Do different breeds of cat have a higher tolerance for cold temperatures?
Some breeds are better at coping with a colder climate than others, but all breeds need some sort of warmth.
Even the hardiest of cat breeds should not stay outside in temperatures below freezing. Even below 45F, your feline friend is best off indoors. Cats that remain outside in very cold weather are subject to frostbite and hypothermia.
The different layers of cat hair are what enables the cat to cope with extreme cold.
Explanation Of the Layers Of Cat Hair
The top layer is the guard coat, the secondary layer is called the awn, and the soft, often downy layer just against the skin is called the down. Not all cats have all three layers. The Siberian cat has all three layers however the Maine Coon which also originated in a harsh cold climate has two layers.
The Sphynx cat which is often called hairless, still has layer of down hair. Read more to find out which breeds cope well with cold weather and which breeds do not cope well with cold weather.
This is the hair that is closest to the cats body. When we look at the cat, the down hairs appear straight. Under a microscope, you can see they have crimps which is what makes them such good insulators and keeps the cat warm in cold weather.
The awn hairs make up the middle part of the cat’s coat. They protect the undercoat and also help to provide insulation.
The guard hairs are the protective topcoat. They are longer and thicker than either down or awn hairs. They protect the layers underneath from rain and snow. The guard hairs are what we typically see as the coat.
Best Cold Weather Cat Breeds
The Siberian Cat
The Siberian Cat, sometimes referred to as the Siberian Forest Cat or Moscow Longhairs have a thick, luxurious triple coat. This thick coat helps them to survive the subarctic weather in Russia where the cat originated. The triple layers of the Siberian’s coat provides insulation and protection from the wind plus water resistance.
The first layer is the down hair. The down hair is the undercoat. The hairs are short and flat. The awn hairs protect the down hair by providing insulation . The awn hairs are shorter than the longer guard hairs. The guard hairs are the longest hairs and they make up the outer part of the coat. The coat of a Siberian is somewhat glossy which helps to stop the fur from getting matted.
The Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coons are definitely cats bred to survive in very cold climates. Even though they can cope with harsh weather they don’t necessarily like to be out in cold weather.
Their incredibly wide paws with a large surface area, enable them them to walk cross country in snow. Big tufts of fur on their paws to help keep the paws warm. A long bushy tail provides extra insulation from the cold when the tail wraps around the body to conserve body heat. Their luxurious coat acts as insulation against rain and snow. The guard hairs are as long like the Persian’s however they are uneven and coarser. The undercoat is very dense with no awn hair!
When the days get shorter the coat of a Maine Coon will thicken in preparation for winter. They also cope well in warmer climates but they need access to cool areas of the home. These long haired breeds of cats do need regular grooming to keep the coat in tip top shape.
The Turkish Van Cat
The Turkish Van is a different cat breed to the Turkish Angora. The Van originated in Turkey and copes well with cold weather. Vans have medium to long hair with soft, silky hair and an absence of a woolly undercoat. The coat gets thicker in winter and does requires reasonably regular maintenance.
Conversely the cat sheds the winter coat in warmer months giving the appearance of being almost short haired in summer. The coat is water repellent. This is the cat that is often pictured swimming as Turkish Vans love the water.
Related: When do cats shed their hair? Is it related to temperature or the seasons? This article explains more.
The Turkish Angora Cat
The breed probably originated in the mountainous regions of Turkey. It has a very soft, medium-long coat for protection in the winter months. This cat is a different breed to the the Turkish Van however both originated in Turkey and have similarities hence the confusion.
One similarity is the the coat thickening in winter to keep the cats warm in winter and shedding to become almost short haired in appearance during summer. The Turkish Angora is a smaller, more fine boned cat than the Van.
The Scottish Fold Cat
The Scottish Fold has soft, thick fur which is suited to harsh environments due to the exceptionally dense and warm fur they possess around their toes, ears, thighs and tail. They can be long or short haired. Their recognizing feature of the ears folding against their heads is to help retain their body heat. Now that’s a handy adaptation.
Most Scottish Folds have short hair and they are easy to groom. These cats were originally bred in Scotland and cope well with winter weather.
The Manx Cat
Manx are mainly short haired cats although a longer haired Manx cat sometimes referred to as a Cymric cat. The Manx cat is from the isle of Mann and you may know the cat as the cat with not tail. To cope with freezing temperatures, the hair is thick and dense. The awn coat or undercoat is also thick and can become matted so the cat needs regular grooming. The Manx cat
The Himalayan Cat
Himalayans have somewhat of a history regarding their origins. They were finally recognized as a cat breed in 1957. The name may suggest that they are from the Himalayan Mountain Range but that is incorrect. One of the early breeders named the cat the Himalayan because of the color similarity to a Himalayan rabbit.
The Himalayan is long haired making it a good candidate for the winter months. The undercoat is dense and the coat thickens considerably in winter. The Himmie is a big shedder in warmer months and needs regular grooming to maintain the silky coat.
The Himalayan also loves being inside and is a docile indoor cat.
