Like cat owners are only all too aware, cats are notorious for seeking out and curling up in warm places. Cats love the snuggly warmth of our duvets, and love snoozing in a loaf atop the room-heater or even the computer casing. But is it really the safest option for your kitty’s sleeping spot? A cat cave may be what your kitty needs to tough it out in the winter.
The ancestors of cats, as we know, were desert animals. So, it’s probably not surprising they are at home in a warm corner. At the same time, higher external temperatures also mean less energy spent in keeping their bodies warm. Ensuring a comfortable ambient temperature is important for your cat’s well-being.
Normal cat body temperature
The normal body temperature for cats is 100.4º to 102.5º Fahrenheit. That’s 38-39 in Celsius. For an average human, the mean body temperature is 98.6 F. So cats need a much higher ambient temperature than humans do to feel comfortable.
What problems can arise from not having a steady outside temperature?
For older cats, regulating their body temperatures becomes harder. As a cat gets older, his/her metabolism rate goes down, and so does the natural ability of their bodies to maintain a normal body temperature. If a cat’s temperature is not high enough, they can fall prey to many health problems – respiratory problems, as well as arthritis-related issues can result in cats routinely facing cold temperatures.
As cats get older they become more prone to arthritis and joint problems. Studies have shown arthritis in the limb joints affect 60% to 90% of cats.
Some hiding spots can be dangerous!
A cat seeking out unconventional heating sources like a computer CPU case, can end up damaging the circuitry due to electric static, and more seriously, puts herself in danger. Kitty hair is a major problem for electronic equipment.
Some cats may also get up on top of room heaters – and this is also not a safe place for a kitty to be.
Not just for cats!
Investing in a good cat mattress for your kitty is thus crucial especially for older pets, including small dog breeds. Larger dog breeds generally do better at regulating their body temperatures. Small dog breeds on the other hand, need a place they can snuggle up to feel warm, just like their cat friends.
A godsend for my cat
This is why for me buying a cat cave for my 10 year old cat made perfect sense. My cat is of a timid solitary nature, and she gets spooked easily. Before she had her little cat cave to escape to, she would hide under beds or inside drawers. One night we had a scare that she may have gotten away, as we couldn’t find her after hours of looking. Only when it was bedtime did I hear noises coming from inside the bedroom closet, and realized she had spent the afternoon locked inside and was struggling to come out.
Economical and Safe winter bedding
Anyway, having a cat cave for the cat served two purposes: it is an easy economic solution for keeping her warm – it doesn’t need any electric wires or batteries to work unlike some pet electric blankets. Plus it gives a nice hideout if the cat wants to hide away in its little nice for a while. Having a place to hide out is important for the well-being of cats, since they are solitary animals.
Self-heating pads and Mylar
There are other solutions to help cats get through the winter months of course. One of them is a self-heating pad. A self-heating pad is a small mat that contains a heat reflective layer. The magic of this mattress depends on the reflective layer material it uses. Most good self-heating pads contain an inner Mylar film.
Mylar is a material used in space suits are insulating and they have a heat reflecting property. First, they insulate your pet from the colder floor in winter. Second they reflect the body heat of your pet back to it so that she feels warm. I found this article titled “What is Mylar” rather informative on the special properties of Mylar.
A problem with “self-warming pet blankets”
Unfortunately many of the sellers never reveal what their self-heating pads are made of, settling for non-specific descriptions on their product page. An exception is this product from Amazon. Secondly, with an open mat like that the pet is exposed to the colder temperatures anyway. And there is no way to know if it really works. This is why I prefer closed pet caves. Additionally, for older pets with lower metabolism the self-heating technique may not be the most efficient.
Electric Blankets present some obvious risks
Another solution that also works is buying an electric heating pad. These are electric pads consist of a small mattress, with a heating electrode on the inside. You can hook these up to a power supply, and the mattress will heat itself. Most mattresses have several settings of heat. Care must however be taken to not let the mattress get overheated. Cats especially tend to scratch and dig their claws into mattresses and this can be dangerous for them since there is a risk of electrocution. The material must be tough enough to resist their claws. Furthermore these must be constantly connected to the outlet, increasing the electrocution risk. You must also be careful that the pet doesn’t play with the power cord.
While buying a good winter hide out for cats, it is important to make sure that the bed will also serve the cat when the temperatures get warmer. Several cat beds exist on the market that your cat can use as a ‘cat-cave’ during winter to stay warm and as a normal bed when it gets too warm. For my cat the self-warming cat bed from Pet Magasin was the perfect choice for a winter cat cave.
Construction and Feel
At an affordable price I was very satisfied by the soft material that this winter cat cave is made of. The inside and the trim at the opening are made of soft faux fur and on the outside the cat cave has a microfiber lining. I noticed that the inside stays warm especially when our cat has been sleeping inside for a long time, while the outside lining is cool to the touch. This construction makes sure that on the days it gets warm your kitty will still stay relatively cool if she lies on top of the mattress.
A well-adapted cat cave
For my cat, who loves to stay hidden a big chunk of the day, it was no trouble at all to get her to adopt her new cat cave. No sooner had I got this mattress out of its package, and set it on my bed, she crawled inside the cave and got curled up with her head buried in the soft cozy cushion. She seemed to instantly love the faux-fur inside lining. The mattress itself is really big – big enough for a small-sized dog like a chihuaha or a pug.
Some benefits of the cat cave
The benefits of the Petmagasin cat cave are:
- It can be easily washed in a washing machine and the material can withstand several wash cycles. I normally wash it at 104 degree Fahrenheit (40°C).
- Equally useful in winter and in summer. In summer I just fold it up so that my cat can lie on top of it. The outside lining is made from smooth microfiber material.
- The mattress keeps my cat warm and at the same time it gives her a safe hide out whenever she needs some alone time.
A small problem and a DIY fix
One not so serious drawback I noticed was that, even though the opening of the cave has a nice relatively-tough faux fur trim, it had trouble staying open, especially when the kitty moves around inside. A simple solution I found was to take an older coat hanger and bend into a circular shape and wrap the opening around it, so that it stays open permanently. This has worked very well for me.
Works in Summer also!
During winter months, when it feels sort of chilly, my cat spends her whole day inside the bed, only getting out for food or to go to the kitty litter. However when it got warmer in the months of July and August, I noticed that she was using it less and less. At this point I folded the cat bed so that it turned into a mattress that she could lie on top of.
Washing was a breeze!
It is also very easy to clean and maintain. For smaller stains, like when she happened to vomit on the outside of the mattress, I could give it a little wipe. The microfibre on the outside is easy to clean. And it dries up easily and it was good to go. You don’t even need to wash it that often if you have an indoor cat. I found it easy to wash it in my washing machine and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and it came out all new and fresh smelling. The mattress also has a nice cozy smell to it, that is hard to describe but is very pleasant and comforting. Or maybe that’s just me!