Winterize Your Cat

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.

Outdoor Cats Can’t Resist

Your cat insists on spending some time outdoors, but it’s cold out there. Fine. Just keep the outside jaunt short, depending on how cold it is and your kitty’s individual condition. For example, if Fluffy is 13 years old and weighs about 5 pounds, follow her around the yard for 5 to 10 minutes, then shoo her back inside.

Cat Shivering? Warm Her up Stat

If your cat shows signs of hypothermia, bring him indoors immediately. Wrap him in blankets, then crank up the heat a few degrees or let him curl up next to the fireplace. Stay with your cat until the signs begin to disappear. You’ll know that he’s warming up if he stops shivering, seems more alert and responsive, and his temperature reaches 100°F. When your cat is comfortable, give him some food and water. Fuel will help generate warmth and strength. If your cat’s condition does not improve, or if he loses consciousness, call your vet immediately.

When it’s Raining Cats and Dogs

Cats can easily end up with hypothermia if they get wet on a chilly, rainy day and don’t have a chance to dry off. For instance, if your cat spends a night outside in a cold rain, hypothermia is an all-too-likely result. If your cat gets wet and chilled, be sure to get her indoors to a warm room ASAP. Warm up a few bath towels in the dryer for several minutes, then wrap them around your kitty while they’re still warm. Be careful to wrap the warmth around your cat’s chest and abdomen and where the legs connect to the body. Keep rotating the towels between the dryer and cat until her condition improves. If it doesn’t improve, call the vet.

Cats in the Cold: Whatever You Do, Keep her Cozy

Even if you don’t have a dryer, wrap your cat in one or two large towels anyway and drape one or two more over a radiator, near a lit woodstove or fireplace, or in front of any other available heat source. Rotate the towels between heat source and cat, staying with your pet until she’s warm and dry. Then give her some food and water. If your cat’s condition does not improve, or if she loses consciousness, call the vet immediately.

Put Her on the Big Screen

If you’re concerned that your outdoor cat may roam too far during the colder months, consider making use of a screened porch or balcony. Let your cat outside in this enclosed area for 15 to 20 minutes—10 minutes if the temperature is, say, less than 20°F. She’ll get fresh air, survey her territory, and stretch her legs—all within a safe proximity to the warm house.


Frances D.
Frances Darcy6 years ago

Good ideas which I will be deploying this winter.Sadly our last cat was killed, last year, so this cat will be spoiled,. Our last cat loved sitting on the radiator, and , if she got the chance of an open bedroom door, she would snuggle under bedclothes causing a few scarey shouts.

Chrysta Stoutenger

Good tips I keep blankets in my shed where my outdoor/indoor cat sleeps with food and water and litter. He goes out once in awhile but i bring him in and warm him up once a day. :)

Jeanne F.
Jeanne Fox7 years ago

I NEED HELP AND ADVICE. It's 17 degrees out. I have been feeding an outside cat for 5 months now, bought him an insulated cat house which he uses on the front porch. But it's 17 degrees out and I'm very concerned about him. I got him to come into our breezeway - have the electric heater on but the side door open 6 inches so he can come/go not feel trapped. Thoughts???

Kha Bliss
Past Member 7 years ago

My Bluebell and Chloe and snug by the fire inside, they never go out!

Barbara L.
Barbara L7 years ago

Wow! That kitty in the picture is the exact replica of one I had that LOVED the snow. She would beg to go out on our deck and roll in it! Except for that, she, and all my other cats, have always been indoor kitties, spayed and completely vetted.

Sarah Tomlinson
Ruby Tomlinson7 years ago

My Cats just will not go out in the snow! They also do not like it when it is too hot, too cold, too wet and too windy....They like a perfect Spring day!!!

Harriet S.
Harriet S7 years ago

For those in very cold areas if you can make a space for the kitties to get close to the house there is heat that escapes most homes. windows are a great place to investigate. A cat house mounted against your windows and keep it so cats can get into it from the ground or furniture left out in bad weather. You can fix it so the window can be opened from inside and food and water placed in house daily. And you can clean it this way as well. Then in the spring you can remove it or fix so you can keep plants or something else in it. If it has a flat top you'll find the cats sleep on top of it when the weather is good. Ferrel cats are a problem as far as I am concerned. We need to fix those little boys when they are born. otherwise they are stinky little babies and to no fault of their own they are just doing their thing. But it certainly isn't our thing. If anyone has suggestions please notify me. 6 cats and climbing and five outside all but one is a rescue and all but one newbie is fixed(his nickname is stinky). We do have fights sometimes but generally they coexist quite well.

Carole D.
Carole D7 years ago

I live in an apartment. My cats stay warm all the time. My precious babies are loved and cared for always.

Victoria B.
Victoria B7 years ago

Make sure there is always fresh water outside for animals, they become dehydrated if all the water is frozen over, they need water especialy if there has been salting of the roads, it can be the only water around and it is dangerous as it is full of salt, will affect their kidneys badly. Just putting a bowl or two of fresh water out regularly throughout the day can save numerous lives.

Tamila mendoza
Tamila mendoza7 years ago