The Russian Blue Cat
The Russian Blue thrives in chilly climates. The double coat is short and dense. The Russian Blue can cope with cold temperatures with an average range of 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s undercoat is soft and downy.
The guard hairs are the same length as the undercoat with silver tips. The insulating layer and the guard hairs provide perfect insulation for cold weather, which is necessary to survive winter weather. The Russian Blue has a lovely temperament and makes a wonderful pet.
Related: Can cats catch colds from humans?
The Norwegian Forest cat
The Norwegian Forest Cat does well in any season but fares better in colder climates with temperatures ranging from 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They are built for cold weather and have a fluffy thick coat.
They are similar to Maine Coons in that they have very long guard hairs which are uneven and can be coarse.
There are no awn hairs but a very dense undercoat. They have long tufted hair on their paws to help keep them warm.
They love climbing so don’t leave any ladders lying around. Their front legs are slightly longer than the rear legs which helps them to climb. They can also happily cope and adapt to warmer weather.
The Persian Cat
Originating in modern day Iran, Persians have extremely thick coats that protect them well in winter and in other cold climates.
The coat is very thick, consisting of two layers. The awn layer helps to insulate them from the cold air . The guard hairs are long and silky and provide added warmth. This insulation prevents heat loss through their skin.
The British Shorthair Cat
British Shorthairs can handle warmer or colder climates but prefer temps at 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit (they will also stay indoors when it’s too hot outside).
The coat is short, very dense and waterproof. When the cat moves the fur tends to separate which can be easily seen.
The Ragdoll Cat
The Ragdoll is a very docile cat. It is a smaller more relaxed breed than the Maine Cone, Norwegian Forest cat. Their coat is semi long haired and silky. They can cope with cold weather but are best brought inside when the temperature dips.
The Ragdoll does not have an undercoat but rather has a single coat consisting mainly of long soft guard hairs. Because of their docile nature, they are often kept as indoor cats for their own protection.
Related: Do cats feel the cold? How can you tell? Exactly what are the signs of hypothermia?
These Breeds Cope Well With Milder Temperatures
Our feline friends will always seek warmth and you will know if your cat needs to be kept inside in cold weather. Even the term cold weather is somewhat ambiguous and what is cold weather for some will be mild for others. If in doubt ensure that cat has a warm place to bunk down and if that can’t be inside, provide an outdoor warm shelter. Also be aware that older cats are less equipped to cope with cold weather.
The Siamese Cat
The Siamese cat originated in Thailand. The climate is tropical and is hot and muggy. Note: Some part of Thailand in the north, have milder weather.
The Siamese cat is not bred to be outdoors in winter. Siamese cats can cope with a cold climate but make sure you provide them with a warm bed to keep them warm in winter.
The American Shorthair Cat
This is a robust and very popular breed of cat. It can withstand cold climates and also harsh hot climates making it a good all rounder.
The Burmese Cat
The Burmese cat is best suited to a temperate climate and needs to be kept indoors, if the temperature plummets and becomes cold. They have a short haired coat which sheds little and is easy to maintain.
The Bengal Cat
Generally speaking Bengal cats are well suited to cope better with warmer weather than extreme cold. Although they can cope with cold weather they are not equipped to cope with freezing temperatures and are better off being brought inside in winter.
The Sphnyx Cat
Hairless cats like the Sphynx are usually indoor cats and they become cold easily. They are also not totally hairless as they still possess a downy coat which needs special attention of its own. To keep the cat warm a Sphynx will often wear a jumper when temperatures drop. Not all cats, even Sphynx cats like wearing a jumper so pay attention to your cat’s behaviour when you attempt to clothe him in a jumper. Provide a warm place inside the home for your Sphynx cat.
A Sphnyx should live indoors but supervised time outdoors is okay too. Just make sure that the sun is not too hot for their skin as they burn easily.
Cats do put on body fat in winter and need to eat more cat food as explained in this article. So kitty, extra food may be a go for you this winter.
In the winter, our furry feline friends need some extra TLC as they can’t handle chilly temperatures as well as we do. In fact, there are several warning signs that you should look out that cold cats display for such as shivering and lethargy or if their ears or paws feel particularly cold. Luckily cat breeds like Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cats seem better equipped against these conditions but still need access to a nice warm room.
Another condition that can be winter related is dry skin. Don’t mess about with home remedies which may or may not work. Visit your veterinarian for advice. In the meantime, make sure your cat has access to fresh water. Refrain from bathing your cat unless absolutely necessary. Most breeds do not need a bath and a bath may dry the cat’s coat.
Even an outdoor cat and feral cats benefit from a safe and warm place where there is shelter from extreme temperatures. This could be a blanket lined crate with food and water nearby. Cats sleep, even feral cats navigate to shelters that have been provided to escape the cold. A simple hot water bottle placed in a an outdoors shelter can provide warmth to a feral cat.
Whatever breed of cat you already have or decide to get in the future it is definitely worth considering the breed in relation to the climate where you live. Cats are adaptable creatures but nevertheless there are some breeds as discussed that fare much better in frigid temperatures.
If you have uncertainty contact breeders in your area to discuss how well the breed adapts to climatic conditions.