Have you ever wondered why your cat follows the patch of sunlight near a window as it moves? Or rolls around on your fresh laundry as it comes out of your dryer?
Cats tend to crave warmth because of their desert-dwelling origins. Even as kittens, they snuggle together with their mother and littermates for warmth, protection, and security, so it should come as no surprise that your pet shows up in front of your heater as soon as you turn it on.
But there are also other reasons that Fluffy loves a warm nap on your lap. Keep reading to find out more!
Why do cats like warmth?
Cats are heat-seekers and enjoy lounging in the warmest spots they can find. But why do they love the warmth so much? Actually, there are several reasons behind their heat-seeking behavior, as summarized below:
1. Cats have a warmer body temperature
Have you ever noticed that your little ball of fur seems to be warmer than you, despite his small body size?
Cats’ metabolisms are much faster than humans. That means their bodies generate more heat and dissipate it more efficiently compared with the human body. The normal body temperature of cats is around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, while the human body is only around 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since our feline friends have higher core temperatures than we do, they tend to have a higher tolerance for hot environments. You might see your furry pal basking in the afternoon sun without a problem while you are covered in sweat. Or he might seek warmth somewhere else – on the heating vents, near the radiator, on warm blankets, or having a warm cuddle with his human caretaker.
The only downside of this heat-seeking behavior is that cats will not feel the pain until the temperature reaches about 126 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, your pet may be at risk of getting burned – so make sure to keep Fluffy far away from the hot stove or the lit fire!
2. Some cat breeds are more heat-tolerant than others
Not all cats can adapt comfortably to hotter temperatures. Depending on the breed, some might do well in hot climates while others tolerate colder temperatures better. For example, breeds like the Sphynx, Peterbald, and Burmese can live in areas with tropical climates because they do not have thick fur. On the other hand, long-haired cats like Maine coons and Ragdolls can keep themselves warm during winter because of their thick coats.
3. Age affects the level of warmth that cats need
A cat’s age can influence the amount of heat they need to stay warm and comfortable. For example, newborn kittens cannot warm themselves until they are a few weeks older. At this stage, they are dependent on their mother cat to keep them warm. They can also be very sensitive to the cold; without their mother, it will be difficult for them to survive.
Likewise, senior cats – just like senior people – can be more susceptible to the cold, and may have conditions like arthritis that exacerbate their discomfort in cold weather.
4. Existing medical conditions
Illnesses can affect your cat’s heat-seeking behavior. If your cat seeks warmer or cooler spots than normal, this change could indicate a potential illness that your cat is trying to conceal. If you notice other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of interest in playing, or lack of appetite, it is best to take your pet to the vet for a proper diagnosis and medical assistance.
5. Inherited tendency from their wild cat ancestors
Our furry friends might look adorably delicate with their smooth, silky coats, but they are actually descendants of wild desert cats. Hence, they are adapted to desert living and extreme temperatures. Somehow, these survival traits have been passed to our domestic felines, so they tend to seek warm areas out of instinct.
Warmth also provides our kitties with a sense of security. If there is a warm area around your home, your cat will find it. No matter whether it is a windowsill, a pile of laundry from the dryer, or a heater, your cat will be happier and more comfortable when he is warm.
Do cats cuddle for warmth?
Most cats cuddle for warmth because it is something they learned during kittenhood.
Kittens are highly dependent on their mom and other siblings for heat. Without this, it is almost impossible for the little ones to survive since they cannot regulate their own body temperatures. The experience of snuggling with their mom and littermates not only keeps them comfortable but also makes them feel safe. It is for this reason that cats associate warmth with security and survival.
Even though they have grown into independent, adult cats, they will continue to crave warmth and safety. But, instead of cuddling with their littermates, they will seek other sources of heat around the house. And of course, nothing beats the warm cuddle of their human friend!
Why does my cat like to lay in front of the heater?
Just like humans, cats are continuously seeking comfort, and that includes a warm spot to lay down. Any area with a heat source will likely attract a cat, especially during the cold seasons. Your cat enjoys the feeling of the heat and will happily doze off in front of heating devices. However, be cautious of allowing your cat to sit in front of the heater! Cats are prone to burning because they cannot immediately sense the increasing temperature until it becomes too hot.
The good and the bad about fur coats
Most cat breeds are born with thick fur coats. Now, you might ask – is this not enough to keep them warm?
Cats’ fur acts as an insulator to maintain their core temperature, so those fabulous coats should be able to protect their bodies from both cold and heat. Most of the time, cats seek warmth out of instinct, and not necessarily because they feel cold all the time. They crave warmth and security just as their wild ancestors did to survive.
Because of these heat-seeking instincts, cats tend to explore every nook and cranny of the house to find the best source of heat. However, the insulating effect of their fur can put them at risk as it prevents them from feeling an increase in heat until it is already hot enough to burn them. That is why you should never let your cat come too close to the radiator, laundry dryer, or any other heat source that may be a hazard.
Safe ways to provide warmth for your cat
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives available to keep your four-legged friend warm and happy. You can purchase a cat heating pad which is quite helpful during cold seasons. The heating pad is also designed with materials and sensors to protect your cat from burns and overheating. But be wary when choosing an electric heating pad – make sure to choose a high-quality and chew-resistant brand like RIOGOO Pet Heating Pad to prevent accidents.
You can also place a cat bed or pillow near a heating device, but make sure it is not too close or you risk your cat overheating. That way, your cat can enjoy the heat from a safe distance.
If you have a snuggly cat, take advantage of the cold season by enjoying some cuddles together. Both of you will benefit from each other’s warmth, plus it is a great opportunity to bond.
Wrapping it up
Cats love being warm, and your cat will instinctively seek warmth anywhere in the house that has a good source of heat. He might hang out on your heating devices, in front of your fireplace, on your kitchen counter, or even inside the dryer. But, in their quest for comfy and warm spots, cats can also risk overheating and cause accidents, so keep an eye on your companion to keep him out of trouble!
Image: istockphoto.com / Ekaterina79