Cat owners often wish they could hack the minds of their pets to know what mood they are in. Luckily, it is actually possible to tell what mood your cat might be in, based on certain predictors. These include the weather.
Does weather affect cats’ moods?
Cats have evolved to detect even the smallest change in their environment, and are therefore sensitive to changes in the weather. A cat’s sense of smell is 10 times stronger than that of a mere human being, and its hearing range is even superior to that of dogs. Cats have five times the number of ear muscles that humans do, and they can also hear three frequencies higher.
Cats also pick up on changes in the behavior of other animals. When a flock of birds takes off to get out of the way of bad weather, your cat can hear it. Even your mood in response to the weather can affect your cat. Just because cats may seem indifferent to your emotions, that doesn’t mean they are unaware of them.
When you are stressed by the weather, your cat knows it and its mood may change accordingly. For example, skittish cats will be even more on edge when they sense their human is anxious. On the other hand, cats are typically calmer in bad weather when their owners seem unfazed.
In a recent study, researchers found that cats can actually distinguish between happy and angry people simply from their facial expressions and vocal tone. When shown pictures of happy people, test participants purred or appeared at ease; when shown the same people looking angry, they hissed and appeared to feel threatened. The findings of the study support the idea that cats have the ability to recognize complex human emotions and have an instinctive response to them through a change in mood or behavior.
Cats and cold weather
Cats are pretty well adapted to the cold. You might, however, notice a change in your cat’s usual habits. In cold weather, cats might tend to drink less water and eat and sleep more. They might also be more lethargic. They like to find a favorite spot where they can bunker down, and this is where you will usually find them, scrunched up into a tight ball with paws tucked under them to keep warm.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Some cat owners will observe increased activity levels during the cold. This might be due to the instinctive need to stay warm by keeping active, or the cold weather might actually spur a curiosity for other unexplored warm spaces in the home. So, you might find your cat poking around in places in which it previously showed no interest.
Cat owners need to be attentive to how their cats respond to cold weather. Bear in mind that dry air can bother cats, and extremely cold temperatures can affect even indoor cats. Watch out for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, increased lethargy, decreased alertness, and decreased appetite. If at all noted, it is best to get your cat checked out by a professional to make sure that all is well with your feline friend.
Cats and warm weather
Cats enjoy warm weather. The bad news, however, is that they tend to become less interested in their humans in these conditions, especially in really warm weather. Your body heat is not what they want to be around on an extra-hot day. So, if you don’t have any air conditioning, give your cat its space. Also, warm weather can trigger mating behavior, so if there are other cats in the neighborhood, expect your cat to be anxious to get out of the house.
You will also notice a change in your cat’s habits around the home during warm weather. It will drink more water; stretch its body out while lying down as a way to dispense, rather than retain, heat; and will prefer cooler surfaces like tiles and tabletops over fabrics and wool. Although cats are able to tolerate heat well, cat owners should watch out for hyperthermia in very hot weather.
Cats love sunbathing, but they are not immune to heatstroke. If your cat starts to pant, make sure it isn’t because it is overheating. Keep its water bowl filled at all times. If it becomes lethargic or shows a decreased alertness, try to cool it down by changing the temperature in the room, or moving it somewhere in the house that is cooler. If there is no improvement, give your vet a call or have your cat checked.
Does cats’ behavior change with the seasons?
Behavior changes in cats may be more pronounced with seasonal changes, due to the prolonged duration of weather conditions, and thus the prolonged exposure to heat, cold, or weather disturbances that may accompany the season, such as rain and thunderstorms that create more noise to which cats are sensitive.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is observed in animals as well as humans. It is a psychological phenomenon caused by an extended period without sunlight, due to the impact of such conditions on serotonin, a mood booster. Serotonin production is linked to sunlight exposure, and low serotonin levels may predispose humans and felines alike to developing SAD. Cats with SAD might exhibit aggression, increased lethargy, neediness, and fur loss, and there might also be a noted increase in accidents around the house.
Seasonal changes may also affect your cat physically. Dry air can cause dry skin which results in itchiness and discomfort. You might notice your cat’s nose and paws becoming flaky and its fur might become matted. Breaks in the skin barrier due to dryness, flaking, and increased scratching may cause infections. You will also notice that your cat is more irritable as a result.
What temperature do cats prefer?
Although cats have the innate ability to adapt to both cold and warm weather, they prefer mildly warm weather. It is during this weather that they appear most content and comfortable. Due to this, they may seem more congenial and even affectionate. In weather of any extreme, it is ideal to create a comfortable temperature for your cat by adjusting the thermostat.
Image: istockphoto.com / Ruslana Chub