We are in the height of winter and I don’t know about you, but here, it is freezing out.
My thermostat is dialed right up to keep me and my family comfortable, making our house nice and cozy. But then I realized I’d been disregarding one important family member’s opinion… the cat’s! I started asking myself “What temperature do cats like?” and I realized I didn’t know the answer.
Cats are creatures of comfort, constantly sleeping and grooming themselves, and are great lovers of self-care. So, the house being at a too high or too low temperature for them will affect their behavior and mood. Therefore, I did some research info the ideal temperature for cats to ensure my feline friend was as comfortable as the rest of the family.
As it turns out, cats are more complex than we assume, and the ideal temperature for cats depends on their breed, age, size, and health condition, meaning there’s no magic number that works for all cats. That being said, if your house is in the range of 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, most cats will be comfortable and content.
Here’s a closer look at what the best house temperature for cats is and how to keep your cat safe whatever the weather!
What is a Cat’s Normal Body Temperature?
Before we go into what the perfect house temperature for cats is, we need to understand what a cat’s normal body temperature is and how they regulate this.
Many owners assume that a cat’s body temperature is the same as a human’s healthy temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, felines have an average core body temperature of 101.5 degrees, but it can range anywhere from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees. You may not think three degrees changes all too much, but you’d be wrong!
As cats have a higher core temperature, it means they’ll deal better with warmer weather. Whereas a blistering hot day for us may make us too hot, sweating buckets and seeking shade, cats find warmer weather much more comfortable. However, the opposite is true for winter and they struggle in the colder months of the year due to the difference in the outside temperature and their internal temperature.
It is important to remember that a cat’s core body temperature is not the same as its ideal external temperature. For example, despite our core temperature being 98.6 degrees, if it was the same temperature out, we’d be boiling. In fact, 75 degrees Fahrenheit would be a much more comfortable temperature. Our core body temperature is the ideal temperature of us, not our surroundings.
How Do Cats Regulate Their Body Temperature?
To maintain this optimal core temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, cats have to regulate it. Luckily, cats are very good at doing this and do this, either by increasing or decreasing the amount of heat produced by their body and using their environment to keep their temperature stabilized.
How Cats Keep Themselves Cool in Summer
In summer, because the outside temperature will be warm, your cat will aim to keep themselves cool by releasing heat into their environment.
You may have noticed your cat becoming less active and spread out on the floor. Do cats sleep more in hot weather? Yes! This is because moving uses energy and produces heat as a byproduct, so the more still your cat stays, the cooler they’ll be. By spreading out on the floor, your cat is also increasing the surface area of its body that is exposed to the air, allowing for more heat to escape.
Aside from these behavioral regulatory methods, cats’ bodies also sweat from their paw pads and their nose if they are exposed to extreme heat. This cools cats down as the sweat is evaporated into the air. This has a cooling effect on the skin and thus helps to lower their core body temperature. Cats are most likely to have evolved to have this thanks to desert cat species.
Similar to sweat, cats will also groom themselves more in the summer. By licking themselves they are dampening their fur, which will again have a cooling effect when this moisture evaporates. This is a great way for cats to cool down as they can groom their entire body, rather than sweat being concentrated on their paw pads and noses.
How Cats Keep Themselves Warm in Winter
When it comes to colder weather, cats also regulate their body temperature, this time trying to produce and keep as much heat as possible. However, cats cannot do this as successfully, especially if they are short-haired or hairless breeds.
Firstly, cats will seek more shelter if they are cold. If you have an outdoor cat, they will likely go outside less, and indoor cats will probably spend more time curled up in a ball trying to retain as much of their internal heat as possible.
Cats will also try to increase their metabolic activity when they are in the extreme cold, as this will produce energy and therefore heat. They do this through shivering. However, cats can also increase their metabolic heat through eating, as the energy needed to digest and break down their dinner will also produce heat. Therefore, your cat’s food consumption may increase in the winter months.
What Is the Ideal Temperature for Cats?
If cats can regulate their body temperatures so well, does the temperature of our homes really matter? Yes, it does! Although cats can regulate their body temperature, it does not mean they are comfortable doing so.
For example, if your house is too warm in the summer, you will sweat more, drink more, wear lighter clothes. However, this doesn’t mean we aren’t sticky, sweaty, and uncomfortable while doing so. Similarly, if our thermostats broke in the height of winter, we would be able to light a fire, drink warm drinks, and snuggle under thick blankets, but we’d still be counting down the days until the heating came back on.
