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Can Cats Survive Outside In The Winter

How Cold Is Too Cold For An Indoor Or Outdoor Cat

Helping feral, outdoor cats during the winter

So the question remains, how cold is too cold for a cat? Although it will vary from cat to cat, depending on their fur and lifestyle, there is a certain temperature that can guide us in these situations.

Once the temperature outside is 32ºF or below, we will need to make sure our cat doesn’t stay outside for more than 15-20min. Once they’re inside, make sure they don’t have any problems breathing and are not wet or cold. You can wrap them in a warm blanket once they’re back inside.

If you have an outdoor cat that usually sleeps outside, you can make sure that their outdoor shelter is insulated and warm enough for them to sleep in. However, once the temperature drops to 32ºF or lower, it’s best to have them sleep inside of your home. Simply place their shelter or bed in a calm area in your home and allow them to go outside to play and explore in the afternoon when the temperature is a bit warmer.

It’s also important to note that if your cat is ill or if they are a senior cat , you will need to take extra care and extra precaution as they are more vulnerable to suffering from hypothermia. Learn more in our article about how to care for older cats.

How Do Stray Cats Survive Cold Weather

In the winter, stray cats seek out abandoned houses, abandoned automobiles, and even dig tunnels in the ground to remain warm.

Stray cats are hardy, adventurous, and used to live in the open. They dont want to be in a house and dont want to be near others. They can withstand below-zero temperatures because they live in colonies in an area they are familiar with.

While it may be difficult for some animal lovers to believe, wild cats, unlike their tamed counterparts, is happier being outside.

Convert An Old Doghouse

Old doghouses are easy to find, making this an inexpensive and easy option for anyone who wants to take care of stray cats in their area.Doghouses already have plenty of insulation in them, so most of the work is already done.

The key to using an old doghouse is to put up a board in the doorway, then cut a small hole in the board big enough for the cat.

Leaving the door completely open could put a cat at risk if they do decide to sleep there in the winter.

It will also deter them from even trying.

Adding straw to the inside of the doghouse can provide a nice place for the cat to sleep and is easy to clean out and replace.

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Are Cats Warm Enough Outside

Look, Cats can stay warm in winter, theyre adapted to cold weather as I mentioned earlier

But they wont stay warm for long right?

I mean the longer they stay out in the cold, theyll become cold eventually

Especially if the weather drops to below freezing

Thats why I emphasize in making sure they have a warm shelter they can resort to

Such as the Kitty home I mentioned earlier

At least that way you know your Cat has a place they can go to, to stay warm

If you have an outdoor Cat then its important to have this warm shelter in place for them

You dont want your Cat to suffer from frostbite or hypothermia

I understand it can be difficult to keep your outdoor Cat inside because theyre so used to staying outdoors

So the next best thing for you to do for them is having things in place that will keep them warm during Winter

Your Shelter Doesn’t Have To Be Elaborate To Be Effective

Why Keeping Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter is So Important

My other shelter is an “igloo” type of shelter. Alright, it’s really called a “dogloo,” but I’m a cat person . . . what can I say? Anyway, the igloo is not very large, but it’s insulated and has a small opening. I’ve also placed a sleeping bag inside. That way, the cats have a warm, soft something to snuggle into, plus the sleeping bag itself is insulated for winter weather.

Where you place the igloo is important. I’ve set mine up in our carport, which itself provides some windbreak. My carport has walls on all three sides. Even on the coldest of winter days, I’ve found it can be at least five degrees warmer just being in the carport. I haven’t measured the temperature in my outside cat closet, but I’m sure the difference in temperatures is similar because it’s enclosed on all four walls .

Even simple cat shelterssuch as this one made out of an old, covered litter box and lined with Mylarcan be big in helping outdoor cats make it through winter.

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Why Are There So Many Outdoor Cats In The Us

Some are pets whose owners let them outside, but many are community cats, who may be feral or one-time pets who are now stray, lost or abandoned. The more we understand outdoor cats and the complicated issues related to them, the more effectively we can help them, reduce cat overpopulation and protect wildlife.

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Provide A Warm Clean Dry Shelter

For feral or stray cats, a safe cozy place to shelter from the harsh weather is heavenly. It does not have to be big. Ideally, it will be small enough to trap the cats body heat to self-warm the interior. A small dog house works great.

A favorite homemade shelter of some cat rescue organizations is made using Rubbermaid bins with lids. Rubbermaid bins are preferred because they are a good size and they will not crack in the frozen temperatures.

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How To Keep Outdoor Cats’ Food And Water From Freezing

What you put food and water in can make a difference. A thick plastic water container that’s deep and wide is better-insulated than a thin plastic or ceramic container. A solar-heated water bowl can prevent or delay water and canned food from freezing.

