Can Cats become Deathly Ill if They Stay Out in the Cold Rain?

by M.B. Lachlei, Demand Media
    Your kitty will enjoy rainy days indoors.

    Your kitty will enjoy rainy days indoors.

    Brrr. When it's rainy and cold, you want to be inside. But what about your kitty? Can she get sick, even deathly ill, if she stays out in the cold rain? Cats can and do succumb to hypothermia -- a condition that literally chills a kitty to the bone.

    The Desert Marauder

    Cats have hung around with humans for at least 10,000 years. Before that, the cat was literally a wildcat -- the Near Eastern Wildcat, to be precise. These cats still roam the Middle East and across Africa, and they can breed with modern-day house cats. The species has been around that area for quite a while -- as long as 70,000 to 100,000 years -- and is quite adapted to warm climates. Some modern-day cats can grow impressive coats, but most cats still favor their ancestors, much preferring warmth over cold.

    What Happens if a Cat Gets Soaked in the Rain?

    Cats can stay warm if they're dry. But as with us humans, being wet and exposed to the wind spells disaster for them. Their coats can't insulate them, and their body temperature drops. A normal kitty temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. With hypothermia, the cat's temperature drops below 100 degrees, which can cause frostbite and death if not treated.

    Symptoms of Hypothermia

    The main symptom of hypothermia is a lowered body temperature. Other symptoms include cold skin, shivering, weakness, stumbling, lethargy, muscle rigidity, slow respiration and heartbeat, shallow breathing, sleepiness, coma and death.

    Treating Hypothermia

    If your kitty is hypothermic, you need to warm him up and get him to the veterinarian immediately. In mild cases of hypothermia where the cat is still conscious and fairly alert, bringing him to a warm place inside and wrapping him in blankets will probably do the trick. In moderate and more severe cases of hypothermia, you must seek veterinary attention. You can use heating pads or hot water bottles filled with warm (not hot) water. Place a towel between the cat and the heating pad or water bottle to avoid burns. Check the cat's rectal temperature every 10 minutes to make sure you do not overheat him.

    Preventing Hypothermia

    Use common sense. Don't leave your cat out in the cold rain. Don't let your cat go outside during the winter. Your kitty will be much happier lying near a warm, cozy fire than getting rained or snowed on. Cats who live outdoors don't live as long as indoors-only cats, so keeping your cat inside is much safer than letting him roam.

    About the Author

    M.B. Lachlei is an award-winning author of more than 30 pet and science-fiction/fantasy books. She is also the publisher of Sky Warrior Books.

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