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Can cats really grow an indoor ‘winter coat?’

In the winter, we can turn up the heat, put on a sweater, or layer some clothing when the temperatures drop. Cats don’t have those capabilities, so they had to evolve to be able to stay warm in the changing temperatures on their own. The result is changing coat thicknesses and a specially designed coat that helps to keep cats warm. And while indoor cats might have the luxury of being in a heated space all winter, it’s important to understand the role your indoor cat’s winter coat development plays in his comfort, too. The more you know about how cats stay warm, the better you’ll be able to keep your indoor cat healthy and comfortable.

Grey longhair cat sitting indoors in a sunny spot

Do cats’ coats thicken in winter?

According to Catsonville Cat Clinic, cats adapt to environmental changes by growing a thicker coat in the winter. That thickness primarily comes from the undercoat, which consists of finer, shorter, softer hairs. Those hairs increase during the winter to help trap your cat’s body heat. The coat allows your cat to better regulate his temperature, so he can withstand colder weather.

Since your cat only needs that thicker coat in the winter, he’ll also shed those extra hairs in the spring. You can brush your cat to help remove the loose hair and keep it from spreading around your house.

Do cats have a winter coat?

Growing a winter coat is a natural response for any cat, even if he lives indoors. In fact, even with a winter coat, your cat may start to spend more time in your home when the cold sets in. The cold is one cause of this, but there’s also less food for your cat to hunt outside, so he may decide that spending time inside your home is more enjoyable.

Keep in mind that even with a winter coat, cold outdoor temperatures can be uncomfortable for your cat, especially if he spends a longer period of time outside. Your cat might ask to go outside in cold winter weather, but be prepared to let him in again soon.

Grey cat curled up under a fluffy blanket
Dimhou/Pixabay

Keeping your cat warm in the winter

While your cat’s winter coat means he’s better able to cope with colder temperatures, he’ll still appreciate your efforts to keep your home warm. One easy way to do this is to turn your thermostat up, or to at least turn up the heat in the rooms where your cat spends the most time.

You can also make your cat cozy sleeping spots throughout your home. If he has windows he prefers, make sure that they’re fully closed, and consider replacing the weatherstripping if it’s getting old. Then give your cat a nice blanket or cat bed to snuggle into.

You might also want to get your cat some products intended to help keep him warm. Fully enclosed cat beds make for cozy spaces that can help keep drafts out. You’ll also find that some beds are made of self-warming material that reflects your cat’s body heat back at him.

Alternatively, there are plenty of cat beds, blankets, and houses that are heated. These products are electrically powered, so look for one that’s designed to consume minimal energy and that has an energy-saving function. These powered products can get your cat extra warm without requiring you to turn up the heat in your home too much. They’re particularly helpful for cats who are older or who may be stiff in the winter because of arthritis or other aches and pains.

Final thoughts

When the winter weather sets in, your cat’s body will have already been preparing him for the cold, even if he’s an indoor-only cat. However, you can help him stay comfortable by keeping your house just toasty enough and by giving him warm places to sleep. When your cat inevitably sheds his winter coat in the spring, be ready with a quality brush and brush your cat daily. You can help prepare him for this by introducing short periods of brushing gradually over the winter. The more actively you brush your cat, the less hair there will be to spread throughout your home. Brushing can also minimize the amount of hair that your cat ingests, helping to prevent hairballs.

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