If shelters are well-insulated, you can put bowls of dry or moist food inside them, far from the doorway. Even if the moist food freezes, the cats’ body heat will defrost it when they hunker down in their shelter.

Don’t put water bowls inside the shelter. Water is easily spilled, and a wet shelter will feel more like a refrigerator than a warm haven. Do your best to keep water from freezing.

Provide Dry Warm Shelters

Pet Pals: Keeping feral cats warm in winter

The first thing you’ll want to do is provide dry, warm shelters for outdoor cats.2 These shelters should ideally be placed in a covered area, like on a porch or in a carport, and not where they’ll potentially get soaked by standing water. Dry, enclosed shelters give cats a place to escape the rain, snow, and cold winds.

The easiest solution is to buy a heated, water-resistant shelter made especially for cats. Look for shelters with heated beds designed to warm up to the cat’s normal body temperature. This makes sure the cats stay toasty warm when it’s really cold outside. These shelters should have easy exits in case a quick escape is needed. The exits should be just large enough to fit one cat at a time so bigger animals don’t move in and take over.

Keep the shelters away from areas with a lot of foot traffic that could scare cats. If you can, try to put the shelters on a raised area that’s a couple inches off the ground, so it’s away from rain, snow, and insects.

If you’re building your own shelter, look for insulation like straw that repels water. But if you want to make sure you get everything just right, invest in a heated outdoor bed.

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Kittens And Older Cats

Just like humans, cats younger or older cats can suffer more in sub-zero temperatures, as can cats with ongoing health issues. This is because their immune system is less effective in fighting off potential illness as a result of the cold weather. If your cat falls into one of these categories, pay extra attention to their welfare and whereabouts in very cold or snowy weather and always make sure they have a warm, dry space to sleep and rest in.

Pet Advice

How To Keep A Stray Cat Warm Outside In Winter

Sweaters can assist in keeping cats warm however, there are a few rules to follow to guarantee your pets safety.

It is critical that the item of clothing fits the animal properly. The sweater should not be so big that it hangs freely or creates holes that impede the animal from staying warm.

On the other side, you dont want a sweater thats excessively tight, since this might cause circulation issues or skin irritation in the animal.

Cats that spend their entire day outside are naturally more adapted to flowing with the flow outside than cats that opt to go out for a night-time stroll once or twice a month.

You are the most knowledgeable about your cat. When the average daily temperature is less than 45°F, doctors advise against leaving your cat outside without a warm shelter to escape.

That is an average, not a one-time occurrence. If the temperature has been 55°F all day but drops to 44°F at night? Thats probably all right. But what if the days are 40°F on average and the nights are 28°F? Thats when its important to create backup plans.

If you have an outdoor cat, it is your job to provide her with a secure and warm place to retreat to if she needs to. That doesnt mean you should purchase her a fully-heated cat home for the yard, but it does mean you should take a few measures to keep her from becoming stranded in the cold.

If a cat has been wild for more than a year, providing a secure outside environment is preferable than trying to domesticate her.

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Indoor Cats Might Have More Troubles In Cold Temperatures

Indoor cats are not used to these extreme temperatures and should stay in when it dips down that low. Sometimes, cat parents like to let their cats outside so they can get fresh air and sunshine. But when it gets too cold, they should not go outside. Even when its a bit warmer than the temperature limits, indoor cats might have more difficulty staying warm outdoors.

This is because they are not used to cooler temperatures and havent adapted to them as outdoor cats have. If its above freezing outside, your cat might like a little fresh air now and then, which is fine. Remember to let them come back in when they get enough fresh air.

Another thing you might do is to set up a pet door on your entrance door, so they can come in and go out as they please. If your neighborhood is unfriendly to cats, you may not want to do that.

Setting Up The Shelter

Winter Weather Cats

While a shelter is great, you still need to set it up so that its comfortable. Straw is always a good option as it allows cats to burrow in and keep warm. If straw is hard to come by, you could also place shredded newspaper in the shelter. As tempting as it might be, dont use towels, hay or folded newspaper to insulate the shelter as these materials absorb body heat, which means theyll feel the cold even more.

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Are Outside Cats Ok In The Cold

Theres no mistaking that winter chill in the air, and cats can feel it too, whether they live primarily indoors or outdoors. Even if your cat loves being outside, when temperatures drop closer to 0°C, you need to bring your cat indoors to keep it warm and reduce the risk of hypothermia or frostbite.

How To Keep Outdoor Cats Warm In Winter: Extra Safety Tips

There are a few other important ways to keep your cat colony safe during the winter and not just by ensuring they are warm.

