For the most part people living in the San Diego area are not exposed to frigid temperatures. If the temperature does drop, you grab a sweater, sweatshirt, jacket or blanket to help keep you warm. You may think that your cat has a built in fur coat so they should be fine – but are they?
According to a study by the National Research Council, the thermoneutral zone (TNZ) for a domestic cat is 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. The TNZ is the range of temperature in which cats don’t have to generate extra heat to keep warm or expend energy to cool themselves. It is in fact the ideal temperature range for them.
In contrast, the TNZ for dogs is 68 to 95 degrees and there is variability in that zone and dogs also have a tolerance for lower temperatures. The TNZ for humans is between 64 and 72 degrees, in part because humans wear clothes.
Given this information, a cat’s TNZ is 20+ degrees higher than that for humans. So chances are that your cat is actually colder than you in chilly weather despite that built in fur coat.
Why is a cat’s TNZ so high?
It is believed that the domestic cat is a descendant of the African wildcat, also known as the Near Eastern wildcat. These wildcats still roam the deserts of Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries. The average annual temperature in these geographical regions is 86 degrees with a high over 104 degrees during the summer months. Knowing this, we can see why our domestic cats like warmer climates – it is in their genes.
How can you make sure your cat is warm enough?
Living in Southern California, you – and your cat – have an advantage in the battle to keep warm over fellow cat owners in areas that see harsh winters with snow and ice. But your cat will still appreciate you lending them a hand to keep warm.
1. Cats love lying in the sun and you should take advantage of the areas in your home that get sunlight. Your cat may naturally gravitate towards those spots, but you can also place kitty condos, bedding and shelves in places where your cat can take advantage of this source of natural heat.
2. Give your cat a variety of blankets and cat beds to sleep on – or under! Some cats love to burrow under a blanket to stay warm.
3. Sleep or cuddle with your cat so they can absorb your body heat. If you have multiple pets, you may also find your cat snuggling up to them for extra warmth.
4. If your cat is older and under-weight, it is even harder for them to keep warm. There are a variety of heated cat beds available that your cold cat would appreciate. Choose from the plug-in style flat pads and heated cups, microwavable heating pads, DIY microwavable options or beds that capture, hold and radiate the cat’s own body heat. Do remember that your cat needs to be able to remove themselves from the heating source if they are feeling over heated.
5. Laptops are a good source of heat, so you may find your feline friend lying as close as possible to your computer in an effort to soak up the heat being radiated out from it. Just make sure you don’t leave your computer open and unattended or you may be surprised by the windows that are open when you get back!
6. You most likely do not want to heat your home to 86 or higher degrees, but perhaps an occasional blast from a supervised space heater will give your cat that added warmth it is seeking.
Cats like comfort and they have a sense of how to seek it out. When they are feeling chilly, they will appreciate your efforts of offering them ways to stay warm!