Cats have rich and diverse personalities, but a fascination common to most is with the fireplace. Although individual cats may have various reasons for liking fireplaces, the primary reason your cat is drawn to your hearth is the warmth emanating from it.
That may seem straightforward enough, but there are other contributing factors to this furnace fondness, including cat biology and breed. Let us break them down in this article.
Whether you are a novice or a seasoned cat owner, you have no doubt noticed that your pet is drawn to warmth. You may often find them stretched out and lounging by the window that lets in the most sunlight. Some even curl up under the hood in the engine bays of cars.
Even harder to miss is your cat’s inclination to snuggle up to you or to blankets, throw pillows, and other fluffy objects that can give them some degree of warmth. This may seem rather puzzling, considering that their coats should provide them more than sufficient heat.
Feline biology offers an explanation for this odd behavior. Cats are homeotherms, which means they need to adjust their internal heat gain and heat loss in order to maintain a relatively constant body temperature.
These adjustments require cats to use up energy to regulate their body heat. Deriving heat from external sources allows them to conserve energy while maintaining their basal metabolic rate and still keep warm. One such ideal external source is the fireplace.
In addition, cats do not perceive warmth as their human owners do. Their body temperature, at 102 degrees Fahrenheit, is higher than ours, which is 98.7 seven degrees. This results in a significant difference in thermoreception.
On top of that, cats have fewer heat receptors. From 112 degrees, pain receptors in the human body are stimulated. For cats, however, it takes 126 degrees and higher for heat to trigger a response from their pain receptors.
This information may have you worried, and rightfully so. While cats may be oblivious to heat at degrees that cause pain in humans, it can still certainly cause them harm. They may sustain burns and injuries even before feeling pain.
Because their pain receptors are not stimulated at the same degree as ours, cats do not notice when they have gotten too hot. Sitting too close, or for too long, in front of the fireplace in an effort to conserve energy may quickly result in hyperthermia.
With that in mind, you may indulge your cat the warmth and coziness of a spot in front of the fireplace, but you may need to monitor them and make sure they are nestled at a safe distance and that they do not linger there for too long.
There are seventy-one breeds recognized by The International Cat Association. All these breeds are believed to be descended from cats first domesticated in ancient Egypt, from where they were dispersed throughout the world via different trade routes.
Whether for their fondness of cats or for cats’ usefulness in hunting rodents, humans brought these “pets” with them in their trade and travels. The various appearances of cat breeds today reflect their necessary physical adaptations made to the climates to which they were dispersed.
Cats in colder regions typically have thicker coats and stockier bodies to help them retain heat. Cats in warmer regions have shorter coats and tend to be longer and more slender, which allows their bodies to shed excess heat, especially in desert climates.
Today, commercial pet importation removes boundaries and allows cat lovers and enthusiasts to own felines that are not native to their region. Cats from warmer climates may find themselves in northerly regions with winters they are not adapted to.
It goes without saying that when days get too frigid, cats of any breed may bask in the warmth of the fireplace. But you would especially find breeds with shorter coats and slender builds to be the regulars there.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand more about the attraction of fireplaces for your feline pal. Allow them to bask in the warmth, but keep in mind that they may be oblivious to the fact that they are overheating, so always keep an eye on them around the fireplace!
Image: istockphoto.com / Magnolija