Can My Cat Go Outside In The Winter?

How cold is too cold for cats? 🐈❄️

Cat outside in the winter

No matter the weather, it’s always safest to keep your cat indoors.

But since you and your BFF are attached at the hip, you may feel inclined to bring him with you when you have to step outside, even in the winter. But how cold is too cold for cats to be outdoors?

We spoke with Dr. Julian Rivera, a veterinarian at West Village Veterinary Hospital in New York City, who explained how going outdoors — especially in the winter — can actually be pretty dangerous for your cat.

Is it safe for my cat to go outside in the winter?

“Keeping cats indoors is always a great idea for a multitude of reasons, but this is especially true during cold winters,” Dr. Rivera told The Dodo.

Cats can actually be pretty vulnerable to the cold.

“Not having a warm respite from the elements can be devastating to cats and can lead to life-threatening consequences,” he said.

Exposure to winter weather makes cats super susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.

“If their [coats get] wet, these can occur even more rapidly,” Dr. Rivera explained.

And if your cat’s outside in the snow, it’s pretty likely his coat will get wet. Snow is frozen water, after all.

Signs your cat is suffering from hypothermia

If you still decide to let your cat out in the cold, it’s important to keep a close eye on him for a couple reasons.

You obviously want to make sure he’s staying safe and you don’t lose sight of him, especially if there are a lot of snowdrifts or similar obstacles around. But you also want to watch out for signs that he might be suffering from hypothermia.

Be sure to look for things like:

  • Shivering
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Cold to the touch
  • Loss of consciousness

If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, you need to contact your vet ASAP, since hypothermia is a life-threatening condition.

A vet will be able to give your cat supportive care and monitor him as he warms back up to a healthy body temperature.

How to be careful inside, too

And if you decide letting your cat out in the winter isn’t worth the risk, there are still things you need to be careful about even when you’re indoors.

As the temperature drops outside, you might find yourself cranking the heat to compensate.

And if the heat ends up being too hot, it seems easier to just open a window than to keep turning the heat on and off.

But if you do that, it could still be risky for your cat.

“Opening the windows when indoor temperatures get too high can also be hazardous for cats who may escape or fall from high windows and injure themselves,” Dr. Rivera said.

So, the safest option for your cat is to keep him inside, and keep the heat at a temperature that doesn’t make you want to even crack a window.