Cats hate living in a cold house. Even worse, cats can easily catch a cold when it’s too cold. A cat with a low body temperature will show several symptoms that will alert you to a problem.
It is not too cold for cats as long as the ambient temperature in your home is above 68 °F (20 °C). Your cat’s ideal body temperature is between 100.4 and 102.6 °F (38.0 and 39.2 °C). If your home is freezing, warm your cat with a thick blanket or a hot water bottle.
Observe your cat’s behavior and take his temperature as needed to ensure it’s in the proper range.
Keep your cat away from drafts and cool areas of the home that could further lower their temperature.
When is It Too Cold for Cats?
As mentioned earlier, a cat’s body temperature should be between 100.4 and 102.6 °F ( 38.0 and 39.2 °C). This is slightly warmer than a human’s body temperature, which is between 97.7 and 99.3 °F (36.5 and 37.4 °C).
There will always be fluctuations in body temperature. It has also been scientifically proven that a cat automatically gets a little cooler when it sleeps. However, this is not enough to put the cat in danger.
The perfect room temperature for cats is 70 °F (21 °C), which is the average temperature in an apartment during the winter season. This will allow your cat to maintain its optimal body temperature.
Of course, this information is very general and refers to an average cat. For cats with a lot or minimal fur, things may be a little different.
Long-haired cats, for example, can retain heat better because their fur provides extra protection from the elements. A hairless cat like a Sphinx cat, of course, feels the cold much more acutely.
The temperature can cool more quickly at the extremities, even in long-haired cats. Thus, the paws can quickly become cold if the cat walks on cold tiles or has been outside in winter.
If the room temperature drops below 68 °F (20 °C), there is a risk of mild hypothermia. Adult cats are robust and can regulate their body temperature well, but you must be aware of the risk.
Hypothermia in Cats
Hypothermia is when the body loses heat more quickly than it can renew it. Hypothermia due to low room temperature is rare in healthy cats.
Cats are more likely to develop hypothermia during a surgical procedure because their hearts beat more slowly, reducing blood flow.
Hypothermia in cats progresses in three stages with different symptoms. Your cat’s body temperature will determine the degree of hypothermia.
- Mild hypothermia – 90-99 °F (32-37 °C): Muscle weakness, tremors, lack of concentration.
- Moderate hypothermia – 82-90 °F (28-32 °C): Stiff muscles, reduced heart rate, shallow breathing.
- Severe hypothermia – below 82 °F (28 °C): Dilated eyes, wheezing, heart failure, unconsciousness.
Room temperature is unlikely to give a cat more than mild hypothermia. Anything more severe indicates a medical problem.
Mild hypothermia can be remedied with blankets and hot water bottles. Moderate and severe hypothermia requires urgent veterinary attention.
How Can You Tell That Cats Are Cold?
Not all cats shiver when they are cold. Regardless of the ambient temperature, a cat should be able to warm up.
If the cat is comfortable, it will move to a colder place. Signs that your cat is cold include:
- Sleeping curled up
- Sleeping next to another cat to share body heat
- Huddling together and fluffing up their fur
- Sitting next to sources of heat
- Seeking proximity to receive body heat from you
If you ignore these early warning signs, your cat could develop mild hypothermia.
Check if your cat is cold by touching her ears, tail, and paw pads. These are the parts of a cat’s body where heat is most likely to escape.
How to Take the Temperature in Cats
Taking body temperature is more accurate, but it is an invasive procedure. Many cats will do anything to prevent you from taking their temperature.
If you need to take your cat’s body temperature, you can do so in two ways.
Rectal thermometers are an accurate way to take a cat’s temperature. There are two options: digital or mercury.
Digital thermometers are recommended because they give faster results and are, therefore, less stressful for the cat. Mercury thermometers are made of glass and should be used with caution.
Use the following steps to take your cat’s temperature rectally:
- Play with the cat to make it tired and compliant.
- Hold the cat, preferably by wrapping it in a soft towel.
- Reassure the cat with petting and treats.
- Make sure the thermometer reads less than 95 °F (35 °C).
- If you use a mercury thermometer, shake it.
- Put petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer.
- Carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch (2-3 cm) into the cat’s rectum.
- If you use a digital thermometer, wait for the beep.
- If you use a mercury thermometer, leave it in this position for two minutes.
- Remove the thermometer and release your cat.
The thermometer should read above 100.4 °F (38.0 °C). If it does not, your cat is hypothermic. Take care to provide warmth to your cat in any way you can.
Ear thermometers are less intrusive but also more expensive. Also, not all cats like it when you go near their ears.
If you want to use an ear thermometer, check how your cat responds. Tickle or pet your cat in the ear area.
If she bites, scratches, or flees, it probably won’t work. If your cat allows you to touch her ears, do the following:
- Reassure the cat by petting it.
- Lift the cat and press it firmly against your body.
- Hold the cat with a towel, as it will begin to squirm.
- Keep the thermometer horizontally and gently insert it into the ear canal.
- Ear thermometers are generally digital, so wait for a beep.
When you hear the beep, you can release the cat and read the temperature. As with rectal temperature, anything below 100.4 °F (38.0 °C) is problematic.
Why is My Cat So Cold?
Make sure your cat is not sitting in a draft. If the window is tilted or open, your cat will eventually freeze when it is cold outside.
Another frequent reason for a cat’s low body temperature is wet fur. Most cats don’t like water because it takes them so long to warm up again.
Cats that spend time outside may also have a persistently low body temperature.
Cats often seek shelter from extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow. However, this is not always possible.
If your cat comes home wet and cold, you should focus on raising their body temperature. This is especially important if the cat has been outside overnight.
Medical reasons for a cat to freeze, even if the room temperature is above 68 °F (20 °C), include:
- Respiratory infections
- Lack of food intake
- Ingestion of toxins
- Shock due to a fall or accident
- Side effects of anesthesia or medications
If your cat is cold for 24 hours or shows other signs of a health problem, you should see a veterinarian.
How Do You Warm Up a Cat?
Turn on the heat or use portable heaters. Ensure these are safe for cats, as a curious cat could burn itself on them.
This is enough to help a slightly hypothermic cat. However, you can also warm up your cat directly.
The easiest way to accomplish this task is to put blankets in the cat’s bed. Most cats can’t resist warm, soft materials.
You can also use the following materials to help your cat to get warmer:
- Hot water bottles
- Heat blankets and heat mats at low temperatures
Physical exercise can also raise your cat’s body temperature. Reach for their favorite toy and encourage them to play.
The more your cat moves, the more her circulation is stimulated. This will result in a higher body temperature.
You can also use this as an opportunity to cuddle with your cat. Some cats will take the opportunity to enjoy a bit of physical closeness. Of course, this is not a permanent solution.
If your home has a temperature of 70 °F (21 °C), your cat will not be too cold. But there is a risk of mild hypothermia for your cat if the temperature drops below this level.