My Wood Stove Is the Great Cat Equalizer in Cold Weather


Sometimes the dynamics can get a little wild in a multi-cat household. Feliway and Rescue Remedy have helped when things get a little snarly among the cats. But I’ve accidentally found another alternative, and it doesn’t even cost me any money (except for the sweat equity in getting this thing to produce heat).

Yes, the great equalizer in my multi-cat household is the wood stove. And my current wood stove is the best. The circumstances are accidental, but I have learned that:

  1. Cats love wood heat.
  2. Wood stove heat can equalize even the snarliest relations among cats.
  3. It helps if there is NOT a boundary for the cats to fight over in front of the wood stove. This was an accidental learning. More on that in a minute.

Like many things, equalization comes with some effort. My cats figured this out.

A wood stove worth fighting for

In our previous location, we had a wood stove with a little rug in front of it. The rug was a cool thing I’d bought from the local farmer’s market — it was made of recycled rags. We put the rug down near the hearth, because apparently the hearth wasn’t wide enough to catch errant sparks (even though it was up to code) and the sparks would occasionally fly out and burn little holes in the nice rug. Not good. So we put down a little rug.

Guess what? That rug was a cat magnet.

Give a cat a small space to fight over, and they’ll all head for it. This little rug was big enough to fit three cats (maybe four in a pinch). It didn’t matter that there were yards of regular carpet around the little rug for the cats to nap on. No, it had to be that little rug. You’d think it was the most coveted place in the world, and it was. Somehow, the combination of a tiny, limited-space rug and the heat of a wood stove was just too much for a cat to resist.

Equalization did occur, eventually, usually with one or two disgruntled cats who didn’t fit on the rug. They’d be forced to take another place near the fire. The carpet around the rug was never good enough — maybe that would be too much like admitting obvious defeat. The cats who didn’t manage to horn in and keep a coveted spot on the rug would take a chair nearby, within view of the fire. In that house they didn’t have a lot of choices. The big main room included the wood stove. The one bedroom was of no interest unless we were in it.

I learn that a wood stove can equalize even faster without a little rug

We recently moved, and in our new location, we once again have a wood stove. The cats LOVE it. And, there is no carpet. There’s also no little rug. It’s a hard floor. There’s a tile hearth, and so far, we’ve not burned any holes in the floor.

I walked into the living room the other night and was delighted to see Jamie Bluebell relaxed on a chair, near the fire. A few other cats (including Zorro) were peacefully sacked out on the hard floor. They didn’t care — anything to be near the fire. Those of you who follow my writing know that Zorro, at one point, was bullying Jamie. That has been subsiding. Still, I don’t think I could have roused any of those cats if I tried. The hotter, the better. Sometimes it’s hard to regulate heat with a wood stove and a tight house. It had suddenly gotten warmer, and the house temp increased to 76 degrees. Pretty hot for us, but apparently lovely cat heat-bathing weather.

What have I learned?

Cats will fight over the strangest boundary-inducing things (like a little rug).

Other boundary-inducing items near a fire (like a chair, for instance) are apparently not as popular, though I have seen three cats pile on the chair.

Wood heat is the great cat equalizer. If you don’t want your cats to snarl at each other or pick on each other, or if you want them to just generally nap a lot, run a wood stove. Your cat won’t get enough of it.

No wood stove? You might find that your cat loves other heat sources. I once had electric baseboard heat. I accidentally discovered that my long-haired, cream colored cat liked to snuggle up to the heaters, and she would occasionally singe her fur.

Do your cats love a heat source? Is it a great equalizer? Tell us about it in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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