Cats were first domesticated in Egypt to get rid of rodents and stayed outside due to the hot and arid environment. But when cats migrated with their human companions to colder climates, people thought their cats could stay out regardless of how cold it was because of the fur on the cats’ bodies. What temperature is too cold for cats to stay outside?
While outdoor cats can survive the cold better than indoor cats, they still are not completely equipped to withstand temperatures colder than 32°F or 0°C. But when the average daily temperature is 45°F, or 7°C, or lower, cats have trouble surviving outdoors if they don’t have a warm place to stay.
Cats are resilient creatures, but they could freeze to death if they are outdoors in the bitter cold too long. If you want to know how to keep your cats safe in the cold, keep reading.
Outdoor Cats Might Be Able to Survive Cold Better
Cats on the farm or who live most of the year outdoors are used to living in the cold, but that doesn’t mean that they can survive bitter cold like some parts of the world experience. They still need to find warm places to sleep overnight and access to fresh, not frozen, water.
The average daily temperature that cats can survive in is about 45°F, or 7°C. If it gets much colder than that overnight, then they need to find a warmer place to stay. Frostbite or hypothermia sets in quickly for cats as it does for humans. They don’t have as much fat on their bodies as humans, so they get colder faster.
While they might be better suited to colder temperatures, they still need to be cared for when it gets bitterly cold.
Indoor Cats Might Have More Troubles in Cold Temperatures
Indoor cats are not used to these extreme temperatures and should stay in when it dips down that low. Sometimes, cat parents like to let their cats outside so they can get fresh air and sunshine. But when it gets too cold, they should not go outside. Even when it’s a bit warmer than the temperature limits, indoor cats might have more difficulty staying warm outdoors.
This is because they are not used to cooler temperatures and haven’t adapted to them as outdoor cats have. If it’s above freezing outside, your cat might like a little fresh air now and then, which is fine. Remember to let them come back in when they get enough fresh air.
Another thing you might do is to set up a pet door on your entrance door, so they can come in and go out as they please. If your neighborhood is unfriendly to cats, you may not want to do that.
If It’s Too Cold for You, It’s Too Cold for the Cat
Cats are mammals, as are you, and need a more temperate climate. They have a difficult time keeping warm when it is colder outside. While they may have fur, that doesn’t ensure that they will stay warm outside in the winter.
When the temperature drops below freezing, a cat’s central nervous system slows down and has trouble pumping blood to the extremities. Once this happens, and frostbite sets in, the cat cannot get to safety because hypothermia sets in.
The above process happens with you and the rest of the human race too. So if it’s too cold for you, it is too cold for your cat.
Cats Have Fur, but They Still Can Freeze to Death
It is a widely held myth that just because a cat has fur, they can live outdoors in a below-freezing environment. Yes, a cat has fur and can stay warm in some climates, but think of their fur as what humans would consider clothing. A warm coat can keep you warmer when in the cold weather, but it doesn’t make you comfortable.
When cats are outdoors in cold temperatures, the need to have somewhere to go to that is warm if they need it. Outdoor cats on a farm can go into a barn and sleep on a cow. Or, they can lay down in the hay. If you put a box with a blanket inside it out in the barn or shed, they will be able to retain their body heat.
What About Feral Cats?
Feral cats are those born outside with no home or human companions. In other parts of the country, they are known as community cats. At any rate, feral cats are better suited to life outdoors in cold climates and are pretty resilient in most conditions. But they still struggle with keeping warm and finding food and water that isn’t frozen.
While many people don’t think about caring for cats that don’t live with them, the cats still have needs that wouldn’t be met if it weren’t for some people who care for them. What can you do to provide food, shelter, and water to feral cats? They don’t usually come near people due to fear, but they will seek warm places to sleep, food and water set out for them.
Create an Outdoor Feral Cat Shelter
There are several shelters that cats can find on their own, but you can help them by creating an outdoor cat shelter. Because heat will dissipate in larger shelters, a smaller one will keep cats warmer. Aim for two feet by three feet, with a height of 18 inches. It should be large enough inside to house two to five cats, and it should be about a foot off the ground.
Place a door on it that allows one cat in at a time, with it being off the ground, keep out rain or snow. A door can also keep predators away from them while they are sleeping.
The shelter should be constructed with a waterproof material such as plastic or wood. Line it with straw to keep out the moisture. Blankets or other materials soak moisture and make it unpleasant. After lining it with straw, you can place a blanket in there, but it might not be necessary.
Put Out Warm Food and Water in Protected Containers
Cats also need non-frozen water and food that will help them maintain body heat. You can use heated water and food bowls that will keep food and water from freezing. Or you can provide dry food in frigid temperatures. While it takes more energy to digest dry food, it can be a decent food source that won’t freeze.
When giving water, use lukewarm water, and check on it often. If it is too cold outside, try finding heated water bowls that will keep it fresh longer. Feral cats, however, have been known to eat snow to get water, even though this is not the best thing for them.
Winter is difficult for all creatures, including cats. While some dogs are bred for cold temperatures, cats of any breed cannot handle cold temperatures very well.
Don’t let your cat stay in the garage in the winter because several chemicals are typically in the garage that is toxic to cats. Antifreeze is one of those and can kill your cat very quickly.
Cats also don’t do well inside the car. While many people know about the dangers of a car in the hot summer, they might not understand that a car can act as a freezer in cold weather. Keep your cat in your basement if you don’t want it upstairs during the winter months.
- Gallant: How Cold Is Too Cold For Your Cat to Stay Outside?
- Pet Place: Easy Tips on How to Determine if the Weather is Too Cold For Your Cats
- Animal Humane Society: Outdoor Cats in Cold Winters: How They Survive in Minnesota
- Playful Kitty: 5 Myths About Cats in Cold Weather
- Alley Cat: Outdoor Cats Winter Tips
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.