where warmer than right next to you, on the sofa, ready to binge watch your favourite series?
  4. Keep their activity levels up. Run around the house for 10 minutes and we’re confident you’ll have quite the sweat on. It’s the exact same for our cats, although some do need a bit of a push when it comes to exercise. We recommend daily play sessions in order to keep activity levels up, plus leave plenty of toys around the house for them to play with to make sure they’re kept busy. Active cats are also healthy cats, so you’re not just keeping them warm, you’re giving them quality of life
  5. Feed them more. A cat who’s losing weight is in real danger of feeling the cold more than one who’s eating well. Be on the lookout for any signs of weight loss, and ensure they are eating a complete and well-balanced diet that is loaded with all the best nutrients. At the other end of the scale, check for excessive weight gain as well, as this can bring about its own health issues.

My cat is always cold – should I take them to the vet?

Cats are very adept at hiding injury or illness, so it will come as no surprise to hear that the same goes for when they’re feeling cold.

The majority of felines, especially those who spend a lot of time outside, are able to handle cold temperatures comfortably. However, when the big chill sets in, it’s vital you know how to spot even the subtlest of signs. 

If your cat struggles with the cold regularly, do all you can to keep them as warm and as comfortable as possible. 

If they ever reach the point where they’re struggling to breathe, or they won’t stop shivering, wrap them in a warm blanket/towel, and contact your vet immediately. 

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