I just got a visit from the neighbour's cat again. He likes me, but doesn't fancy his owner too much. She might not be downright abusing him, but I think he prefers to be out from the house, even if it's cold outside.

It was almost −8 °C just now. I, a human in t-shirt and comfortable pants, freeze just from having the balcony door open for a few seconds...

I feel extremely bad when I notice that he's out there even in the middle of the night and in such cold weather. I really wonder to what extent he freezes.

The cat is overall very (almost surprisingly) healthy-seeming and strong. Nice fur. No visual damage and seems very agile. He also wanted to go out again on his own after a while, but I suspect that it may be partially because he's afraid of my now-gone cat who he did not get along with, even though both cats liked me a lot. (Perhaps that just added to the cat conflict...)

At what point does it go from "the cat is probably freezing, but he'll cozy up in his little bed on their balcony and it'll just be a bit chilly" to "this cat is in serious danger"? After all, cats are covered with fur, and at this point must have evolved familiarity with this cold climate here. It's not like it's an imported cat race straight from Egypt or something.

I very easily feel sorry for both animals and humans, so maybe I'm exaggerating. I'm convinced that he is not out 24/7, but gets to be indoors every day at least for a while. He pretty clearly gets enough food.

At what temperature should I be alarmed? Is -8 °C already too cold? And if so, what exactly should I do? The person in question isn't exactly evil, but a bit... weird. I don't want her to even suspect that I feel sorry for her cat, because I fear that she might start mistreating him just out of spite then...

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    i hope we can avoid opinion based answers to your question. Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 6:41
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    Food for thought: Most cats get used to outside temperatures from very early on, just like Inuit get used to arctic temeratures. Inuit are just normal humans, like you and me. They don't have any anti-freeze genes or invisible fur, but they are often seen walking in t-shirts and loose pants through their frozen and snowy villages. There are reports of "wolf children" who seemed unfazed by almost freezing water. It's a question of personal adaptation as much as genetic features like fur.
    – Elmy
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 9:51
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    It depends... it depend at the fur quality, and the existing options to warm up. For example would a cat, that is used to go outside change naturally the fur with the seasons, so the winter-fur is more insulating than the summer-fur. And if there is a small insulated room (~30x50x30cm with small entry), the cat is able to warm up with its own body, it will be comfortable with -8°C without problems. I have no knowledge about the minimum temperature a cat like this would tolerate... the opposite is an indoor cat without quality-fur and secure room Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 9:57

1 Answer 1


Trust the cat.

I don't know the distance from your house to your neighbour's house, but assuming you don't live near an abandoned mine in Yukon, it would probably take the cat a few minutes to come to you. If he is cold, he would not want to get out until he is warm, even if you tried to push him out. If the cat still wants to go out, it means the cat is comfortable.

A lot depends on the cat.

As you suggested, Sphinx cats would probably suffer at those temperatures. Most cats would probably find it cold as well. But breeds like Maine Coon have strong fur even between their toe beans, so they are much more resilient to cold than the rest.

Acclimation is another important factor. If you take a cat from a tropical country, he might feel too cold in a minus 0°C environment, but if he is allowed to grow a winter coat for that region, he might tolerate it better.

Since the cat has an owner, I assume he is adequately fed. Animals, including us, convert their calories to heat by shivering. Cold weathers require animals to be fed more. This is a guide of Canadian Ministry of Agriculture for cows in cold. Apparently heavy winter coat of cows keep them warm upto -8°C but by feeding them more, possibly 40% more, they can withstand -23°C comfortably. Of course, it is impossible to make direct deductions between cows and cats, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no similar guide for cats. But, then again, you should not compare how you feel with how cat feels as well :)

Finally, kittens and old cats suffering from arthritis have much less tolerance for cold.

It depends on the environment.

Winds or continuous drafts prevent cat to isolate layers of air in his fur, which reduces their tolerance to the cold. Although most cats have oily fur which prevents them from getting wet easily, prolonged exposure to rain reduces their tolerance to the cold. If the cat ever comes to you soaking, you have to make sure that he is wiped and he is allowed to dry. I don't suggest you to blow dry the cat. Most cats hate it anyway and the hot wind might irritate their skin.

Some numbers

Turkey is famous for its stray cats. Some municipalities, some NGOs and some people prepare cat houses for them. These houses are usually made of wood or even cardboard, have very small openings so only cats can get in and little or no insulation. Sometimes people put some blankets as well. Overwhelming majority of adult cats survive the winter (5°C to -10°C in Istanbul) by cuddling together in winter. Similarly, cats in Lithuania, where winters can be as cold as -23°C, stray or feral cats survive in similar housing with styrofoam insulation.

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    Here in Lithuania (until now the lowest temperature for this winter was -23°C) I saw some of this cat houses. They are wooden ones with styropor insulation and around 50cm above the ground. I assume two cuddling cats can lay inside comfortable, maybe three. I do not know, if they are for strays or for half-tame cats the neighbours care for. Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 8:07
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    That is another number that night be useful. Do you mind if I incorporate it in my answer?
    – ck1987pd
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 12:34
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    @Allerleirauh feel free to edit the answer if you can take a photo :)
    – ck1987pd
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 20:13
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    @lila thank you lila and c.koca !! Commented Feb 6, 2021 at 16:47

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