Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Do domestic cats feel the cold?

Do domestic cats feel the cold? There are six topics to be addressed in answering this question. 

Wildcat ancestor from hot climate

Firstly, the North African wildcat is the wild ancestor of the domestic cat. That wild cat's attitude towards the cold and towards heat is within the domestic cat. And the North African wildcats as you can imagine live in a very warm climate.

Do domestic cats feel the cold?
Do domestic cats feel the cold? Yes, of course but they tolerate it better than humans. Image: MikeB

Feline behaviour

This is why the domestic cat likes to be in a warm environment. That's why they like to be on your lap if they are lap cats. That is why they sleep in the airing cupboard where the hot water cylinder is. That is why my cat is right now in a utility room where the boiler (furnace) is situated.

We know that domestic cats like warmth. They seek it everywhere all the time. Therefore, by definition, they dislike cold. That's the first point.


The third point is that domestic cats are very tolerant. They are less complaining than humans. They are more tolerant of pain and distress. There are more tolerant of extreme conditions. That does not mean they don't feel the cold, it just means that they tolerate it better than humans at a psychological level. Their brain processes the feeling of discomfort, in this instance through being cold, better than humans do.

You will find stories on the Internet of domestic and stray cats being frozen to the ground, literally. In these instances, sometimes, when the cat has been rescued, they've had to amputate their paws because of frostbite. A horrible thought.

And of course, feral cats in many parts of the world survive winter in freezing conditions. That's why nice people who operate TNR programs provide feral cats with little homes which are insulated so they can at least feel warmer during those very cold days and nights.

Cat coats

We therefore know that domestic cats feel cold but they tolerate cold better. And one reason why they are better able to tolerate cold is because they have a permanent overcoat on them 👍✔️.

Clearly, some cats are better protected in this regard than others. The longhaired cats with a downy undercoat are going to feel less cold than sleek, single-coated cats.

The well-known Maine Coon cat example has a shaggy, semi-longhaired coat because they originate in the state of Maine as barn cats. They were semi-domesticated in that state, before they became show cats, in the 1800s and before.

Siberian cats
Siberian cats. Image in public domain.

The Siberian purebred cat is another example of a domestic cat with a history of coming from a cold part of the world. They have coats designed for cold climates.


Arguably they will be too hot in warm homes and in warm climates. A thought. An interesting further thought is this: Siberian cats and Maine Coon cats (for example - there are other breeds) would not have evolved through natural selection to have these warm, longhaired coats unless nature recognised the fact that they needed to keep warm and in doing that nature obviously agreed that they feel the cold. Evolution has protected these cats from cold conditions. It is, therefore, an admission that domestic cats and semi-domestic cats feel the cold.

Nervous system and anatomy

It has to be said that the anatomy of the domestic cat is really very similar to that of humans in very many ways. And certainly, in terms of feeling and detecting cold their nervous system and brain is very similar to that of humans. This strongly supports the idea that domestic cats feel the cold.

Longhaired feral cats

Interestingly, you will find that there are very few feral cats that are long haired because the gene that creates long hair is recessive. That means two carriers of the gene are going to have to meet and procreate to produce a litter of kittens that are longhaired. 

Most feral cats you see will be shorthaired. And they will feel the cold. But in feeling the cold, as mentioned, they process it in a way which enables them to accept it without complaint

Friday 9 December 2022

Drivers should make a quick but vital check before setting off in their car this winter

There are two ways that domestic, stray and feral cats can use parked cars to help them survive a cold winter:

  1. Rarely but significantly, some cats and sometimes kittens crawl into the engine space to warm up because the car has been recently used and the engine compartment is still warm. They might stay there until the next morning when the car is reused.
  2. More commonly and not quite as dangerous for the cat, they might go under a car to shelter and for protection.

In fact, when I go for a walk with my cat along the pavement (sidewalk) to buy the paper in the early hours of the morning, my cat goes under cars. I don't like it and I wait for him, and he eventually waits in a certain position which is safe to pick me up when I return.

Larry the Cat underneath President Trump's car
Larry the Cat underneath President Trump's car. Image in public domain as assessed. The then President Trump was visiting the UK's Prime Minister at No. 10 and he arrived in The Beast, his bomb proof car. Larry is the resident cat at No 10.

