When is It Too Cold for Cats to Go Outside in Winter?

Outdoor cats are usually out and about in wind and weather – but how does it actually look in winter? Are there temperatures at which kitties shouldn’t go outside? When does it get too cold for cats? Your animal world tells you.

As a rule, cats are naturally well-equipped for the cold – especially if your cat is outside every day and is not used to warm air from the heating system anyway.

Nevertheless, cold temperatures in winter mean that your cat will freeze, want to warm up in dangerous places, or risk health problems.

A good rule of thumb is the zero degrees mark: Many vets advise against letting cats outside the door as soon as the outside temperature drops below freezing point. Because then it is so cold outside that cats can get hypothermia or frostbite. And in the worst case, they can lead to death.

There is a Risk of Hypothermia and Frostbite

If the cat is hypothermic, the body temperature drops so much that its central nervous system is weakened and the heart has difficulty pumping blood around the body. Then chilblains can also form in the extremities. The dangerous thing: as soon as your cat becomes hypothermic and develops frostbite, it can hardly bring itself to safety.

This is why some vets recommend leaving cats indoors even when the average daily temperature is seven degrees or less. And: cats freeze faster, especially in damp weather such as rain or snow.

Cats Need a Warm Retreat When It Gets Cold

But there are other dangers lurking outdoors cats in winter: When it gets colder outside, cats look for places where they can warm up. And unfortunately, these are often cars that still have a warm engine from the journey. It is not uncommon for cats to hang around under hoods in winter.

This is of course dangerous for the kitties – they are often so well hidden that drivers cannot discover them in time.

Veterinarians and animal welfare associations, therefore, advise drivers to look under their cars before driving. They should also horn and knock on the hood to scare away any hidden pussies. After a minute you can start the engine. In this way, you protect not only your own cats but also the outdoor cats from the neighborhood.

Of course, because of the dangers, the cold presents to cats, it is safest to keep cats inside during the winter. But not all outdoor cats can withstand a sudden existence as house tigers.

As an alternative, you should therefore ensure that your cat has a safe and warm retreat outdoors. It shouldn’t lie directly on the ground and should be closed on each side – except for the entrance – to provide protection from the wind. In addition, the cat den should be insulated, covered with warm blankets, and large enough for the cat to turn around in it.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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