Why Do Cats Like Warmth?

It may seem a silly question. We all like warmth, no matter whether human or animal.

But it can often seem like your cat particularly enjoys warm beds, the radiator, or sitting on your lap. They often seek us out, curling up next to us and kneading our jumpers and blankets. In summer, they will bask in the sun, seemingly not affected by how hot it is.

Cats simply like warm things, and here is why.

Why cats like warm things

They are furry little creatures, so why do cats like additional warmth? Well, as mammals, they use a certain amount of energy to heat their bodies. Almost a third of their energy is used to maintain their skin and fur.

If they are sunbathing, the sun’s rays simply help them to stay warm and regulate their body temperature easier. This is why they will often seek out a sunny spot in the garden, or the patch of sunlight shining through your living room window.

Most cats are descended from desert animals, so despite the warm coats, they thrive when they are in warmer climates

They can conserve their energy because the sun is doing the job of keeping them warm. In the wild, conserving energy so they can hunt and escape danger is vital. It is no use using up all of their energy to simply stay warm if they need to survive in other ways, too.

Deserts also go very cold overnight, so it is important for cats to get warm enough during the day so they can conserve that heat.

Why does my cat sit on my lap?

Domesticated cats seek out heat sources, such as radiators and human laps, for pretty similar reasons to wild cats seeking out the sun, even though they are living in a house in the UK. Any form of warmth helps them to conserve energy.

It is much easier for a cat to come and sit on your knee versus going outside in the sun, especially as we don’t get much of that here in the UK!

A human head gives out the most heat, which is why you can wake up to find your cat sleeping on your face

Plus, if they come to you, it is often a sign that they feel safe around you. They are naturally skittish creatures, so they need security.

Why cats sit on laps

Why do kittens cuddle up to each other?

If you have ever seen a picture of newborn kittens, they were likely all huddled together or against their mum. This is because until a kitten is a few weeks old, it cannot regulate its internal temperature. They rely on heat sources to keep them warm.

This is instinctive behaviour. Wild cats in freezing overnight conditions can also huddle, as can feral cats sleeping on the streets with no shelter. If you suspect a cat is stray or feral, it can be really helpful to try and give them a sheltered warm place to sleep.

Can cats get too warm?

A cat’s fur has insulating properties. It helps them to trap this warmth and conserve it. However, cats can struggle to actually realise when they are too warm.

Something like a heating pad or heated blanket can actually cause a cat to overheat. Unlike humans, many don’t think to move away from this heat source to cool down. If left too long, this could cause burns and damage to their skin.

A cat sitting in front of the fire

How to adapt your home to ensure your cat stays safe

If your cat huddles up in your clean, tumble dried or ironed laundry, the clothes will soon cool so this isn’t a cause for concern.

But if you have a tumble drier, washing machine or similar appliance, it is vital to check there are no cats inside before you load it up. If you have electric heaters, try and move them around every so often so your cat doesn’t sit near them for too long.

You also need to make sure any heaters or fires have guards on them, which will save your cat from getting too close. Breeds with long fur are particularly prone to singed hair.

How can I keep my cat warm?

Obviously, don’t provide them with anything that is too warm. If you use something like a hot water bottle, it needs soft covers on it and plenty of padding so the heat just comes through.

A cat bed, particularly one that is really super soft, will provide natural warmth as they lie on it. A radiator bed is an obvious choice too, but again ensure they don’t spend too long on there. When buying a radiator bed, you also need to ensure your cat doesn’t directly touch the radiator.

Heat pads which go under blankets are available. With cats, try to get a self-heating pad as opposed to an electric one. This will prevent trailing wires and overheating. Unlike a dog, they won’t move away if they are too hot.

If they are outdoors, an outdoor cat house is important. Fill it with blankets to make their own. Do try to encourage them inside in particularly cold weather, though.