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Can certain seasons increase your cat’s appetite and do cats need to eat more in winter and less in summer?

When feeding your cat, you may have noticed that their appetite changes slightly with the seasons, and this is completely normal. Many cats will eat more in the winter and less in the summer, due to the way the temperature affects their metabolism.

Why do cats eat more in winter and less in summer?

Like other mammals, including humans, cats tend to eat more during the colder winter months. A study conducted by the University of Liverpool found that cats eat 15% more in winter than they do in summer, likely due to the extra energy they need to keep warm when the temperature drops. In summer, they don’t need as much energy to keep warm, so can eat a little less.

long-haired grey-and-white cat sat behind red food bowl licking their lips

Should I feed my cat more in winter?

As cats need more calories to keep themselves warm in winter, it’s ok to feed your cat a little more than usual during the colder months, even if they are an indoor house cat. However, because obesity is a common problem in cats, it’s important to monitor your cat’s weight to make sure they aren’t piling on too many pounds. Your vet will be able to advise on your cat’s ideal weight and you should try to make sure they go no more than 10% over this. If you do feed your cat more in winter, make sure you readjust their food intake again in summer. Find more advice on feeding your cat.

Do cats get fatter in winter?

You may have noticed your cat looking a little larger in winter, but this isn’t necessarily a sign that they’ve put on weight. Cats’ fur, particularly their undercoat, tends to get thicker in winter to act as extra insulation to keep them warm. They can also puff their fur up to help trap warm air close to their body, keeping out the cold.

In order for their winter coat to grow in, cats need to shed their summer coat, so you may notice your cat losing lots of this excess fur in the autumn. Regular grooming will help with this process, so try brushing your cat at least once a week (or daily if they have long fur) so their winter coat can grow in quicker. They’ll then start to shed their winter coat in the spring to make way for their thinner, cooler summer coat, so grooming will help then too. Find more advice on grooming your cat.

How to keep your cat healthy during winter

  1. Encourage play
    If your cat is eating more in winter and spending more time indoors where it’s warm, encourage them to play a little every day to keep them fit and healthy. It will help to avoid them getting too overweight and keep their mind active too, staving off boredom. Find out how to play with your cat.
  2. Provide somewhere cosy
    As the temperatures starts to drop, make sure your cat has somewhere they can go to keep warm. This could be a cosy bed or cardboard box indoors, or a weather-proof outdoor shelter. Find out how to make an outdoor cat shelter.
  3. Provide an indoor toilet
    If your cat normally toilets outside, they may be more reluctant to do this when it’s cold, wet or windy, so provide them with a litter tray indoors too, somewhere quiet and private.
  4. Provide fresh water indoors
    During winter, your cat’s outdoor sources of drinking water may freeze over, so make sure they always have access to a bowl of fresh water indoors.
  5. Dry them off
    If your cat has ventured out in the rain or snow, when they return indoors give them a quick wipe down with a towel to help them dry off. Also check their paws for any compacted mud, snow or road grit or salt and give them a wipe if they’re dirty.

Find more advice for keeping your cat safe in cold weather.

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