• Beltsville News

Kitty Post: Cats Prepare for Winter Too! by Michelle Touchet

Updated: Nov 3



Cats Prepare for Winter Too!

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again! Leaves are starting to fall, pumpkin-spiced lattes, donuts and cookies are everywhere, and the Autumn chill is in the air. The task of pulling our winter coats from the back of the closet and dusting them off and pulling out our warmest sweaters is something humans do to prepare for the frosty days ahead.

Cats are starting to prepare for those dropping temperatures too! By October and November, most cats start breaking out their warm and furry winter coats. Is it the pumpkin spice in the air that alerts our beloved kitties to bust out their new winter fur? Well… as all cat owners know, our cats might have small-sized brains, but there is a lot happening in there! As daylight gets shorter, a cat’s pituitary gland, which is pea-sized and located in the bottom of the brain, pumps out several different hormones that switches on a cat’s behavioral response to grow a new coat. And the next thing you know, our kitties, both domestic and feral, shed their lighter summer coats and get a new winter hair style.

So those smooth, sleek summer coats morph into longer, fluffier winter wear. A cat’s winter coat is made of a bottom layer of shorter, thicker, and denser, grayish-colored hair topped with pigmented and patterned longer, silkier guard hairs. But wait, a really cool thing part comes into play! Since each hair grows from a hair follicle, a cat can choose to move the follicles closer together to keep warm or spread them apart to keep cool. So, in the winter, a cat’s undercoat traps air and keeps it toasty. The longer guard hairs protect the kitty from moisture and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. So, that dastardly cat fur we all vacuum, lint roll and generally dislike is pretty magical, isn’t it? Well… maybe not so much…

As you can imagine, the thickness of a coat, a cat’s stored fat reserves and general health determines their ability to withstand low temperatures, including those cold floors we ourselves don’t like walking on. So, make some warm cuddly places around the house for your beloved feline and don’t forget to provide an outdoor shelter that is out of the wind as well as food and fresh (unfrozen) water for our feral and homeless cat friends. For instructions on how to build an insulated outdoor shelter for cats using a plastic storage tub, visit https://www.beltsvillecats.net/resources.

Here’s to warm winter coats! Cheers!

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