But the point is obvious; cats like to go under cars because they provide protection above them, and they feel secure and warmer.

In those places where there are lots of stray or feral cats and indoor/outdoor cats, it obviously makes sense for drivers to check around their cars and under their cars in the morning for a cat that might be sheltering from the frost. It'll take 60 seconds.

I have to say, that I sometimes do it myself not to protect stray cats because there are none in my area but to protect my cat who is an indoor/outdoor cat. Sometimes he makes his way to the front of the house where the car is parked, and it is just possible he may go under the car and be there when I use it.

The danger is probably slight because when you get into a car and start the engine you make a noise which will frighten them, and they will run off. However, that scenario is not certain. They may be snoozing for example.

And nobody wants to be responsible for the death of somebody's pet cat.'s spokesperson, Tim Alcock, said:

 "We're asking every driver to spend a couple of minutes checking for any pets that might be lurking around the tyres or under the car. If you do find a cat under the car, give it a nudge or shoo it away before turning on the engine. It's important for all drivers to be aware of this and not just those who own cats. After all, cats don't just target their owner's cars for a snooze. Accidentally harming a neighbour's cat could seriously damage relations with the neighbour themselves and could lead to all kinds of bitterness and other issues".

The last point I think is an important one. The loss of a cat is bad enough but if that is compounded by an ongoing dispute with your neighbour the problem becomes far worse.

Neighbour disputes about cats are not uncommon. I've had one myself. A neighbour two houses down put down rat poison to protect her damned roses. My cat is a committed hunter. I told her that it was dangerous to put down rat poison because my cat frequented that area around her house.

She refused to change her mind and use rat traps for example. My immediate neighbours would not speak up on my behalf. I fell out with both my neighbours. My cat brought in a poisoned rat and was contemplating eating it before I stopped him. He was that close to being poisoned.

I have not been friendly with the neighbour who put down the rat poison and I won't be again. I'm on speaking terms with my immediate neighbour after a year.

The story does not concern cars and cats, but it does concern neighbour disputes about cats and their safety.

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Can domestic cats live outside in the winter?

Not sure why the question is being asked by someone because domestic cats are not meant to live outside in the winter! They are not designed to do that. They live with people inside their homes. That said the domestic cat is rugged and enduring but they will be hurt by some winters. It depends on what kind of winter it is which depends on where they are.

Siberian cat lost limbs through frostbite
Siberian cat lost limbs through frostbite (see link above). Image: PoC.

There are stories of domestic cats getting frostbite and losing their toes and part of their feet as a result. Horrible - see picture above for instance. I have read stories of domestic cats being frozen to the ground by ice. They have been injured by the cold. And sometimes ear flaps can suffer frostbite leading to amputations. You might have seen domestic cats with prosthetic legs. These are cats who've lost the ends of their legs to frostbite.

Domestic cats are very stoic and enduring. They will put up with very cold weather as the stories testify. But they'll be hurt sometimes and sometimes they will quietly die. We don't see stories about that. How many domestic, stray and feral cats died or were injured by the recent devastating Texas big freeze which claimed the lives of many people because of heating supply problems?

There are no hard and fast rules on whether domestic cats can live outside in the winter. No one's counting and no one has done a study on it. If a domestic cat is forced by unfortunate circumstance to live outside all winter and they live in Canada where it is bloody cold, it is distinctly possible that they will die of hypothermia particularly if their food supply is scarse and they become underfed.

Cats are good survivors but a relentless series of days when the temperature is below freezing will harm and kill domestic cats but it does, as mentioned, depend on the circumstances. In the urban environment there are opportunities to find some warmth and some sustenance.

Kind people feed stray cats. Some make individual shelters for ferals and strays out of cooler boxes for example. Some take the cats in and adopt them. There are food scaps around the place and many unwanted stray domestic cats make their way through cat flaps to 'steal' cat food inside homes. This is common actually. So, yes, when the circumstances are right a domestic cat can live outside in the winter. They'll gradually become feral.

They will lose their health and coiffed appearance. They'll become ragged and sometimes dirty. Their lifespan will be shortened but they might survive.

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