Can a Cat Survive the Cold: What You Don’t Know?

If you love cats or animals, you might wonder, “Can a cat survive the cold?” How would the animal fare? If it gets trapped or lost? The good news is that feral or community cats have adapted to the cold surroundings and are fine as long as there are humans nearby. 

But what about cats used to being indoors? Can they survive? Read on to get answers to this and more. 

Table of Contents

How Much Cold Can Cats Handle or Survive?

Cats can stay outdoors almost year-round because of the insulation their undercoats provide and the ability to respond to cold weather and adjust their bodies. However, a drop in temperature may make your furry friend need extra warmth, more food for energy, and a dry living environment. 

Experts and veterinarians agree that a drop to zero degrees Celsius (32 F) is too low for a cat to survive. Such temperatures below freezing point expose your furry friend to frostbite and hypothermia. And without access to suitable shelter, it may even lead to death. 

Therefore, when temperatures outside drop to 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit), keep your cat safe by confining it indoors and providing warmth and other ideal conditions.

A cat in the snow

(A cat in the snow)

How Long Can Cats Survive In Cold Weather?

The length of time that cats can survive in the cold is subject to several conditions, including;

  • The outdoor temperatures
  • The cat’s ability to adapt to cold weather
  • Level of exposure
  • The cat’s age (younger cats can withstand colder temperatures than elderly cats)
  • Amount of food or energy available to burn
  • How much fur does the cat have
  • How fast can the cat access treatment after the rescue 

Hypothermia leads to loss of consciousness in cats and may freeze them to death. Most cats perish when their body temperature exceeds 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit).

A cat in the snow in winter

(A cat in the snow in winter)

Do Cats Shiver When They Are Cold?

Similar to humans, cats shiver when cold. That said, shivering may be a red flag for discomfort from ingesting something harmful like alcohol or a possible medical condition. 

Therefore, always be on the lookout for shivering in your cat, especially if it also has symptoms of wheezing or loss of appetite, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

A cat in a pile of warm clothes

(A cat in a pile of warm clothes)

Can Domestic Cats Survive Outside?

Yes, your furry friend can survive outdoor cold weather, but only for a short time, like feral cats. See, indoor cats have less resilience to beat harsh outdoor conditions because they’re used to the friendlier indoor environment. 

However, they also adapt to weather changes more quickly than most animals.

an indoor cat’s comfortable environment

(an indoor cat’s comfortable environment)

How to Help Stray Cats Survive Cold Weather in Winter?

Set Up Shelter

Feral cats often shy away from using a car shelter you create. Therefore, try placing such shelters away from your home but not too far, so you can easily check on the cats. Also, make the shelters small to prevent rapid heat dispersion. 

stray cats

(stray cats)

Use a Self-Heating Pad

Several heating pads are available to keep feral cats warm in outdoor shelters. A self-heating pad helps to provide the cat with sufficient warmth to prevent it from freezing. Also, a self-heating pad keeps the cat warm even when you haven’t checked on it.

Additionally, the pads are least prone to electrical hitches.   

Ensure Food is Plentiful

Supply the cats with sufficient food to meet their high energy demands in the cold weather. 

food in plenty

(food in plenty)

Location is Key

The cat’s shelter should be accessible and safe. Remember, stray cats have had minimal or no contact with humans. Therefore, set up their shelters in areas that people rarely visit. 

Well-Maintained Feeding Station

Feeding stations offer an excellent avenue to feed feral cats in winter. Also, you can build an insulated station resembling a cat shelter. Just ensure that you check the feeding station regularly.

Do Not Use Antifreeze

Refrain from using and storing antifreeze, including salt, in areas accessible to the cats. These chemicals may turn catastrophic if the cat licks them. 

Instead, most pet stores offer animal-friendly deicer that you can use to melt snow. Also, you can apply gravel or sand to provide traction. Other alternatives to using antifreeze include: 

  • Using an Ice scraper 
  • Parking the car in the garage or covering it at night 
  • Defrosting the ice using your car’s engine.

Do Cats Catch Colds Easily?

No, cats don’t catch colds easily. That’s because a healthy cat easily adapts to the cold. However, if a cat is not well-cared for, perhaps lacking proper shelter and nutrition, exposure to cold weather can weaken the cat’s immunity, making them susceptible to catching a cold. 

Sick cat

(Sick cat)


So, can a cat survive the cold? Although indoor cats don’t fare as well as feral cats, they too can adapt, in fact, better than other animals. Still, you must keep them safe and take necessary precautions to ensure the temperature does not exceed the minimum threshold. 

You can use the information in this article to keep your furry friend or feral cats safe from cold weather.