• Dr. Rachel Geller

A Cat Behaviorist's Guide to Keeping Your Cat Warm in the Winter

We humans can throw on a sweater or a blanket to safely stay warm and to save money if we have drafty windows or don’t want to put the heat on a high setting. But what about our cats? Are you trying to keep your heating budget reasonable or are you in an older apartment building with drafty windows? We’ve got some ideas on ways you can make your cats cozier, more comfortable and safe during the cold winter months.

Provide a warm & snuggly bed A cat bed is one of the best ways to keep your cat happy and warm. A good idea is to keep your cat’s bed off the cold floor during the winter. Some floors hold in the cold, such as tile floors. In addition, cold air sinks. Elevating the cat bed even a few feet can help protect your cat from drafts and this puts your cat into the rising warmer air. No room for a cat bed? Get creative! Place a folded-up large blanket, towel or fleece in the area where your cat likes to nap. This will give her something extra to cuddle in, and she can nestle in between the folds.

Bring on the heat (but safely…)

Some people like to add a heating pad or electric blanket to their cat’s napping spots, while some cat beds come with heating pads. If you do this, keep some basic safety tips in mind. First, always supervise your cat if you choose to use a heating pad or blanket. A cat’s fur can prevent her from perceiving when she gets too hot. Second, set the timer on the heating pad to short periods of time. If you are using a heating pad, you can keep the pad wrapped in a towel for an extra layer of safety. If you turn an electric blanket on for your cat, pay close attention. Although the heating temperature is lower in electric blankets, you need to make sure your cat doesn’t claw at it while kneading or scratching – heating filaments that are frayed from a cat’s claws can be dangerous to her.

The safest type of bed is a non-electric, self-heating one.. These self-warming beds reflect your cat’s body heat back to them, helping them to feel warmer than if they were laying in a regular cat bed. No electricity is required. This bed doesn’t have to be plugged in and it’s completely safe for your cat. One of my favorites is the Aspen Pet Self Warming Cat Bed.

If you’re on a budget, space heaters are a good alternative to turning up the heat. But a non-negotiable rule is to keep a few feet clearance around a space heater, so place your cat’s bedding at least 3 feet away from a space heater. Cats have strong survival instincts so they will stay away from hot space heaters, but a cat could knock it over – so never leave your space heater on and unattended. An ideal cat-friendly space heater does not have exposed heating filaments and has an automatic shut off feature to avoid a fire hazard.

Keep them active! Interactive play with a fishing pole type toy is a fun and beneficial way for your cat to naturally stay warm! Something as simple as a shoelace or an affordable Cat Dancer toy works best!

Don’t forget the windows Most cats enjoy sitting at the window to watch the world go by. If there’s a draft there, place a padded window perch at the window so your cat doesn’t have to sit on the cold, hard window sill. There are also heated window perches available. As with the cat bed, a blanket or fleece is an affordable alternative. We don’t like to sit on cold surfaces, and neither does your cat!

Dry heat in winter can contribute to dehydration, so be sure your cat has easy access to fresh water. Your cat's skin can get dry in the winter, just like ours. Dry skin may appear red, scaly, and flaky. If it's especially itchy, your cat may bite or scratch at it, causing sores and scabbing. Check your cat's skin regularly during the dry winter months and reach out to your vet if you notice any problems.

Looking for more cat-friendly advice this winter, or any season for that matter? Your Bark Buildings pet concierge and experts like myself are available year round to answer questions and offer pet care tips. Reach out through your building’s dashboard to start the conversation!