Though cats are pretty adaptable animals, they can be susceptible to dangerous health conditions like hypothermia and frostbite if exposed to temps that dip too low.

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Winter is here and with temperatures dropping, many cat owners are wondering how cold is too cold for their cats to stay comfortable and toasty warm.

Whether you have an indoor cat who loves to snuggle or an outdoor cat who is unafraid of chasing prey through the snow, it’s important to know what to do to protect your cat from the cold temps.

Daily Paws spoke with veterinarians who revealed warning signs to look out for, the temperature at which most cats get cold (hint: It’s more complicated than you think), and tricks for keeping your cat warm both indoors and out.

Do Cats Get Cold Easily?

“Most cats handle cold temperatures very well. Cats who are used to spending a lot of time outdoors know when it’s time to come back in,” says Michael Arpino, DVM at Veterinary Wellness Center of Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, N.Y. That said, you should not leave your outdoor cat in the cold overnight, especially in extreme temperatures. “We definitely wouldn’t advise leaving them outside all night without available shelter from the environment and predators,” Arpino says.

Indoor cats can occasionally get cold, too: “Having a cozy place for them to snuggle up with a blanket or in an insulated cat bed can help to prevent this,” says Zay Satchu, DVM at Bond Vet in New York City.

What Temperature Is Too Cold for Cats?

“As a general rule of thumb, anything below 45 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold. If the temperature dips below freezing, they are at high risk of hypothermia if they are outside for extended periods of time,” says Arpino.

Your cat’s coat and weight can also make a difference: “Hairless cats, cats that have been shaved down and/or groomed in any fashion that would cut the hair beyond a minor trim should never be outside in colder weather," Arpino explains. "Hairless cats typically need a sweater even when indoors. Obese cats can likely handle the cold better, but they would also be slower which would expose them to other dangers.”

Cats with certain medical conditions are at an increased risk of hypothermia. “Cats who suffer from endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism should never be out in the cold as they are typically cold sensitive. Cats with any illness including renal disease, heart disease, cancer, etc. should not be allowed outdoors in any weather,” says Arpino.

Striped cat is asleep in a fluffy blanket
Credit: Thorsten Frisch / Getty

What Are Signs Your Cat Is Cold?

“If your cat is chilly, they may shiver, sit in a hunch position, and/or seek out warm spaces,” says Satchu.

At a certain point, if a cat is left in cold temperatures for too long, she can develop hypothermia. If your cat experiences any of these symptoms of hypothermia, rush her to the vet ASAP.

According to Pet MD, signs of moderate to severe hypothermia include:

  • Mental stupor or confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Coma (in the most severe cases)

How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats?

A cat’s normal body temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees F, according to VCA Hospitals. “If they are just cold, they can be brought into a nice warm room,” says Arpino. “If they are left outdoors in below 45-degree weather and are hypothermic, they need to be wrapped in a warm towel and rushed to an animal hospital for further care.”

Cold isn’t the only concern for cats during the winter months: “The dry air can also impact kitty; make sure she always has fresh water available,” says Satchu. By monitoring your cat for signs of cold, avoiding prolonged exposure when temperatures drop, and keeping your cat hydrated, you and your pet can look forward to a healthy winter together.