Home Cats Some Like It Hot
Banner


Some Like It Hot Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 January 2014 16:53

There is no doubt about it, cats are gluttons for warmth. When the weather outside is frosty, you can probably find your cat curled up in front of its favorite heating vent. Why does an animal with such a nice warm coat seek out heat?

A cat’s body temperature stays at a toasty 100°-102° F, keeping the muscles warm and ready to spring into action on a moment’s notice, should any antelope, zebra or mice wander by.

For cats, as with all mammals, food fuels the body’s furnace, but this is just one way cats cope with the cold. As temperatures drop, a cat’s body can turn up the heat by increasing its basal metabolic rate – its rate of energy use. A cold cat may also become more active, since muscle contractions generate a lot of heat. In really frigid weather, even a combination of accelerated metabolism and increased activity may not be enough to sustain normal body temperature. Then a cat’s muscles will begin shivering. Shivering is the body’s last ditch effort to stay warm. If your cat goes outside and you see it shivering, bring it to a warm dry place right away.

No matter how much heat a cat generates, it is all wasted if the heat escapes, and body heat has many escape routes. Every bit of the cat’s surface radiates heat to the colder outdoor air. However, cats are equipped with features that prevent undue heat loss. A layer of fatty skin insulates the body because it conducts heat at only 1/3 the rate of other tissues. Thick feline hair traps air next to the skin, creating a protective barrier.

Not all cats are created equal when it comes to heat retention. Thick bodied cats with long hair and dense undercoats tend to be of breeds that originated in northern climates, and fine boned, short haired cats came from warmer climates.

Cats rely on metabolism, fat, and fur to stay warm, but in addition there are behavioral strategies that come into play. On a cold day you are likely to find your cat lying someplace warm, like the top of a stove or a warm clothes dryer, or right in the middle of your lap. A cat may curl up and pull its paws under its body to decrease heat loss, and they will sometimes cover their face with a leg or tail to prevent heat loss from the nose or mouth.

Cats can also hold heat by fluffing their fur. Called piloerection, it adds to the insulated layer of air around the cat. This is an automatic response that occurs in cats when the skin feels cold air.

 
 
Banner
Banner