Stick to a Feeding Schedule

There are multiple reasons why you may wish to stick to a feeding schedule, but one of the most important applies to helping cats in winter. Cats can tell when its feeding time. They will show up on time to get their nummies. This is very useful if you want to feed wet food so it isnt left out to freeze.

Another reason for feeding schedules that is useful in winter is that because the cats will come to eat on a schedule. You can do a headcount to make sure no one is missing, see if any new cats show up, or if anyone in your colony isnt doing well.

Even if youre feeding 3 times a day instead of 2 like normal, do it at the same time each day. Unless you have a protected area like a garage or barn, I wouldnt leave dry food out all day. It will attract raccoons, opossums, foxes, rats and mice, coyotes and maybe hungry bears in winter.

If you really want to give the cats access to dry food all day, microchip feeders or automatic feeders might be a solution.

Dont Put Food Near the Cat Shelters

You do not want to put the cat food in or near the cat shelters. Cat food will attract wildlife like raccoons and cats will rarely sleep near where they eat, especially if there is leftover food to attract critters. Feed away from the shelters.

Check Your Shelters Regularly!
Check Your Car Engines!
Watch That Antifreeze

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Use A Cat Feeding Station

The purpose of building or buying a cat feeding station is to protect the cats and their food from the rain, snow, and other weather. There are many feeding stations you can build using a simple plastic storage container or if youre good with woodworking, you can build a sturdy and pretty-looking feeding station. Check out Alley Cat Allies for instructions on how to build your own cat feeding station.

Or you can simply purchase one!

Keep Outdoor Cats Safe And Healthy

How To Keep Outside Cats Warm During Winter – Life Saving Tips

Nancy Hugginss kitty, Norman, is a cat about town. Even though he runs the house, he likes to take a jaunt outside from time to time, just to make sure his territory is safe. He protects the kingdom very well, Huggins laughs.

For 11 years, Norman, a 20-pound tabby, has been going in and out of his home without a care. But Huggins is sometimes concerned that he may get into trouble.

I hate it when he’s out after dark, she admits.

About 70% of the estimated 95.6 million pet cats in the U.S. live indoors only. But millions of kitties are still allowed outside, where they face more dangers.

Predators, cars, diseases, poisons, and the bully cat who already possesses the territory your sweet kitty has just been let into are only a few of the reasons that indoor cats live significantly longer on average than cats that venture outside, says Chris Miller, DVM, veterinarian and co-owner of Atlas District Veterinary Hospital in Washington, DC.

Assessing the risk of an outdoor lifestyle is always important before sending a cat outside for any amount of time.

Many vets say owners should limit outdoor time as much as possible, or just choose to keep the cat inside. Another option, says Ariel Mosenco, DVM, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, is to let your pet out only in a confined, fenced area while youre watching.


Have a litter box indoors. Its important to have one ready so your cat has options when they want to be inside.

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If You Have An Outdoor Cat You Need To Know Their Limits During The Winter Months And When You Should Let Them Inside

Cats might have thick, fluffy coats, but that cant fully protect them when the temperatures start to drop. Most people keep their cat indoors all year round, but for those that let their cat outside to explore youre going to want to keep an eye on the temperature during the winter to make sure its safe for them to be outdoors. If you also have a dog at home, heres when its too cold for dogs to go outside.

If You Have An Outdoor Cat

If your cat is both an indoor/outdoor cat, you should either keep him indoors if the weather is dangerously cold or ensure he has safe shelter .

You can also take a step to protect your cats paws from chemicals, salt, and ice by putting a little lip balm or petroleum jelly on his pads before he goes outside.

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Feed The Cats More And Feed Them Better

In winter, cats use up a lot more calories staying warm than they do during the summer. Its not just ensuring they have fat layers to help keep themselves warm, although that definitely helps. It straight-up just takes more energy for cats to stay warm when its cold.

You can do this by simply feeding the cats more food, or more often, or better quality cat food in the winter. You can also add a lot of things in addition to their regular meals.

Ideas to ensure the cats get more calories in their diets , can include:

  • Wet food in addition or instead of the dry food as wet food has more nutrients and is easier to digest. Just be sure it doesnt freeze!
  • Mix the regular dry food with kitten food
  • Cooked meat such as shredded chicken
  • Bacon and hamburger grease or fat to their food.
  • High-calorie supplements such as Nutrical or if a cat is really in trouble, Purina Pro Plans Veterinary Diets Critical Nutrition .
  • Beef or chicken liver or other high nutrient organs to their diets.
  • Feed them more often than normal.
  • Purchase better quality food for winter months that contain high percentages of protein and fat.

What you can do for your feral cats will depend upon your finances and how many you are caring for, of course.

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