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Discover what temperature is too cold for cats to survive and how to spot the signs of hypothermia and frostbite in your cat

Despite their thick, furry coats, cats can feel the cold just like humans and other animals.

Cats are warm blooded creatures with a normal body temperature of 38 to 39 degrees Celsius (100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit), which is only slightly higher than ours, and need to keep their body temperature at this level to stay healthy. They are also descended from the desert-dwelling African wildcat, so much prefer warm temperatures to cold, although some breeds, such as Siberian cats, have adapted to live in colder climates. 

black cat sat on cream-coloured fleece blanket in front of lit fireplace with person sat on the floor behind them

During the winter months, cats are often very good at finding the cosiest places to keep warm, and their fur provides great insulation to keep the cold out. This means that even when it feels chilly to us, cats will usually be feeling sufficiently warm. However, if temperatures drop too low, they can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. 

How cold is too cold for cats?

If it is cold outside, make sure your cat has free access to the house so they can come inside when they want to – they are usually very good at knowing when it’s too cold for them and when it’s time to seek warmth indoors. If there is extreme weather, such as blizzards or storms, it is best to bring them indoors and keep them in until the bad weather has passed. Also be aware that elderly cats, sick cats, kittens and certain breeds of cat with little or no fur will feel the cold even more, so it is best to keep them indoors if the weather is cold.

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

How do I know if my cat is cold?

ginger-and-tabby cat sat on fleecy cat bed hanging on a radiator on the wall

If your cat is feeling chilly, they will most likely seek out somewhere cosy and curl up into a ball to keep themselves warm. If they are otherwise behaving normally then there is no need to worry, and you could try some of our tips below for cost-effective ways to help keep them cosy. 

However, if your cat is unable to find somewhere warm and they become extremely cold, their core body temperature could become dangerously low resulting in hypothermia, and they could suffer from skin damage caused by frostbite. 

Signs of hypothermia in cats

These can also be signs of other serious health conditions, so if you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, contact your vet straight away.  

Signs of frostbite in cats 

If you notice any of these signs, speak to your vet straight away. Hypothermia and frostbite are extremely dangerous and need to be treated quickly by a vet. You can also try some of these first aid tips while you arrange urgent veterinary care:

Hypothermia first aid

Cost-effective ways to keep your cat warm in winter

two brown tabby kittens sat inside a cardboard box with a knitted blanket

There’s no need to spend lots of money on keeping your cat warm in winter. Unless the temperature indoors drops to seven degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower, there is no need to put the heating on just for your cat’s benefit, as even if you feel chilly, their fur will be helping to keep them warm. Here are some tips for keeping your cat warm on a budget.

  1. Make them cosy beds – You don’t need to buy expensive cat beds to keep your cat warm. Cardboard boxes lined with blankets or old jumpers will work perfectly. Place them in quiet, warm and dry areas of the house, away from any draughts, and make sure your cat can access them whenever they want to.
  2. Keep them indoors at night – It is best to keep your cat indoors at night all year round, but especially in winter when the temperature at night can drop particularly low. Make sure any exits are closed off to prevent escape and that they have a litter tray to use indoors whenever they need to.
  3. Dry them off – If your cat has been outside in the rain or snow and is comfortable being handled, gently dry them off with a towel when they come back indoors as they will feel colder if their fur is damp. If your cat appears stressed by being dried off, leave them alone – most cats will groom to dry themselves off anyway, providing they have somewhere warm to go. 

Find more money-saving tips for cat owners. 

Stray and feral cats in the cold

long-haired brown tabby-and-white cat sat on wooden log outside in the snow

When the weather turns cold, stray and feral cats are usually very good at finding somewhere to keep warm, such as outbuildings, sheds or garages. When closing up any outbuildings, always have a quick check for cats so you don’t lock them in. Cats may also sometimes sneak into car bonnets to warm themselves from the heat of the engine, so have a quick check before you start up your car to make sure no cats are hiding inside. 

Find out what to do if you find a cat and how to make them an outdoor cat shelter to keep them warm. 

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