Cats naturally have thicker fur during the winter, which increases the amount of undercoat. A cat living outside will have more “heavy” fur to increase the thickness of the diaper and help maintain body temperature.
Be careful with young kittens and older cats because they tolerate cold less well: the former because they have less efficient thermoregulation, the latter because, because of their age, suffer from diseases such as arthritis or a decrease in immune functions as well as a less prominent muscle mass.
The hairs are not immortal; they follow a cycle that ends with the fall of hair, this process is called moulting. Dogs and cats have two molting phases each year and change accordingly between winter hair and summer hair. This seasonal hair loss is explained by the activity of the hair follicles which comprises three phases:
- The growth phase (anagen) during which about 0.3 mm of hair is produced (grows) every day,
- The intermediate phase (catagen), and finally,
- The rest phase (telogen) during which the hair follicle breaks up until the hair finally falls.
Of course, not all hairs fall at the same time. The moult begins at the animal’s hindquarters and progresses forward. The winter coat is significantly thicker than the summer coat and provides better protection against cold snaps.
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Determined by the length of the day
Moulting is not a phenomenon that appears by chance. The main trigger appears to be the proportion of light in the day (photoperiod). Temperature changes have at most an influence on the speed of hair renewal and coat thickness, but they do not trigger moulting. Moulting is determined by the season and is mainly controlled by the day/night rhythm.
Your cat has access to outside and you wonder how it behaves and withstands the winter, the cold, the snow… Do not worry, cats are very resistant animals and resourceful too.
Cats cold resistance
Cats have a thick undercoat that protects them from the cold, which has waterproof properties and allows them to withstand extreme temperatures.
In order for your cat’s coat to effectively protect it during the winter, your cat must moult, that is to say that its summer hair is replaced by a winter coat. However, cats living only indoors have smaller moults because the temperature in our homes is almost constant. It is therefore imperative not to put your cat suddenly all the time outside without getting used to it gradually.
How to get used to it?
If you move from an apartment to a house during the winter, your cat must first get used to its new territory before letting it out. Then, you will be able to watch him during his small outings to check that he is coming in fairly quickly (attract him with a treat!). Once he has taken his bearings in the garden, you can let him loose a little longer, unless it is very cold. Indeed, he may take a liking to life outside and gain confidence to the point of not returning one evening, but his coat is not suitable, it could be very cold.
If your cat gets soaked by the rain or even the snow (small blocks of ice can form in the hair), do not forget to dry it conscientiously. Indeed, it could take cold. Use a towel to rub it, and if it is very conciliatory, use hair dryer, but moderately so as not to burn it.
Access to the interior
It is necessary that your cat can go home when he wants to rest, warm, feed, drink and, of course, come say hello and be cuddled especially when it’s cold! A pet door can be ideal, provided that your cat is used to borrow it. You should also know that there are magnetic doors that allow only your cat or cats to enter.
You can teach your cat to use his cat flap. You should train your cat to pass through the cat flap several times a day for several days. You can actually leave the plastic door open early so your cat is more confident. You can go with food or treats. You stand on the other side of the cat door with your cat and make him come with the food. You can also attract it with games: cats easily get close to something that is rattling to chase it away.
Above all, do not force him if he is afraid; he must be confident at every moment. Make sure there is nothing in the vicinity of the cat flap that could intimidate him. You will see that after a few days, it will pass through the cat flap itself and find it very convenient.
Good food is very essential in this period of moulting. The cat with access to the outdoors deserves much more balanced diet than the indoor cat that engages in little activities. The territory of the outdoor cat can extend over several hectares, it hunts, fights… Its energy expenses are important and vary according to the seasons and the frequency of its exits.
I wrote an article on good food for cats and what they shouldn’t eat here.
Mode of distribution of the diet:
Cats are animals that like to do 15 to 20 small meals a day. It is therefore advisable to let them have their daily ration available at all times instead of giving them 2 meals a day. In addition, a cat will not be present all the time when you decided to feed him. The croquettes are ideal; they do not dry and you can leave them available to your cat if he decides to go nibble in your absence.
Quality of food:
Premium quality kibble Premium will provide your cat with caloric benefits adapted to his expenses outside, and will allow him to reinforce his immune defenses.
Feeding during periods of extreme cold:
You can increase the daily ration of your pet by about 10% when undergoing very low temperatures.
See what types of food we recommend and use for our cats in this post.
During the warmer days, some cats will be able to stay outside for several days and nights, but during the winter, most of them will have to go back to feed because the hunting activity is very limited. He will need more croquettes because he will not eat his prey anymore.
Most cats with access to the outside are accustomed since their youngest age, for those there, the winter does not pose any problem provided you respect these simple rules. For others, the first winter can be harder, so it’s important to stay alert.
Winter: Cat living indoors
In Europe 3 out of 10 cats live exclusively indoors. The consequences on natural cycles, its energy needs, its behavior are important throughout the year.
Are there special precautions to consider for our cats when using heaters in our homes during winter? Yes, there are! Let us look at these 2 parameters below;
- Optimum temperature
The temperature in our homes varies little during the year. However, the heaters are sometimes excessive. For the well-being of the whole family including your cat, keep your home at a temperature of 20 to 22 ° C, even less at night.
- Hair Loss
In the fall, like I have mentioned above, cats undergo moulting, that is, their summer hair is replaced by a longer winter coat; in the spring, it will be the opposite. If the arrival of cold weather, you heat your apartment significantly, your cat will lose its hair in a significant way. It is therefore important, even outside periods of physiological moult, to brush your pet regularly every other day if necessary.
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What is the purpose of brushing?
In addition to brushing the hair off the couch, it also allows your cat to ingest less hair while washing. Ingested hair can indeed form balls of hair that will disrupt digestion. Know that there are food supplements and croquettes that allow better elimination of hairballs.
Do not forget to continue treating your pet regularly (every month) against fleas. Indeed, when the heating is put into operation, the eggs and larvae of fleas that may be present in the environment of your cat resume their development. Therefore, the treatment must be continued throughout the year.
Why treat indoor cats?
It is necessary to treat your cat against fleas, even if it lives exclusively in apartment. Indeed, the chips can come from outside. They can move and go under your front door, come on your balcony… brought in by neighboring animals infested with fleas. It is possible that your pet has fleas even if it does not go out. In addition, fleas can bring internal parasites (worms) to your cat (by ingestion), so it is necessary to deworm regularly (every 6 months).
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Limited access to the balcony:
Your cat may have access to your balcony at will during the beautiful days. When cold comes, be careful not to let it out too long. It is better to open it more often but bring it in fairly quickly (5 to 10 minutes). Finally, to compensate for this reduced activity, play more often with your cat, give him various toys, a cat tree, an outside view.