They may have fur, but our four-legged friends still get cold when the temperature dips. Add snow, sleet, wind and rain to the mix, and our kitties, even with their natural fur coats, are bound to be shivering just like the rest of us. Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to hypothermia—a dangerous drop in core body temperature—in cats just as it will in humans. Know what signs to watch for and how to “winterize” your outdoor cat.
Signs of cat hypothermia include prolonged and violent shivering, which speeds up a cat’s metabolism and thus serves as a short-term way for the body to warm itself up. But shivering takes a lot of energy, and if your cat is cold for too long, that energy will run out, and her body temperature will start to drop. Signs of more advanced hypothermia—weakness, disorientation and lethargy—will then start to show. If left untreated, these conditions will eventually lead to unconsciousness and even death.
It’s true that some animals are built to withstand frosty winter temps. But shorthaired or small animals just aren’t as up to the task. Neither are injured or sick cats or other small animals like rabbits. Older cats have a tougher time with the cold, too, especially those with arthritis, kidney ailments or respiratory problems. Here’s what you can do to help them cope–and keep warm.