Therefore, while cats can survive a range of temperatures, they should be at a comfortable middle temperature the majority of the time, one which is neither too hot nor too cold. The ideal temperature for cats is between 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but this does depend on four important factors: breed, size, age, and health.
1. Type of Breed
The breed of cat you have affects their ability to regulate heat dramatically.
Long-haired breeds such as Persians, Maine Coons, Ragdolls, or Himalayan cats are much better prepared for colder temperatures as their thick fur coats insulate their bodies. This makes it easier for them to retain any metabolic heat they produce and so they will be able to tolerate colder temperatures much better.
These long-haired cats have got their long fur because their country of origin is cold. Whereas we now have these cats as pets all over the world, they are typically from colder countries and have adapted to the weather. For example, Siberian Forest cats are from Russia which has one of the coldest climates, and Norwegian Forest Cats, as the name suggests, are from Norway which also has harsh winters and lots of snow.
Because of these thick coats of fur that long-haired breeds constantly carry around with them, they are not very well adapted to warmer climates and struggle in the heat. This is comparable to us wearing a thick winter coat in the middle of summer!
However, hairless cats such as Sphynx or Donskoy breeds are all well adapted to handle the heat thanks to their lack of fur. Yet, when looking at how they handle cold weather, hairless cats struggle big time.
To compensate for their lack of fur, a Sphynx’s core body temperature is actually four degrees higher than the average cats! However, despite this, they have no form of proper insulation, which still makes being in cold climates a challenge. This is why you may often spot your Sphynx curling up near the heat sources in your home on a cold day.
Finally, as short-haired breeds have a thin coat to help keep them warm in the winter, but not too thick that it makes them too hot in the summer, these cats are the easiest to appease.
2. The Age of Your Cat
The age of your cat is another important consideration when figuring out the ideal temperature for cats, and kittens younger than four weeks old struggle the hardest to regulate their body temperature.
This is because they are still developing their metabolic pathways. Because of this, kittens rely much more heavily on optimizing their external temperature, and so having a temperature that they like is essential. Otherwise, your kittens could develop hypothermia as they are unable to generate enough heat to keep themselves alive.
So, what temperature is too cold for kittens? Ideally, kittens should be kept at temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with anything lower posing a risk. This may be uncomfortable for us, but having one room set to a higher temperature if you are nursing young felines is essential to their health and wellbeing. You should also feed kittens regularly as this will help to keep them warm.
Optimizing the temperature of your home is also more important if you have a senior cat, as it is older cats can feel the winter chill much more than younger pets. This is partially down to aging cats losing bodyweight, specifically muscle mass. This provides them will less insulation and also slows down their metabolism, and thus their ability to generate heat as successfully.
Older cats may also start to lose their fur or it will become less soft and more bristly. The change in the quality of their fur therefore also makes them more sensitive to the cold. Additionally, they are likely less active than younger felines and so will produce less heath through physical activity.
This increased sensitivity to the cold means that your house will need to be kept slightly warmer in the winter months if you have a senior feline.
3. The Size of Your Cat
The size of your cat will also change what temperature they like. As a general rule, the smaller your cat, the harder it is for them to retain body heat. Therefore, while these cats will be fine handling hot summer days, colder temperatures will be uncomfortable.
On the other hand, larger cats such as Maine Coons will be able to handle cooler temperatures better. This is because bigger cats will have more mass in terms of both muscle and fat. The increase in muscle mass will result in a faster metabolic rate, allowing larger cats to generate more heat. Larger cats will be able to retain the heat that they generate better as well thanks to the increased layers of fat acting as an effective insulator.
Because of this, obese or overweight cats will also be able to handle the cold better as they will lose less heat to their environment.
4. Health Conditions
The health of your cat is also important when working out what temperature cats can tolerate, specifically if your cat has thyroid problems.
Hyperthyroidism is where your cat’s thyroid gland produces too much of a hormone called thyroxine which controls its metabolism. Excess amounts of this hormone will cause your cat’s metabolism to increase, which in turn generates a lot of heat. As a result, hyperthyroid cats are less tolerant of heat and prefer cooler temperatures.
If your cat has feline hyperthyroidism, you vet will have prescribed some type of treatment to try to correct the hormone imbalance. It is important to treat this condition, as the thyroid gland plays an important role in the body and could lead to heart disease or high blood pressure if left untreated.
