Do Cats Need More Food When it Gets Cold?

Temperature and season affect cats as well as humans.
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Obviously, cold weather can affect outdoor cats. It turns out that it can affect indoor cats, too, although in a much more subtle and unexpected way. Temperature and season can change both the nutritional needs and appetites of all cats.

The Effect of Cold

According to the ASPCA, cold weather increases a cat's energy needs. The lower the temperature gets, the more energy it takes for the cat's body to maintain its correct temperature. This, in turn, means that cats need more food in cold weather than warm or hot weather.

The Effect of Seasons

A group of English and French researchers conducted a study in the south of France documenting the feeding habits of 38 cats. They found the cats ate the most from October through February -- as much as 15 percent more than other times of the year. Many of these cats did go outdoors, creating a need for more calories in order to stay warm. According to the study, however, there is another reason. Shorter days and lower temperatures signal the primitive brain to seek food and store fat.

Cold Weather and Indoor Appetite

Surprisingly, the same study found that cold weather affects the appetites of indoor cats as well. Their temperature-controlled environments eliminate the need for more calories. However, windows allow natural light inside, which triggers the same metabolic response in indoor cats as outdoor ones. Cold weather and short days increase their appetites as well.

See Your Vet

While both the ASPCA and the English and French study conclude that cats need more food in cold weather, you should always consult your veterinarian before making changes to your cat's diet. Like humans, every cat's age, environment and nutritional needs are different.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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