What Temperature Do Cats Like? Do They Have a Preference?
We often change our thermostats as the seasons change without taking into consideration our cat’s preferences. Cats are most comfortable at a temperature between 86 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit, or 30 to 36 degrees Celsius. This is their thermoneutral zone where they do not need to expend energy to either heat up or cool down. They can tolerate temperatures outside this range, but they must have a place to warm up or cool down. If they’re having difficulty maintaining their body temperature or adjusting to their surroundings, that can be a sign of illness.
It’s your job as a cat owner to keep your cat comfortable and recognize when they need help, but part of doing that means understanding what temperature cats like and how they maintain their body temperature in the first place. This article includes everything that you need to know about determining if your cat is too cold, too hot, or just right!
What Is a Cat’s Body Temperature?
A cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius. While some felines fall slightly below or slightly above this range, anything above 104°F (40°C) or below 99°F (37.2°C) warrants a vet visit.
Since cats have a higher body temperature than we do, they cope better with hot weather. Even though the summer sun makes us sweat, cats are comfortable if they have a good shady spot to retreat to. However, the opposite is true of cold weather. Cats can struggle to compensate for the contrast between cold outdoor temperatures and their internal temperature.
But a cat’s body temperature isn’t the equivalent of its ideal environmental temperature — if you kept your house at 101°F, you and your cat would both be roasting!
How Do Cats Regulate Their Body Temperature
Cats are good at regulating their internal core temperature by increasing or decreasing the amount of heat that their body produces and using the environment to keep it stable.
Staying Cool in Summer
When outside temperatures rise, cats stay cool by releasing heat into the environment. If you find your cat spread out on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, they’re not being lazy. Your cat is increasing the surface area of their body that’s exposed to air by sprawling out. This enables more heat to escape.
If a cat is exposed to extreme heat, they can sweat through their nose and paw pads. As the sweat evaporates, their body cools. Grooming has a similar effect. Cats often groom themselves more in hot weather because it dampens their fur and helps them cool off.
Staying Warm in Winter
Cats are capable of regulating their body temperatures in cold weather, but they aren’t as good at it as they are in the heat. Hairless breeds cannot keep themselves warm at all, and short-haired breeds are less effective at retaining their body heat than long-haired breeds.
The first thing that cats do in the cold is seek shelter. If you think about where you might find feral cats in the winter, they will almost always be under a deck, in a shed, or in other hiding spots where they can curl up and avoid the elements.
In cold temperatures, cats’ metabolic activity increases to produce heat. Shivering is part of this metabolic activity, but they will also eat more. Consuming more food gives them the necessary energy to produce heat. If you find that your cat eats more in the winter, this is why.
What Is a Cat’s Ideal Temperature?
Cats can survive in a wide range of temperatures, but this doesn’t mean they’re always comfortable.
The perfect ambient temperature for your cat depends on a few factors.
- Long-haired cats like Maine Coons, Persians, Himalayans, or Ragdolls have thick fur coats that insulate their bodies from the cold. In contrast, this long hair makes it difficult to cool off in hot weather.
- Short-haired cats like the British Shorthair, Bombay, Russian Blue, or Manx have a fur coat to keep them warm, but it’s not so thick that they can’t cool off in the heat. These cats are the easiest to manage, temperature-wise.
- Hairless breeds like the Donskoy and Sphynx have a body temperature that’s almost 4° higher than other cats! This is to compensate for their lack of fur, but with no insulation, these cats can’t tolerate the cold. They can often be found curled up in heating vents in an effort to stay warm.
A cat’s age is an important consideration for determining their ideal temperature. Kittens under 4 weeks can’t regulate their own body temperature and must be kept warm using external sources. The ideal temperature for kittens is between 80° and 85° Fahrenheit; anything lower poses a risk of hypothermia.
Senior cats also require warm temperatures, especially during the winter months. Keep an eye on older cats, and consider giving them extra bedding or turning up the thermostat a degree or two if they are cold.
The bigger, the better when it comes to staying warm, but that doesn’t mean your cat should be overweight. Size is mostly determined by breed and genetics, so there’s not much that you can do to change it. However, large breeds of cats (like the Maine Coon) can deal with the cold much better than small breeds because they have more fat and muscle mass to generate heat.
4. Health Conditions
A cat’s health plays a crucial role in temperature regulation. Thyroid problems, in particular, can make cats less tolerant of either heat or cold.
Tips for Keeping Your Cat Comfortable
Now that you know the different factors that can affect how your cat regulates their body temperature, you might be wondering how you keep them comfortable in all seasons. Here are a few tips.
Keeping Cats Cool in the Summer
- Keep your house well-ventilated or turn on the A/C.
- Provide an unlimited water supply.
- Provide shade.
- Don’t over exercise your cat.
Keeping Cats Warm in the Winter
- Provide adequate nutrition.
- Initiate play and exercise.
- Provide a cozy bed and warm bedding.
Signs That Your Cat Is Too Cold or Too Hot
Even with a properly managed environment, cats can still overheat or develop hypothermia. Knowing the signs that your cat is struggling provides an opportunity for you to get help.
- Cold to touch
- Napping near furnace vents, radiators, and sunny spots
- Hiding beneath blankets or cushions
- Excessive panting
- Red, inflamed gums
- Behavior changes, lethargy
- Vomiting and diarrhea (this is a sign that your cat is suffering from heatstroke and needs to see a vet urgently)
The ideal temperature for cats in a house is between 60° and 70° Fahrenheit to allow for preferences of humans but they would prefer warmer temperatures. Since cats have the excellent ability to regulate their body temperature, it usually isn’t hard to keep them comfortable. Keep in mind that different breeds of cats will have different requirements. Factors like age, health status, and size can also change their temperature tolerance. During severe weather, watch your cat for signs of overheating or hypothermia. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.
Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock