Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’m having a debate with my sweet opinionated boy about what room temperature is comfortable for cats in a non-drafty heated home with new double-sealed windows, with access to lots of cozy blankets, heat blowing registers and all the dry food they ever want to eat. He’s come just short of implying that I’m a bad mother for keeping the day temp at 68 (20 degrees C), night temp at 64 (18 degrees C) and is on the verge of setting up a permanent space heater for his cat, who is staying separately in my finished basement, where it’s actually always a few degrees warmer than the rest of the house. Please let us know who’s right!
Siouxsie: Well, Tatyana, we’re on your side, and here’s why.
Thomas: We cats are pretty hardy creatures, and as long as you’re comfortable walking around in your regular clothes, we’re fine too.
Dahlia: Lots of people keep their homes at 68 degrees, and sometimes even colder than that!
Siouxsie: When we lived on the farm, our house rarely got warmer than 50 or 55 degrees during the winter because Mama only had a tiny heater and our little apartment was drafty and poorly insulated. But we were actually more comfortable than Mama!
Thomas: The reason why we were more comfortable than Mama is because our coats got thicker as the weather cooled, and all Mama had was her poor, naked skin — and lots of clothes.
Dahlia: There were some nights when we huddled under the blankets with her, but that was more for the sake of keeping her warm. Of course, we didn’t mind it either!
Siouxsie: Like we said, most of us cats are designed to adapt to changing temperatures by growing our undercoats out, which helps us keep our body heat in.
Thomas: But if you suddenly threw your cats outside in the cold winter air, that would be a different situation.
Dahlia: Think about how you’d feel if you were locked out of your house in the middle of winter in only a long-sleeved T shirt, jeans, and socks.
Siouxsie: Cats can and do get hypothermia. And even the most stalwart of feral cats can freeze to death when outdoor temperatures get really cold. That’s why Alley Cat Allies has put together a guide for how to create shelters to keep feral cats warm and dry during our brutal northern winters.
Thomas: But back to your situation, Tatyana: Cats that live indoors in warm homes such as yours shouldn’t have the least bit of trouble staying comfortable.
Dahlia: In fact, a space heater could be dangerous for kitties. We cats do love warmth, even though we’re comfortable at regular temperatures. But we don’t sense heat as well as you do, so our skin temperature could get as high as 140 degrees F before we even notice there’s a problem.
Siouxsie: The trouble is, our fur starts burning well before that! And trust me, when we lived on the farm, Thomas stunk up our place with his singed hair more than once because of his ridiculous love affair with the heater!
Thomas: Okay, fine! So I singed my fur! At least Mama noticed before I caught fire and had to be rushed to the vet clinic with terrible burns!
Dahlia: Never mind that you could have burned our house down, Thomas! Sure, our place was cold, but outside was a lot colder!
Siouxsie: Mama says space heaters can be dangerous even without the cat factor if they’re not properly used. Electric space heaters need to be plugged directly into wall sockets and not into extension cords. And if your wiring is old, you might overheat that wiring if the space heater is constantly on, which could cause a fire.
Thomas: Space heaters that use open flames or have unprotected elements can cause fires if they get tipped over. Although most new heaters have safety devices that automatically turn them off if they’re tipped over, why take the risk?
Dahlia: If your boy is really concerned that his cat won’t be warm enough, the safest thing he could do is get his kitty a heated bed.
Siouxsie: But even though most cats are quite comfortable at temperatures between 64 and 68 degrees, this is not as true for hairless cats like the Sphynx or cats with very thin coats such as the Rex breeds.
Thomas: If you have Rexes or Sphynx cats, you’ll have to keep your home a bit warmer, or at the very least provide plenty of heated beds and blanket nests for them to sleep in.
Dahlia: We’re quite fond of fleece throws, and they’re not very expensive at all. And Mama says you can get fleece by the yard at a fabric store for even less money.
Siouxsie: So rest assured, Tatyana, you’re not committing cat abuse by keeping your house at 68 degrees during the day and 64 at night!
Thomas: Your boy needs to chill out. Tee hee hee …
Dahlia: We hope we’ve been able to help you settle your argument — and save money on your heating costs too.