Why Cats risk their lives in search of Heat.

Originally posted May 2018.

Following on from our previous Winter warning posts about cats sneaking under cars and into tumble dryers, (http://www.oakflatsvet.com.au/winter-warnings-cat-owners/) we can share some  information about Why CATS will seek heat to the point that they can endanger their own lives.

The  NRC-National Research Council suggests thermoneutral zone for cats is 30-38C; whereas humans like to work and live in an 18-25C range. When we then keep cats inside indoors with humans and dogs, who have lower temperature comfort zones than cats, more often than not we inadvertently provide Uncomfortable too cool  ambient room temperature for all cats but especially elderly cats -almost to the point of increased suffering.

For many cats, but especially temperature sensitive breeds like Siamese, sharing a house with humans makes the cat feel like we would feel in an unheated house in winter-cold and miserable and if we were also elderly or arthritic, then often in pain. This explains why cats risk their lives in search of heat, when they climb into tumble dryers and under cars in the constant search to get cat-warm.

In  Summer, the curveball is that with our air-conditioning on to keep our homes around 24C, then similar silent cold distress occurs, thus explaining why cats will hog the window sills to soak up the sun’s heat rays through the glass. 

We neglect the huge pain relief that heat can supply to some arthritic suffering cats and by denying them the extra heat, we lose an opportunity to provide additional analgesia and leave these cats in a preventable pain.

Our elderly Siamese cat outlived the rest of our pets, so he became our first pet to sleep alone and boy did he teach us some things about elderly cats’ needs. If he awoke in the morning and discovered we had not personally organised for the Sun to be out and shining so to have come through the windows and heat up one of his many day beds-he would throw the cat equivalent of a verbal tantrum-and whilst you can tell a dog to be quiet-no such luck with the full lung capacity and verbal abusive repertoire of a full-on Siamese. So up we would get and crank a heater on full blast.



I am sure the electricity company must have thought we had an illegal plant crop growing.If you felt him at those times, his limbs very much cooler than the rest of his body. As someone who suffers long bone pain in cold weather-I could sympathise at how one’s bones feel like they are cracking apart with the pain. Medications helped with his traumatic arthritis but not this cold bone pain-only being warm stops that pain.

Taking what he has taught us helped other cat owners but especially. Siamese cat owners. The Siamese cat who won’t settle of a morning simply needs more beds in the sun to follow it around and it needs pain medication as well-you are missing a pain source.

Simple extra things you can do if your cat sleeps outside is to provide a bed under cover and off the ground. You can add extra blankets but can also buy some very cheap little cocoon domed beds at Reject shops and  K-mart that the cat can snuggle into and preserve heat. A cat’s preferred material is fleece so fold/roll up old fleece blankets as our client did to make a custom fleece bed for your cat and put a heat source under or in it as well.

If the cat lives outdoors, don’t forget to provide a second bed in an area that gets the morning sun. That way the cats can awaken and move to the morning ‘sun-bed’ if given the opportunity.

Snugglesafe Heat Pads” that warm up in a microwave and last 8-10 hours are useful. Once you heat it, you MUST leave it untouched for 1-2 mins before you remove it from microwave as makes the disc safer. They sell on line for $40-$70. Just don’t be tricked if you see on for $15, that is only the cover. They are safer than a hot water bottle but you obviously don’t place it in such a way that the cat can’t get off and away from the pad if needs be.


Because cats need rooms a lot hotter than we have them for us, you must give them a place you can heat up for the cat to access to move in and out of as they need. That means in Summer you need to be alert to allowing cats access to places to warm up in or hide away from the air-conditioning.abbies-in-the-sun


For cats with skin cancers, especially of the nose and ears, it isn’t enough to keep them indoors, in those patients you need to keep the cats away from window baking. The only way to stop the cat doing that is to provide an alternative heat source deeper inside the house that the cat finds preferable to the heat streaming in the glass windows. Hopefully the ideas on shared on this post will also help those cat patients reduce their risk of relapse.

Finally: the higher temperature zone for cats means that when transporting your cat in a car to the vet, make sure you cover the cage on the side closest to the air-conditioning vents. This means your cat is not extra-chilled on their way to somewhere the cat is not keen on going to at any time, let alone arriving at the destination feeling cold and frozen from the car journey.

Thanks to David Wilkinson for Tiger outside, Tony Smith for the photos of Fritz and Lola indoors above and thanks to Sydney University’s CVE ‘Control & Therapy’ & Dr Frits Lambert for use of the cat on the radiator photo.

The take-home message is: If you own cats and you confine them indoors, you need to provide Heat sources All Year round for them.