We all know our cats love their sunny windowsills and curling up by a roaring fireplace. Felines are understood to be creatures who love warmth, commonly seen stretched out to soak their bellies in rays of sunshine.
In this way, they might remind us of cold-blooded reptilian creatures who depend on the warmth of the sun for that day’s energy supply.
Unlike lizards, cats are able to make their own body heat, falling in the category of warm-blooded. However, a cat’s ability to keep warm, or cool, depends on many factors.
For one, though they create their own body heat, it is minimal due to their efficient muscle movements. Dogs on the other hand create a lot of body heat and might depend on the AC being on all day.
In warm climates and hot weather, though felines love sunbathing, it can become too much for them to handle. Because of this a lot of pet owners struggle to decide if they should keep the air conditioning on for their furry friends.
But do cats like air conditioning? It depends.
As cats evolved alongside humans over the past 10,000 or more years, they are tolerant of both very high and very low temperatures just as we are. This does not mean that temperature does not affect them.
If we are cold, they are probably cold as well. If we are too hot, they most likely are, too.
Cats do not sweat like we do. This means their ability to regulate body temperature looks different than ours.
Cats only sweat through their paws, meaning that cool down methods include grooming, panting, stretching, and releasing excess body heat from their ears.
It can become extremely dangerous to leave a cat in an enclosed space with no air flow. Especially so if that space is hot, and the cat is unable to cool itself.
These spaces include cars, greenhouses, sheds, small rooms, etc. If there is little air flow and lots of sun, the outcome will not be a good one after a surprisingly short amount of time.
It can take only ten minutes for a cat to collapse from heat exhaustion. With humidity added it becomes even worse.
Though cats love the hot sunshine, and being warm in general, as well as have a reputation for being desert animals, letting them be hot is not always safe. Cats can suffer from heat stroke and even death if left in an unsafely warm environment.
It is much easier for a cat to warm itself up when they’re a bit chilly than to cool itself off when overheated. If the AC is on, a cat can always find a sunny spot to warm their belly or curl up with a cozy blanket.
It is much more difficult to find a cool spot when the entire home is sweltering.
Sometimes air conditioning can be a bit much for our feline friends. They are comfortable when we are comfortable for the most part, and typically we do not leave our AC on at an uncomfortably low temperature.
But as cats are much smaller and their temperature regulation does not work the same as ours, we should keep in mind that they might prefer something slightly different than we do.
Typically, cats are able to tolerate higher temperatures than us. This makes sense due to their ability to conserve energy.
Unlike dogs and humans, cats know how to keep their core body temperature low. They will be less active during the hotter afternoon, saving their energy for morning and night when temperatures are cooler.
Often on the hottest days owners will find their cats sprawled out on the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or garage floor. Sometimes cats will disappear for hours, only to emerge from under the bed or out of a closet.
For them, these are nice cool places to take a nap until the sun goes down.
Make sure to keep open access to cooler places in the house for your cats to naturally cool themselves.
Besides this, cats will groom to achieve the same effect as sweating for us. When the saliva evaporates from their fur it cools them down, just as we might feel chilly from our sweat after a jog.
Because cats have their own efficient heat regulation, there may be little need to have the AC on just for them. In fact, there can be side effects to air conditioning for cats. Did you know our little felines can catch colds?
Yup. Just like we can. A runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, watery eyes, and a slight fever are the usual signs of a cat cold.
Though a cat is unlikely to get a cold from the air conditioning, it is possible, and so one of the many good reasons to make sure the living space has adequate temperature regulation as well as airflow.
How To Keep Your Cat Cool Without AC:
Although air conditioning is a wonderful way to keep our pets in a healthy temperature range, many pet owners do not have access to air conditioning. Or if one’s air conditioning breaks, quick solutions may be needed.
Or if one simply wishes to use less because it can be very expensive.
Beyond air conditioning, options for cooling a house include:
- First off, make sure there is plenty of water for you feline to stay hydrated
- Wet blankets and towels over open windows to cool the air coming in, as well as block excess sun. Petting your cat with a damp towel can help as well.
- Small fans for your pets to cool themselves, and big fans for the living space in general
- Open windows in the morning and evening to create a cross-ventilation with the naturally cooler breeze
- Turning on the kitchen exhaust fan will help to pull out hot air
- If you have a multi-level living situation, encourage your pets to hang out and sleep in the lowest level where the temperature will be lowest
- If your cat has a very thick coat, you might want to consider having the groomer give it a shave, either just on the belly or a full lion’s cut, in the hottest months.
- This might sound like a bit much, but it can turn out to be a great option: for chinchillas, owners often get them “chinchilla chillers,” or small slabs of granite. A sleeping place made from stone, cement, or brick can keep felines cool as well. Many companies make cooling pads just for cats. Create a homemade chiller with a frozen bottle of water wrapped in a towel.
How To Know When Your Cat Is Too Hot For Comfort, Or Unsafely Chilly:
A cat that is too hot will display signs of hyperthermia, or heat stroke:
- Restless behavior
- Sweaty paws, excessive grooming, and panting
- Lethargy, drooling
- Rapid pulse and breathing
- Staggering or stumbling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Rectal temperature over the normal range of 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit.
While a cat that is too cold will often be curled up in the ball or loaf position. Maybe they even want an extra cuddle or are spending all day in the sunny windowsill.
These are good indicators of a cat being too cold.
Hypothermia is more difficult to notice, as it might seem that a cat is simply cozying up to sleep. However, if a cat seems desperate for a warm spot and their body temperature is cold to the touch, it is time to turn off the AC or even turn on the heater.
In more extreme cases cats will visibly shiver. Your cat, if too cold from AC being on all day, could catch a cold.
Though the risk of hypothermia because of air conditioning is close to none. And catching a cold is unlikely.
How To Know What Temperature To Set Your Living Space To For Your Cat:
A cat’s survivable temperature range is between 30 and 115 degrees. Though a cat may survive, the extremes are not comfortable.
The size, weight, age, and amount of fluff are all factors in whether or not to leave the AC cranked for your feline. A small short haired kitten is able to get hypothermia in “room” temperature, while a 14-pound adult Ragdoll cat may be able to sleep out in the snow.
Though they shouldn’t. Fur can be a big contributor, as fur is a cat’s natural insulator.
It keeps them warm in the cold, and cool in the heat. A cat’s general health should be taken into consideration as well.
A sick and/or elderly cat would need a warmer environment than a young healthy cat.
It is important to remember that our pets are typically comfortable when we are. Keeping your living space at a regular temperature within the range of 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit will ensure a happy cat.
We can’t ask our felines if they prefer the air conditioning to be on or not, but we can use our good judgement and personal knowledge of our pet’s behavior to determine what is best for them. It is also important to keep in mind that it is easier to get warm to keep cool.
Every cat varies in their ability to regulate body temperature. Consult a veterinarian to determine the best temperature range for your feline.