(Fur)baby it's cold outside: How to keep your cat warm in winter

November 23, 2023 - 3 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS on November 28, 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Drawing of a cat sleeping on a snowy background

When the thermometer dips below 45°F, even the fluffiest Maine Coons might start to shiver. And below freezing, it's even more uncomfortable—and potentially dangerous.

So how can you tell if your cat is more than just a little chilly? And what can you do to keep them toasty warm, whether they're lounging indoors or braving the outdoors?

Let's get into it!

How to tell if a cat is too cold

Again, all cats have different tolerances for the cold, depending on a few factors. Smaller, thin-coated, elderly, or unwell cats feel the chill more quickly.

Here are some signs your cat's getting cold:

  • Reluctance to move

  • Seeking out warm spots

  • Curling up more than usual

Here are some more serious signs your cat's too cold:

  • Lethargy

  • Shivering, which stops when severe hypothermia sets in

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Clumsy movements

  • Cool ears, tail, and feet

A Persian cat wrapped in a yellow scarf

If your pet has any of these signs, call your vet immediately. Extreme cold exposure can lead to serious conditions and even death in cats. It’s important to note that these signs, additionally, may indicate the presence of an underlying disease that should be addressed immediately.

Keeping indoor cats warm

Winter can be a snug time for our indoor feline friends, especially if they have furry companions to cuddle with. But for solo cats, it's up to us to make their indoor environment a warm haven.

Here are some tips to help.

Adjust the thermostat

Keep your home at a cat-friendly temperature, ideally around or above 60°F. If you can't, or your power goes out, the following tips will help!

Set up cuddle zones

Set up cozy spots with warm blankets, beds, or boxes in different areas of your home. Cats love variety and might prefer different places at different times of the day. Sunny spots are ideal.

One word of caution: while electric heated blankets might seem like a genius idea, they can pose safety risks. There are some brands that make small, lower-powered electric cat mats with auto-off functions after a certain time or temperature has been reached. Or try a thermal self-heating bed that works with body heat, like this one!

An orange cat with a green mug and wearing a blue scarf

Play!

Keep your cat active and engaged with regular playtime. Activity helps maintain their body heat and as an added bonus, it's good for both of you.

Build a winter emergency kit

Power outages or extreme weather can happen. Be prepared with an emergency kit that includes at least 1-2 weeks of cat food and water, as well as extra-warm bedding. This kit can be a lifesaver during unexpected winter storms and power outages.

Check hiding spots

Cats sometimes find unusual places to stay warm—from your dryer to the cupboard above your fridge. Regularly check around the house, especially near warm appliances or hidden nooks, to ensure they haven't snuggled into potentially unsafe spots.

Helping outdoor cats stay warm

Indoor cats are generally safer than their outdoor counterparts, but sometimes—especially if you're helping out the ferals and stray cats in your neighborhood—you can't bring them all inside.

During extreme conditions, let your pet outdoors only when absolutely necessary and for as short a time as possible.

Here are some tips for keeping those outdoor cats warm:

  • Offer dry shelters, like DIY insulated boxes with warm bedding (straw is actually a great insulator!).

  • Provide extra food, as cats burn more calories to stay warm.

  • Give kitties access to unfrozen water using solar water heaters or thick plastic bowls.

And one last very crucial safety tip for all of us: check your car's wheel wells and honk before starting your vehicle. Cats like to hide there for warmth!

White and orange cat hiding under a car wheel in the snow

The bottom line

Winter requires a bit of extra care for all cats, but with the right preparation, you can help them stay warm and cozy through the chilly months.

Want some bonus points? Take your winter prep a step further and consider getting a cat insurance policy! It's designed to help you pay for unexpected accidents and illnesses* that happen all year round.

*pre-existing conditions excluded. See your policy for details.


Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.