On the other hand, having an underactive thyroid can also affect how well your cat tolerates different temperatures. Because of the reduced production of thyroxine, your cat’s metabolism will slow and they will become overly sensitive to the cold. Your cat may seek warmer places to lie to try to help, but would also benefit from having a warmer home to live in.
How Can I Choose The Right Temperature?
As you can see, there are several factors to consider. So, how can you choose the right temperature for your feline? What temperature is too hot for cats? What temperature is too cold for cats?
While kittens require a warmer environment to be healthy and survive their first few weeks of life, most cats will also have a preference for warmer places, ideally between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this is far too hot for humans. Plus, it is extremely expensive to have your thermostat turned up that high all year round.
Therefore, instead, it is better to ask yourself “What temperature can a cat tolerate?” Thankfully, this is a much bigger range. The ideal room temperature for cats in winter is no lower than 60 degrees and no higher than 90 degrees in the summer. Keeping the temperature of your home between these two figures all year round is a safe temperature for cats indoors.
Alongside this, there are also several ways that you can adapt your home to make it more comfortable as the seasons change.
How to Keep Cats Cool in Summer
In summer you should aim for your house to reach temperatures of no higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Do cats need air conditioning? No, but investing in a fan or an air conditioning unit is useful – both for you and your cat! However, if you don’t want to make this investment, there are also a few other things you can provide which with help your cat’s heat regulation.
- Keep Your Home Well-Ventilated: Try to keep your home well-ventilated in hotter months to help hot air escape from your home and keep the air circulating. If you have an indoor cat, you may be concerned that your feline would escape through your open window, but fear not – there are netting frames that you can fit over doors and windows. This will help to keep your house cool while giving you peace of mind that your cat won’t sneak out.
- Provide Plenty of Water: You also need to make sure you provide your cat with plenty of water in hot weather to keep them hydrated. As cats will be sweating and grooming themselves more in hot weather as a method of keeping them cool, this fluid loss must be replaced.
- Provide Plenty of Shade: If you have an outdoor cat, providing plenty of shade outside is important. This will give them the option to take a break from the heat when needed, providing them with a chance to cool down.
- Don’t Overexcite Your Cat: Although encouraging your cat to exercise to maintain good health is important, on extremely hot days it is best to take a more relaxed approach to playtime. If you overexcite your cat, they may overheat and become exhausted.
As well as keeping your cat cool in summer, you should also consider applying sunscreen to your cat as they can burn just as we can. While all cats have the potential of burning, cats with pale fur of hairless breeds such as Sphynx are at particular risk. Therefore, if you have a high-risk cat, you should apply sunscreen if you live in a hot climate.
You must use sunscreen that is only meant specifically for pets. Also, if it is the first time you’re using the product, only apply a little and see how your cat responds as they are sensitive creatures. When applying sunscreen, focus on the tip of your cat’s nose, the top of their ears, and their stomach, as well as anywhere else their fur is thin.
If you don’t want to apply sunscreen on your pale or hairless cat, consider keeping them indoors during the hottest hours of the day. The UV exposure will be highest at this time, so this is when your cat will be most likely to be burnt.
How to Keep Cats Warm in Winter
Of the two extremes, bitterly cold weather is of higher risk to felines. So, as well as keeping your house at a safe temperature of at least 60 degrees, there are some other things you can do to keep your cat happy and warm in the winter.
- Provide a Nutritious Diet: The better cats eat, the healthier they are. This will mean that their coat stays thick and healthy and will help protect them against cold weather. Plus, the healthier your cat, the higher their metabolism, and the better they will be able to generate heat. This will also keep their immune system functioning well so that they can fight off any winter illnesses.
- Initiate Play: You should also encourage your cat to play more in the winter months. Not only is this important for keeping them fit and healthy, but when cats exercise they will also produce energy which makes them warm. Choose their favorite toy and keep them moving for at least 15 minutes each day.
- Provide a Cozy Bed: If your cat does get too cold, they will want somewhere cozy to snuggle up. Try moving their bed to the warmest room in your home, or even put a soft blanket out next to a radiator. Cat radiator beds are a great option, providing your cat with a comfortable area to curl up in right next to a heat source.
If you have an outdoor cat, it is also important you know what temperature is too cold for cats outside. In fact, if the weather is lower than 45 degrees, you should consider keeping your cat indoors. At a minimum, you should ensure your cat comes inside at night when the temperature drops and lock the cat flap if you have one so they can’t sneak back out in the middle of the night.
