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How to Keep Cats Warm and Healthy in Winter

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How to Keep Cats Warm and Healthy in Winter _ small tabby mixed breed kitten under gray and red wool plaid

Get answers to common winter cat care questions and some tips to keep your cat warm, happy, and healthy in the winter months.

Do Cats Get Cold?

Unless they're a very short-haired or hairless breed, cats typically have warm coats, and (hopefully) they stay inside. However, they can still get cold. For instance, they might get outside unexpectedly on a chilly day or find themselves stuck in a cold area of your house, like the basement, attic, or an uninsulated crawlspace.

They can also get cold if you turn the heat down too far or if it goes off unexpectedly while you're out. Keep your cat's comfort in mind when you turn down the heat as you're leaving the house. If it's especially cold out, you may want to leave it up a few degrees.

Most cats have a smooth protective outer coat and a soft inner coat for extra insulation. Get tips on caring for your cat's coat.

A Note on Outdoor Cats

Cats should be kept inside for their own health and safety. Cats who go outside are at a greater risk for catching diseases or parasites from other animals or getting hurt in an accident. These risks can be even higher in the winter when temperatures are colder, daylight hours are shorter, and visibility is lower due to bad weather. For instance, outdoor cats can be more likely to get frostbite, slip on an icy patch, get hit by a car, or lose their way home.

If you come across a stray cat or one decides to visit your home looking for food or warmth, you should contact your local shelter or animal control. They can help you determine the safest way to handle the situation. A stray cat may seem friendly at first, but they could be sick, injured, scared, or upset, which can lead to aggressive behaviors—exercise caution when dealing with any unfamiliar cat.

tips for keeping cats warm in the winter _ Tortoiseshell cat sitting in front of the fireplace

How to Keep Cats Warm in Winter

A loving cuddle on the couch together is one of the best ways to keep your cat—and yourself—warm in the winter. Here are some other tips to help your cat stay cozy:

  • Leave out a soft blanket, towel, or pet bed in a warm room so they can snuggle up on their own when they want to rest.
  • If you have an older cat with arthritis, consider buying them a pet bed designed to soothe aching joints, which may bother them more in the colder months.
  • Feed them a nutritious diet, which will help keep their coat thick and healthy
  • Make sure your heating system is reliable, especially if you need to leave your cat home alone for long stretches of time.

You can also warm up your cat by initiating an interactive game. Invite them to swat at a safe cat wand, hunt mice toys, or chase ping pong balls. Some cats love an obstacle course of cardboard boxes and paper bags, which you can set up easily. Just be sure to supervise them while they play and put the boxes and bags away when you're done.

Do Cats Get Dry Skin in the Winter?

Your cat's skin can get dry in the winter, just like ours. Dry skin may appear red, scaly, and flaky. If it's especially itchy, your cat may bite or scratch at it, causing sores and scabbing. Check your cat's skin regularly for any issues all year round but especially during the winter. If you notice any problems, visit your veterinarian for treatment advice.

You can also ask your veterinarian if omega-3 fatty acids would be useful to keep your cat's skin and fur healthy. Be sure to follow your veterinarian's dosage directions carefully, even if they're different than what is listed on the product label. Some products can have high dosing recommendations, which can cause issues for your kitty.

Can Cats Get Fleas in the Winter?

You might think fleas wouldn't be a problem in winter, but they're attracted to our warm houses when it gets cold outside. They may take a ride inside on your dog, your clothing, or an animal that gets into the house, which is something that can happen more often in the winter. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to combat fleas in the colder months.

Do Cats Sleep More in Winter?

Your typical cat might sleep anywhere from twelve to sixteen or even up to twenty hours a day. In the winter months, they may sleep even longer than usual in response to shorter daylight hours or changes in your routine, such as an earlier bedtime.

You don't necessarily need to worry about extended cat naps during the winter. However, you should contact your veterinarian if your cat is especially lethargic, missing meals, refusing to play as usual, or showing signs of illness like a messy coat. There may be more going on than extra winter ZZZ's.

tabby cat sitting by a window with flowers beside

Do Cats Get Seasonal Depression?

We can't tell exactly what's going on with our cats emotionally, but you may notice your cat is less engaged, sleeping more, and even looking a bit sad in the winter. Maybe they're down because they have less time to bask in the sun. Or perhaps they're responding to our own winter blues. Cats can be very in tune with our emotional states and may reflect back your feelings of restlessness or listlessness in the winter.

There are lots of ways to help keep your cat happy and engaged during the colder months. For instance, buy them a new toy or sprinkle a little catnip on an old favorite toy to renew their interest in it. Teach them a new trick like waving, shaking hands, or lying down. It can take patience and effort to train a cat, but it can be a fun bonding experience that's worth the time.

Another idea is to set up a bird feeder near a window for your cat's entertainment. Add a sturdy perch to the windowsill where your cat can sit comfortably and watch the birds come and go. Make sure the window is secure so your cat can't harm the birds or get hurt trying.

Top 9 Cat Winter Safety Tips

These tips can help you keep your cat happy and safe during the winter.

  1. Stock up on cat supplies – Snowstorm coming? Check to see if you need to add cat food, treats, or litter to your shopping list before you run out to get your bread and milk.
  2. Secure entrances and exits – For instance, if you've swapped out screens for storm windows, make sure they're safely installed so your cat can't push on them and get outside.
  3. Feed them a healthy diet – Good nutrition will help them maintain a thick coat, support a strong immune system, and avoid common winter ailments, like upper respiratory infections.
  4. Keep them hydrated – Dehydration isn't only a problem in the summer. Dry heat in winter can contribute to dehydration, so be sure your cat has easy access to fresh water.
  5. Protect them from intruders – Close up any spaces where animals might get into your home, such as cracks in the foundation or open chimney flues. Animals who get inside can injure your cat or transmit contagious diseases, like rabies.
  6. Practice fire safety – Cats love to curl up by the fireplace, so make sure it is safely screened off. If you like to light candles or use them as holiday decorations, keep them out of paw's reach. Your cat could get burned if they get too close or knock them over and start a fire.
  7. Be careful with space heaters – Cats also enjoy napping near space heaters and can accidentally tip them over. Be sure to purchase space heaters that have an automatic shut off to avoid a fire hazard.
  8. Keep winter chemicals out of paw's reach – The products you use to thaw ice or keep your car running like antifreeze can be toxic to your cat. Store them safely and clean up any spills right away.
  9. Visit the veterinarian – Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups. Routine wellness care can help your cat stay healthy all year round.

And of course, give your cat lots of love and attention to keep their motor running all winter long!

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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