It’s Winter ‘round these parts, which means that I’ve suddenly developed a large attachment on my lap. It’s not a tumor. It’s Daenerys, who’s decided that chilly weather means I need her curled up on me at all times. AT ALL TIMES. Have you ever tried to dislodge an 11-pound cat who doesn’t want to get up? It’s not pretty.
Not that I often get that far - Tiger Jack’s generally holding my feet down, curled around the bottom of my heated blanket. And where does a 15-pound orange tabby sleep? WHEREVER HE WANTS. Honestly, I can’t even get mad. They’re too puffy and adorable.
Snuggling with your kitties all day, while a SUPER-AWESOME idea, is not a practical solution to keeping cozy around the clock during these cold months. Luckily for us humans, we can throw on some extra layers or turn the heat up. But what about our furry friends? Whether central heating isn’t an option or you’ve got a drafty home, there are several steps you can take to make your cats cozier and more comfortable this time of year.
A COZY CAT BED IS BEST
As long as your cat will actually use a cat bed, this is one of the best tactics to keep your cat happy and warm. Make sure you keep their cat beds and nests off the ground during the winter - cold air sinks, after all! Elevating their bed even a few feet can help protect your kitties from drafts, put them in reach of warmer air, and give them a slight activity boost since they have to jump or climb to find their cozy nest.
Cat doesn’t use a pet bed? No problem! Try adding a blanket to an area where your cats prefer to lounge, or add an extra one if they already have some padding. This will give them something extra to burrow in, and again blocks those devilish drafts and the like if your cat insists on sleeping on the floor.
If you still need a heat boost to warm up your feline friends, you can add a heating pad to their snuggle spots. Some beds even come with integrated heating pads! However, if they shun the nice bed you got them for the cardboard box it came in, a regular heating pad could be a good idea. Just remember Rule #1 for Cats and Heating Pads: ALWAYS, ALWAYS MONITOR THEM. Since cats wear fur coats all about the place, they don’t always realize when they’re too hot: limit the heating pad on-cycle to short periods, keep it wrapped in a towel, and don’t forget about it. If you turn a heated blanket on for your cats, close attention is required as well - the heat is gentler in the blankets, but you need to make sure your cats don’t claw at it while kneading - clawed heating filaments are bad for everyone.
What about space heaters? You ask. Or radiators? A good rule is to keep a few feet clearance around a heat source like that - you can encourage your cats to respect that rule by putting their bedding the correct distance away. And while cats are generally good about keeping a healthy distance from heaters, they can still do some dumb stuff, like knocking it over - so don’t leave them unattended. And try to invest in a space heater that doesn’t have exposed heating filaments.
FEED MORE, PLAY MORE
Your cat’s average body temperature falls between 99.5 and 102.5 F (thanks, PetMD!), and it takes more work for their bodies to maintain this core temperature when it’s cold. More work means more calories, and that means you better be keeping your pet food stores well-stocked!
In other words, your cat will probably be hungrier during the winter. That’s normal! Feed them more, or more frequently, so they have the necessary fuel to keep themselves warm. (If you’re worried about weight gain and think they’re overeating, consult your veterinarian.)
Along with feeding your cat more, you should also play more during these cold days and long nights! Not only does playtime help keep them trim and healthy anyway, but it’s a natural warming exercise. You’ll have no problem keeping them toasty when they’re leaping at the fishing line or skidding after a feathery or crinkle toy.
We’ve got a few more tips, and these are such basic items that they might not automatically occur to you!
You should encourage your cats to stay in the warmest parts of your home, limiting their access to drafty or poorly insulated areas. Since some of us tend to keep our feline’s litter boxes in areas like this - guilty! - you may need to find a new spot for their litter until it warms back up. So get those litter boxes out of the garage or the mud room or wherever, stat! You don’t want to do your business with a draft on your bum, and neither does your cat.
If at all feasible, you should also try to seal your home for the winter months - put down some draft door stoppers, re-caulk your windows, or even get some extra window insulation. Not only will this keep your cats safe from the tricky hand of Jack Frost, but it’ll also improve your energy efficiency.
Finally, dry winter air sucks. It sucks for your kitties, irritating their noses and throats, and it turns them into puff balls of static electricity. It also sucks for us, likewise messing with our noses and throats, and playing merry hell with our skin and hair. So, I’ve got one word for you: HUMIDIFIER. Put some moisture back into the air, and you’ll find as much comfort in it as your cats will.
And there you have it! Following these tips will ensure your cats are merry, cozy beasts indeed. What other strategies do you use during these cold days? Hit the comments and share them with us!
Written by Deborah Brannon