How cold can cats handle

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How cold can cats handle being kept outside?

If the climate was right, cats could live in a house or an apartment

By Amy Dockser Marcus

BBC News Magazine

At first glance, there are two rather different types of cat: the outdoor cat and the indoor cat. The outdoor cat is usually a house cat. They live in apartments, houses and gardens in places like Los Angeles and Chicago. The indoor cat lives in a home, but often spends most of its time in the outdoors. The outdoor cat gets exercise, goes for walks, climbs trees and plays with the dog. The indoor cat is usually kept inside where it gets plenty of exercise, but spends most of its time curled up on a sofa, napping or being fed. It lives in a climate-controlled environment. In some ways it's a perfect match, but in many ways it's not. And that's where we come in. If you think you have the perfect balance of indoor and outdoor cats, let's see how well they get on together. Cats in the sun Cats like to play in the sun. The outdoor cat should get plenty of sun. It's not only important for it to get vitamin D, but to be able to see what's going on, says Dr Robert Morris. "They don't like to spend all their time in the house," he says. "They get lots of sunshine. And if they're outdoors, they want to get the sun on the right side of their head. It's about 10 degrees more comfortable to their natural inclination." So outdoor cats get lots of sun. What about their eyes? Cats like to watch what's going on. The indoor cat needs good eyesight, but it can also rely on its hearing. The indoor cat's ears are very sensitive. It will use its hearing to listen out for traffic, other cats or dogs. The outdoor cat can also listen out for other animals, but often gets distracted by people, says Dr Morris. That means outdoor cats are at risk from cars and dogs, but it's not all bad news. Cats have an instinctive ability to spot danger. If they see something that looks like it could be a predator, they will have time to either flee or hide. But if they're caught out, it's not a pleasant end. If a cat is hit by a car it can be killed instantly. That's why it's important for cats to be able to see clearly. Cats have a sense of smell too, and that will help them pick up danger. The outdoor cat can often sense when the danger is coming. And when the danger is close, it can either hide or try and escape. Cats that live outside are able to pick up danger more quickly, so they don't get caught. But when cats are kept inside, they have to rely on their hearing, and often end up being prey to bigger, louder predators. There are also the hazards of food. If the outdoor cat has access to a variety of different types of food, it might not eat the same things that the indoor cat eats. The indoor cat needs to be able to get enough calories to keep up its energy levels. If the outdoor cat gets too thin, it can be at risk of being eaten. That's why it's important for the outdoor cat to get enough food - especially if it lives in a city. In a city, cats might be at risk of being run over and killed. So indoor cats have to be provided with lots of different types of food and, ideally, with a place where they can hide. What about keeping cats in the sun? But it's not just about the weather. Cats do best if the temperature is a little above average, say 5 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature. If the temperature is too low, the cat will be cold, says Dr Morris. If the temperature is too high, the cat's ears will start to get damaged. The cats also need to be kept indoors - in the summer they will need to be able to get out for a short time. If they have access to the garden, then that's a bonus. It could help them to get exercise, says Dr Morris. It's also important to make sure that the indoor cat is well ventilated. Outdoor cats might get trapped in the house if there's no escape route. An enclosed space like a basement is not ideal because cats hate the cold and the humidity. Outdoor cats will need a way of escaping the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. There are ways to do this. It's important that they have a bed that they can hide in, says Dr Morris. And it's important that there is some way of getting out of the house. Cats who don't get enough exercise might develop problems. One of the most common is obesity. Dr Morris says: "If they are not active, they are going to gn weight. "And if they're overweight, it makes them more vulnerable to different diseases." So you have to make sure that your indoor cat has lots of toys to keep it busy. And you have to make sure that your outdoor cat gets enough sun and a chance to escape. So if your outdoor cat is going to be an indoor cat, the best thing is to make sure that your indoor cat is an outdoor cat first. But if that's not possible, keep your outdoor cat in a home with lots of sunlight, good ventilation and plenty of places to hide.

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What's the best way to keep an indoor cat safe from cars and other cars? I live in a city that is very congested and cars are everywhere.

Answers: Dr Robert Morris: Outdoor cats are able to pick up danger more quickly, so they don't get caught. They also have better night vision. But if they're caught, they can't fight back. Indoor cats are more vulnerable to car damage and getting run over. They also need a better night vision. If they're

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