If you do let your cat out over winter, make sure they have a shelter outside that they can escape to if the weather worsens. Also, leave plenty of fresh water sources outside as if the weather is cold enough the water could freeze over and your cat could become dehydrated.
Another good idea is to provide a litter box, even if your cat usually does its business outside. This means that they won’t have to head out into the cold every time they need the toilet. Lastly, if whenever your cat comes back in from outside, wipe off any snow from their paws to help them dry and warm back up.
Common Signs Your Cat is Too Hot or Too Cold
Even if you optimize your home for hot and cold conditions, your cat may still not be comfortable, and we must notice this before their condition worsens. As cats cannot communicate to us through speaking, we have to observe their behavior and their physical appearance to figure out if they are too hot or too cold.
If your cat is too hot and close to overheating, they may show the following signs:
- Excessive Panting: Although cats don’t ordinarily pant, when they start to overheat, they do. Although panting is a normal behavior in dogs, if your cat is panting, it is a clear sign that they are struggling to cool down.
- Red Gums: When your cat is hot, their blood vessels will expand so that they are as close to the surface of their skin as possible. This makes it easier for them to lose heat to try to lower their temperature. However, red gums are an indication that your cat is overheating.
- Changes in Behavior: If your cat starts acting a lot more lethargic than usual, they could be too hot. They are likely close to exhaustion and are struggling with the heat.
- Vomiting & Diarrhea: If you notice your cat starts vomiting or has diarrhea alongside any of the other signs I have mentioned, take this extremely seriously. At this point, your cat will not just be too hot – they are likely suffering from heatstroke and need to urgently see a vet.
Similarly, there are signs and symptoms that you can look out for if you think your cat is too cold. This includes:
- Cold Fur: Touch your cat – do they feel cold? If their fur on their ears and tail feels cold to touch, they are likely too cold. As these are your cat’s further extremities, these body parts will be the first to lose their blood supply and thus heat, so if they feel cold it is an indication that your cat is struggling to regulate its temperature.
- Napping Location: If your cat only naps near radiators or in sunny spots in your home, this is probably because they are too cold. Similarly, if your cat is hiding underneath blankets and cushions then they are probably trying to make themselves warm.
What Are the Dangers of Overheating?
The main danger that cats face in hot summer months is heatstroke, which is a type of hyperthermia. This is where your cat’s body is heated dramatically above its optimal temperature and they unable to cool themselves down.
It requires immediate treatment from a vet as if left untreated, your cat’s temperature will continue to rise. This will quicken their heart rate and breathing, potentially leading to seizures, coma, and, in the worst case, death.
It is therefore so important that you know the signs of overheating that I mentioned above so that you can help your cat cool down before heatstroke develops. Try turning on the air conditioning, rubbing your cat with a damp towel, and making sure they have fresh drinking water available. However, if your cat seems to still be struggling with getting its temperature back down or starts vomiting or having diarrhea, a trip to the vet is needed.
Whereas any cat can get heatstroke, brachycephalic breeds such as Persians and Himalayas are more prone to heatstroke. As well as having a long fur coat which means they don’t bode as well in hot climates, these cats are also short-nosed. This increases the risk of them developing breathing difficulties. As cats rely on panting when they are overheating to help cool themselves back down, heat exhaustion in these short-nosed breeds is more likely to lead to heatstroke as they can’t pant effectively.
What Are the Dangers of Being Too Cold?
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if cats are too cold then they develop hypothermia. This is essentially the opposite of heatstroke and is where your cat’s body temperature is dramatically cooler than it should be and they cannot seem to warm back up.
If you notice any of the symptoms I mentioned above, your cat could be at risk of hypothermia. This is extremely dangerous for cats as, unable to keep warm, their body temperature will continue to decrease. As they get colder and colder, their heart rate and breathing rate will slow down and they may have to go into a coma. In worst-case scenarios, your cat may die.
If you suspect your cat has hypothermia, you must try to help your cat stay as warm as possible by wrapping them up and moving them to a warmer area. You will also need to immediately contact your vet so that they can run any necessary tests and ensure your cat is nursed back to health.
So, what temperatures do cats like? The ideal temperature for cats is generally between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as cats are great regulators of heat, they are still comfortable in homes ranging from 60 to 90 degrees, which should be a comfortable temperature for you and your family too!
It is important to remember that this is just an average, as a range of factors including breed, age, size, and the health of your cat will determine what temperature is perfect for them. If you live in a country that has a severe climate, be sure to adapt your home to minimize the risk of your cat overheating or getting hypothermia. If they do, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible!
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