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Can Cats Go Outside in the Winter? Tips on Winter Preparation for Indoor and Outdoor Cats

Adequate heat, food, entrances, and shelters are among the things to consider in cold weather.

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

chantilly-tiffany cat in snow

Can Cats Go Outside in the Winter? Tips on Winter Preparation for Indoor and Outdoor Cats

If your cat can go outside in the winter depends on many factors. Some cats can absolutely go outside in the cold without any problem. Others may have issues.

We explore these factors here and go over tips on how to prepare cats for winter, whether you let your cat go outside or not.

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Can Cats Go Outside in the Winter?

Essentially, it depends on the cat. Many cat breeds that were developed in cold areas have adapted to those areas and can be outside in low-temperature weather. However, a hairless cat does not fall into this category, for example. Many shorthaired cats also don’t do well outside during the winter unless you live in a mild climate.

How much your specific cat goes outside also matters. Cats that spend most of their time outdoors tend to be better adapted to cold weather than cats that don’t. They may develop thicker winter coats and be more experienced in finding shelter. They’re less likely to get scared and end up far away from home, where their chance of surviving winter is slimmer.

Indoor cats that escape during the winter months have a low survival chance. They’re likely to lose their way and will have few survival skills. They may be susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite due to their inexperience.

The exact temperature outside also matters. Temperatures above freezing are typically safe for cats. However, below freezing, the chance of cold-related injuries increases. Cats should preferably have access to a warm place at all times. But in very cold weather, you may want to restrict your cat’s outside time to the warmest parts of the day only (or not at all).

Maine Coon cat sits on snowy frozen path
Image Credit: Konstantin-Zaykov, Shutterstock

If there is a freeze or cold weather warning in your area, the temperature likely isn’t safe for your cat. These warnings take wind into account too, which can have a huge effect on hypothermia risk.

Precipitation can also leave your cat open to hypothermia. Rain, snow, and sleet can all make your cat wet, which limits their ability to regulate their own body temperature.

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The 4 Tips on Preparing Outdoor Cats for Winter

If you have a feline that spends time outside, you’ll need to prepare them for the environment properly. These steps can help prevent cold-related injuries like hypothermia, which can be deadly.

1. Provide Access to Warm Shelter

All outdoor cats should have access to a warm, waterproof shelter, even if you live in a mild climate. Cats should preferably spend nights indoors, as nighttime tends to be much colder than daytime. However, shelter should still be provided so your feline can be somewhere protected at any point.

Line the shelter with straw for extra warmth. Don’t use blankets, as these can get wet and cause hypothermia. Straw stays insulating even when your cat is soggy. Place the shelter somewhere away from the wind and snow if possible.

Garages and porches are great places to put shelters, but you can also put them against your house for extra wind blocking.

outdoor cat enclosure
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

2. Provide Food and Water

Cats that spend time outdoors in the winter may need extra food, as they will be burning more to keep themselves warm. You may need to invest in high-calorie food for the winter or even add in extra wet food.

Don’t forget to provide your cat with access to water at all times. It’s important that the water doesn’t get frozen, which can be easier said than done in the middle of winter. Heated bowls can be helpful, but checking the water often can also prevent freezing. Anytime your cat goes outside, make sure they have access to fresh water.

3. Supervise Your Cat

You should monitor your cat closely in the winter. Outdoor cats tend to get ill more often in the winter, just like humans do. Most of these are minor, but outdoor cats are also more likely to develop cold-related illnesses like hypothermia.

Hypothermia and similar problems can be deadly if left untreated. The longer your cat goes without treatment, the more likely they are to develop side effects. Common signs of hypothermia include lethargy, shivering, and loss of appetite.

That said, if your cat starts acting weird at all, it’s probably a good idea to take them to the vet.

man playing cat outdoor
Image Credit: Karpova, Shutterstock

4. Do a Weather Check

Just because you let your cat go outside in the winter doesn’t mean you should let them do so all the time. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, it is a good idea to deny your cat outdoor access until it becomes milder.

Your cat doesn’t have a way to predict the weather, but you can give the forecast a quick check each day. Don’t let your cat outside if it’s going to stay below freezing for much of the day or if a strong winter storm is expected.

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The 4 Tips on Preparing Indoor Cats for Winter

Even though they aren’t going outside, indoor cats must also be prepared for winter. Many will slow down in the winter due to the decreased daylight and colder temperatures, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain.

1. Keep Them Cozy

Many of the negative effects that indoor cats experience in the winter come from the cold weather. It’s important to keep your cat warm inside by providing plenty of cozy places for them to sleep. Heated cat beds and blankets in the sun are all solid options.

Of course, every cat has their own preferences, so keep your pet’s likes in mind when selecting bedding and setting up sleeping spaces.

Donskoy cat (Don Sphynx, Russian Hairless) indoor on sofa
Image Credit: Viachaslau Herostratos, Shutterstock

2. Provide Enrichment

In the winter, cats can quickly become bored and may sleep more than usual. While this is fine to a certain extent, too much lying around can lead to weight gain. Therefore, providing enrichment to encourage movement is often required.

Invest in plenty of toys for your feline, and plan on playing with them daily. Using a laser pointer or another interactive toy even for only a few minutes a day can go a long way toward keeping your cat healthy.

You can also use puzzle feeders to keep your cat engaged when you aren’t available for play. Battery-powered toys may be necessary for cats that don’t tend to engage in play unless prompted.

Remember, every cat has their own needs and preferences. Some cat breeds don’t need as much movement as others.

3. Adjust Food as Necessary

Cats may need more or less food during the winter months. Some cats have a hard time staying warm, especially those with short fur. These felines may need more calories in the winter to stay healthy, as they will burn more to keep warm.

However, other cats may sleep more due to the increased darkness, and they may not burn enough extra calories to make up for this. This can lead to extra weight gain, which can cause health problems. Obesity is a serious issue in cats, so you should take care to prevent it.

It’s hard to tell which way a particular cat will go. Therefore, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cat’s weight and adjust accordingly. When in doubt, speak with your vet.

Indoor Cat Near Food Bowl
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

4. Double-Check Safety

Indoor cats are at more risk if they get lost in the winter. The weather can make it much harder for them to survive, even for a couple of hours, until you can find them. Therefore, double-check escape routes like doors and windows. Take extra care to keep everything closed and locked.

While you’re at it, make sure toxic winter de-icing products are also kept away from your cat. Antifreeze and similar chemicals are toxic, but they are often attractive to cats and other animals.



Cats can go outside in the winter, but it depends on your area and your cat. Winter is more dangerous than summer in most areas, as there is a risk of frostbite and hypothermia. For this reason, you should take extra precautions during this time to ensure that your feline is kept warm and safe.

Indoor cats require different precautions than outdoor cats. These tips should help you keep your cat safe no matter where they’re spending their time.

Featured Image Credit: Jennie Kondo, Wikimedia Commons

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