Everything you need to know about your cat’s health this winter

Posted by Argos, January 15th 2020, last updated March 2nd 2022.

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, with the shorter days and colder weather, you’ll notice a change in your cat’s behaviour this winter.

Different breeds can withstand varying levels of cold. For example, Persian and Norwegian Forest cats have thick and soft fur that keeps them warmer for longer than a short-hair cat. Even if your furry friends are typically very capable of caring for themselves, winters can be quite harsh so you should monitor their time outdoors to avoid getting frostbite or hypothermia.

Fluffy tricolour cat sat on a tree branch in the snow looking at the camera

How do I know if my cat has frostbite?

Symptoms of hypothermia in cats can include the following:

  • Shivering
  • Weakness
  • Lack of awareness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Short, shallow breathing

Frostbite usually affects the tips of a cat’s ears, their tail, and feet which, as a result, may appear grey or pale in colour. To avoid this, make sure there is no snow or ice stuck to their fur or paws when they come back indoors. If you think your cat has frostbite or are unsure, take them to the vet immediately and follow further instructions. 

Should I keep my cat indoors during winter?

If you’re looking to keep your cats warm and safe, it is important to encourage as much time indoors as possible. Small cats have less thermoregulation and don’t tolerate the cold very well. While older cats may suffer from age-related diseases such as arthritis, weak immune systems or decreased muscle mass. In combination with the harsh weather, your cat may have difficulty facing the cold despite their desire to get outdoors.

If your cat is typically an outdoor cat, make sure to double-check your cat doors. Ensuring your pet still has easy access to get indoors and it hasn’t been cemented by the cold.

It is also important to provide your cat with a litter tray so they have less inclination to go outdoors. Keeping them entertained with lots of toys can also distract them enough to stay indoors for longer periods of time.

Do cats sleep more in winter?

Cats become lazier during the winter, preferring to find a warm place to sleep. To maintain their body heat, cats prefer small spaces and the “donut” position to get cosy. Unless your cat is elderly or requires assistance, try moving their bed up higher off the ground to avoid any drafts. 

The ideal room temperature for cats in winter depends on their breed, age, size, and health. Broadly, the optimum temperature is somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius – based on a cat’s natural body temperature between 38 and 39 degrees Celsius[1]. It’s unrealistic for humans to keep their homes at the cat’s ideal temperature but luckily, cats can adapt comfortably to temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees Celsius in the home. Putting their bed near a source of heat can provide them with extra warmth to keep them safe and happy.

A well-padded igloo bed is an especially good option during the winter months because it is enclosed and will help your cat keep warm.

While outdoors your cat will seek out any warm place they can find. The engine compartment of a car or above the wheel can become a shelter for many cats in winter as it helps them stay warm. Before starting your engine, make a loud noise or bang on the hood of your car to warn any possible furry friends.

Do cats eat more in winter?

While your kitty may be sleeping more, you’ve probably also noticed them eating more too. Whether they are an outdoor or indoor cat, the colder months require more nutrition because your cat is now burning more calories.

You could try choosing between larger portions or more frequent feedings, rather than just having a bowl of food always available, because free feeding can lead to your cat eating out of boredom and possible weight gain.

Don’t forget to make clean water readily accessible indoors if your outdoor bowls keep freezing.

Your cat may be eating more, but they’re still intolerant to festive flowers like poinsettias and lilies. Around the holiday season, you should keep them away from Christmas trees and tinsel so they don’t become ill and require a trip to the vet.

What should I know about my cat’s general health?

You may be wondering if cats breed in winter and the answer is yes. Your feline friends are capable of breeding all year round. Cats typically go into heat during the summer months as the focus is usually to conserve their energy when it’s cold and to help their kittens survive winter. However, female cats that aren’t spayed often come into season over and over again, meaning they can be almost continuously in heat.

To debunk another assumption, if you’ve ever wondered “can cats have fleas in winter?”, the answer is yes. Fleas don’t hibernate, so if you see tiny bugs bouncing off your pet’s fur, it’s time to pull out the fine-toothed metal comb! 

One of the biggest threats to your cat’s health in winter is antifreeze. The liquid is added to the water in a car’s engine cooling system, lowering the freezing point to help it run smoothly. Antifreeze can also be added to windshield wiper fluid and while essential when it gets cold, the liquid is incredibly poisonous to your cat.

While the liquid tastes sweet and enticing to cats, it is toxic. Consumption can result in nausea, vomiting, twitching muscles, unsteady walking, and an increased level of thirst and urination in your furry friend. If you suspect your cat has antifreeze poisoning, take them to the vet immediately.

Look after your cat’s health this winter and all year round with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our cat insurance policies today.

[1] PDSA, 2018. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/

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