Cat comfort in the cold

by Andy Bryenton

There are few more cosy winter scenes than a cat curled up and purring by the fireside, but there’s a big reason why our feline companions love a bit of extra warmth in the winter months.

Domesticated cats all come from wildcats called Felis silvestris lybica, native to the Middle East and of course, Egypt. That means that despite their furry coats, many kinds of cat prefer a Mediterranean climate rather than the cold and possible snow prevalent in more southerly climes. For some, endowed through long years of breeding with a shaggier or longer coat, it’s not a huge problem. However, for short-haired varieties, or the hairless Sphinx cat, this might mean it’s necessary to think about a cat coat for winter. All cats would prefer to be indoors this time of year, and if it’s at all possible, making some indoor space for your house cat is the best option.

Cats are notoriously independent and like to roam, but in very cold weather it’s easy for them to take on a bigger ‘reconnaissance mission’ than they can handle. If you find a strange cat outside your home in the winter, it may not be a stray, but someone’s pet who has gotten lost or is starting to feel debilitated from the cold. A shaking huddled or damp cat may develop hypothermia if not assisted.

A towel is the first step, not just for warmth but also to protect you from unintentional claws (scared or cold cats tend to grip by reflex). A simple cardboard box, hot water bottle and a dry second towel can provide accommodation until it’s possible to either call the SPCA or try to find the cat’s family. If he or she is in good condition and has come to humans for aid, it’s likely that a cat is domestic and not wild or stray.

Thankfully, many cats are microchipped in modern times, making it easy to get someone’s beloved pet back home. Other tech advantages, such as local Facebook pages and civic websites, make for another way to find a lost pet’s owners.

It’s a community bonding exercise, in a way, because taking care of a cold and lost pet for a neighbour is just what you would want them to do if the situation was reversed.