Are Heating Pads Safe for Cats?

Are Heating Pads Safe for Cats
Image: / Daria Yakovleva

Most cats need a little help keeping their bodies warm, including those with thick furs. More so if your pet is shorthaired or has no hair at all.

Broadly speaking, cats have an affinity for warm places. Take a look at your pet’s favorite places at home. Most likely, these are sunny areas. A lot of that has to do with your pet’s ancestry. Cats evolved from wildcats that live in dry and arid areas. 

While heating pads provide warmth and comfort for pets, especially during the cooler months of the year, there are a few potential drawbacks that you need to be aware of. These include electrocution, burns, strangulation, and intestinal blockage.

Are heating pads safe for cats?

Yes, heating pads are generally safe for cats but there are the following associated risks that you should be aware of:

1. Electrocution

If you are planning on buying an electric heating pad for your cat, one risk that you need to know about is the possibility of electrocution. Although dogs are more prone to chewing stuff, a curious cat may think of the heating pad’s cord as a tasty treat or a toy. This can make the heating pad an electrocution hazard, not only for your cat but also for you.

Instead of buying an electric heating pad, you might want to consider other options available. Otherwise, you will have to keep a close watch on your cat and inspect the heating pad regularly to check for signs of damage, especially along with the cords.

2. Strangulation

Another risk associated with electric heating pads for cats is strangulation. These devices typically come with long cords that pose the risk of strangulation. Your cat might play with the cord and could potentially strangle himself once the cord gets wrapped around him.

3. Burns

cat burns
Image: / Inna Vostrikova

Ideally, cats should only spend 15 to 20 minutes on a heating pad. If he spends more time sleeping or lounging on top of the heating pad, it is possible that he can get his skin burned and suffer from internal damage to his organs. Cats with thick fur are at a higher risk for burns. The thick fur prevents them from feeling excessive heat.

4. Intestinal blockage

It is one thing for your cat to tear through the fabric that houses the wires and heating elements. And it is another thing if your cat eats bits and pieces of those. There is a risk that these foreign objects can wind their way into your cat’s digestive system and cause a blockage. 

Advantages of heating pads for cats

Despite the aforementioned risks associated with using heating pads, there are a few benefits that you should also consider.

1. Immunity boost

Just like humans, cats become vulnerable to diseases when the weather is cold. Although you cannot totally prevent your cat from catching a disease, providing him with warmth gives him a better chance of warding off sickness.

2. Mobility aid

The older your cat gets, the more it gets difficult for him to move. This is particularly true when the season gets colder. 

Apart from providing your cat with warmth and comfort, a heating pad can help your cat move around by reducing stiffness, especially during cold mornings.

3. Comfort and security

Winter can become an inhospitable time for cats. Even if your cat lives exclusively indoors, he can still get cold inside your home.

Types of heating pads

Apart from electric heating pads, there are a few other types of heating pads that you might want to consider. Some even avoid the risks associated with the use of an electric heating pad.

Thermal heating pads

A thermal heating pad contains materials that reflect your pet’s heat back to him. This allows the heating pad to keep your pet warm. 

The chief advantage of this type of heating pad is that it eliminates the risk of your cat burning his skin. This is because you are assured that the heat that the pad emits does not go beyond your cat’s body temperature. 

Additionally, this type of heating pad does not use electricity which eliminates the risks of electrocution and strangulation.

Electric heating pads and beds

Types of heating pads
Image: / popovaphoto

Electric heating pads are similar to those used by people. The key difference is that these heating pads run on lower wattages. Additionally, most come with either a removable cover or one that can be easily wiped. The heating pad uses an AC adapter to power the heating element.

Electric heating cat beds, on the other hand, look and function like ordinary cat bed, except that it has a removable heating pad. These cat beds come in an array of designs and shapes. However, most of these beds are hut or cup-shaped, giving cats a good amount of comfort and warmth.

Before buying either of these, consider your pet’s general behavior, especially around electrical cords. Although most of these products have reinforced cords, be aware that the cords are not chew-proof. If your cat is persistent in chewing the cord, he can damage it eventually, posing serious fire and electrocution risks, not only to your cat but also to other members of your household.

Another safety concern to cat owners should be aware of is the issue of overheating. First, you must make sure that the heating pad or bed that you are planning to buy does not heat up to the point where it exceeds your pet’s body temperature.

From time to time, you should check the temperature of the heating pad. If it gets too warm to your touch, your pet’s skin can get burned. 

You also need to monitor your cat’s behavior when using the heating pad. If the temperature of the bed or pad is too hot, your cat will show signs of discomfort or overheating like excessive panting. 

If you want to buy an electric heating pad or bed, opt for one that has a thermostat that can help prevent overheating.

Microwaveable heating pads

Microwaveable heating pads contain materials that retain heat for an extended period. These materials include gels and grains like rice. 

These heating pads can be a safer alternative to electric heating pads. However, you have to make sure that the heat of these pads does not exceed your pet’s body temperature.

You can allow these pads to cool off a bit or use a thick cloth that can act as a buffer between the pads and your cat’s body.

Heating pad safety tips

Heating pad safety tips
Image: / Liudmila Chernetska

If you think that the benefits of using a heating pad for cats outweigh the risks, there are a few things that you can do to protect your pet and your family.

Supervise your cat

Ideally, you should not let your cat use the heating pad when you are not around. This will allow you to monitor your pet and prevent him from succumbing to the risks mentioned above.

If that is not possible, you should monitor your cat’s use of the heating pad for the first few times that he uses it. This will allow you to evaluate your pet’s behavior around the heating pad. 

If your cat looks like he is likely to chew on the cord or the fabric of the heating pad, do not allow him to use it when you are not around. 

Monitor the temperature

From time to time, check the temperature of the heating pad. Although some heating pads are equipped with thermostats, it is still a good idea to check the temperature of the heating pad your cat is using. Ideally, you should feel comfortable with the heating pad pressed against your skin for a substantial amount of time.

Check the heating pad

You might not catch your cat actually chewing the cord or the fabric of his heating pad. That does not necessarily mean that he is not doing either of the two. Pay special attention to the electrical components to prevent electrocution. If you are planning to use the heating pad outdoors, be sure that it is rated for outdoor use.

Alternative ways to keep your cat warm

Alternative ways to keep your cat warm
Image: / Naked King

On the other hand, if you feel that the risks of using heating pads outweigh the benefits, there are a few tricks that you can use to keep your pet warm and happy over the winter.

1. Give your cat something to warm himself up

If you are venturing out, be sure to leave your pet with something to keep him warm. It can be as simple as an old towel or blanket or even a bed for cats.

2. Pay attention to your cat’s nutrition

Make sure that your pet is eating healthy food. Nutrition plays a key role in keeping a cat’s fur thick. In turn, the thicker your cat’s fur is, the more insulated he will be against the cold temperature.

3. Check your home’s heating system

If you spend a substantial amount of time out of the home, make sure that your heating system is working optimally.

4. Play with your cat

Apart from stimulating your pet’s mind and body and keeping him fit, playing with your cat is a good way to raise his body temperature.