6 min read

How Long Does it Take for Cats to Adapt to a New Climate?


By Tim Falk

Published: 03/11/2022, edited: 03/11/2022

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Moving interstate with your cat? There’s a lot your fur-baby will need to adapt to, but one of the key challenges they’ll face will be getting used to a new climate.

Whether you’re moving from a cold climate to a warm climate, or vice versa, you may be wondering how the temperature adjustment will affect your kitty. After all, cats are notoriously resistant to change, and we all want to do our best to help our pets stay happy and healthy.

So can cats adapt to a new climate? And how long does it take them to feel comfortable in their new surroundings? Keep reading to find out.

Can cats adjust to a new climate?

Yes, it’s perfectly “pawssible” for your cat to adapt to a new climate. Despite having a reputation for dealing poorly with change, cats are capable of adjusting to life in a different temperature range. 

However, don’t expect them to come to terms with it straight away. Moving home is a stressful time for any pet, even if you’re just moving 5 minutes down the road, so any transition that involves adjusting to a new climate will be a lot for your cat to handle. The good news is that with your patience and support, your kitty can survive the change and soon thrive once again.

The time it takes to feel comfortable in a new climate can vary greatly from one pet to the next, and depending on your origin and destination. For example, if the difference between the two climates is fairly mild, and if your kitty copes well with change, they could start feeling comfortable in their new home within a week. But if you’re moving from the heat and humidity of south Florida to the long, freezing winters of Minnesota, it might take your cat a whole year and all four seasons to get used to the colder climate.

Of course, a lot of factors can play a part. A healthy cat will find it much easier to adapt to a new climate than a feline with underlying medical problems, for example, while a cat with a thick and fluffy double coat will obviously be better equipped to thrive in cold weather than a short-coated breed like the Siamese.

Finally, remember that moving to a new climate isn’t just about physical discomfort; it can be emotionally distressing for your cat too. They also have to get used to new sights, sounds, smells, and sleeping arrangements. Weather changes can even affect their mood. 

You may notice your cat seeming lethargic, lacking their usual appetite, or showing other strange behaviors. It’s important to get them checked by a vet to rule out any medical causes for these changes, then take steps to help them adapt to the different climate.

What could be different in your new climate?

Whether you’re moving from a cold climate to a warm climate or a warm climate to a cold climate, there are new situations and risks you and your pet will need to become accustomed to. Here are some of the key considerations you’ll need to take into account to help your furry friend stay safe.

black, white, and brown cat walking in the snow

Moving to a colder climate

  • If your cat has a thin coat or is hairless, they could find it difficult to cope in the extreme cold. Though your pet may have previously been allowed outdoors, they might need to permanently become an indoor cat at your new home. Hairless cats will often need a sweater when heading outdoors in cold weather. 

  • Even cats with thick coats should not be left outside for too long in harsh conditions. If the temperature drops below 45°F, it’s too cold for your cat to be outside. Staying outside for long periods in cold weather puts your cat at risk of hypothermia.

  • Frostbite is also a real risk for pets that venture outside in extremely cold conditions, typically affecting the ears, paws, and tail. 

  • Make sure your cat has a cozy place to snuggle up for the night if they need help staying warm. A heated pet mat or self-heating cat bed could be a wise investment. 

  • Recognize the signs that your cat is struggling with the cold, including shivering and searching for warm spaces where they can snuggle up.

  • Expect your older pet to notice the pain of arthritis more in winter. Joints can stiffen up and result in decreased mobility for your cat. Provide a warm bed and consider taking steps such as providing ramps to make it easier for them to get around. You can also speak to your vet about the best way to manage their arthritis. 

  • Studies have shown that cats eat more during the colder months — and not just as a result of comfort eating. Cats, particularly those allowed outdoors, need extra energy to stay warm, so they may eat a little more than normal during winter. Just make sure they don’t eat to excess and put on too much weight. 

  • Old cats and kittens, sick or injured cats, as well as those that are underweight or obese can feel the effects of cold weather more than healthy adult felines.

  • Cold weather subdues your pet’s immune system, so your kitty may be more prone to suffering from viral and bacterial illnesses.

black, white, and orange cat walking along the sand in front of the ocean

Moving to a warmer climate

  • Cats have a well-earned reputation for being quite adept at conserving energy in hot weather. However, they can still run the risk of overheating and suffering from heatstroke. Know the signs of this potentially fatal condition and what to do if your pet is at risk.

  • Flat-faced breeds like the Persian have an increased risk of overheating and will need to be carefully monitored in hot conditions.

  • Humidity levels can also affect your cat’s tolerance of hot weather.

  • Access to a steady supply of fresh water is a must for every cat, and is particularly important in warm weather.

  • Long, thick coats can be a burden in hot weather, so you may want to consider clipping your cat’s coat. Regular grooming is also essential to prevent mats from forming, and grooming is actually a simple way for cats to cool themselves down. 

  • If your cat is allowed outside, make sure they have access to shade so they can escape the hot sun.

  • In many cases, the safest option is to keep your cat indoors. That way, you’ll be able to avoid the hottest part of the day, and you can provide adequate ventilation and/or climate-controlled comfort for your pet. Give them a safe, secure, and cool place to lie down and escape the heat.

  • Fleas and ticks thrive in warmer conditions, so it’s important to stay on top of parasite prevention all year round. Speak to a veterinarian about the best way to protect your pet.

  • Pale-colored cats can be susceptible to sunburn, so they may require a pet-friendly sunscreen if venturing outside.

  • Finally, never leave your cat unattended in a vehicle.

Other considerations

Be aware that your pet may be exposed to new dangers in the new climate that weren’t present at your previous home. Some threats you may need to consider include:

  • Poisonous plants. Letting your cat outside? Make sure you check whether your yard contains any plants that may be toxic to cats, such as jade plants.

  • Parasites. You’ll need to protect your pet against lice, mites, and intestinal worms (hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms).

  • Predators. Cougars, coyotes, eagles, and snakes are just some of the local predators you may need to keep an eye out for.

  • Other nasties. Bacteria, parasites, protozoa, and algae in the groundwater can cause major health problems for pets, including leptospirosis and giardiasis.

tabby cat standing on a vet exam table in front of veterinarian wearing green scrubs and stethoscope

Tips to help your cat adapt to a new climate

As you can see, there are plenty of risks to be aware of when you move your cat to a new climate. But don’t let that worry you or put you off the idea of moving — there’s also plenty you can do to keep your pet safe and help them adjust to their new surroundings. 

  • Regular vet check-ups are important for any pet. Get your cat checked before the move to make sure they’re in good health, and find a veterinarian near your new home to help you stay on top of any medical issues that may develop. 

  • Ease them into it. If you’ve just moved to a substantially different climate, don’t expect them to adapt straight away. Give them time to gradually acclimate to their new surroundings before, for example, taking them for a walk in the snow. 

  • Know the symptoms of dangerous conditions like heatstroke, hypothermia, and frostbite. Before the big move, learn about weather-related dangers and what you need to do to help your cat if they experience any of these symptoms.

  • No matter whether you’re moving to a hot or cold climate, access to clean drinking water is a must for your kitty.

  • Too hot or too cold outside for your cat? Keep them amused with some engaging puzzle games for cats. 

  • To help make the adjustment easier, do what you can to make moving day as stress-free as possible. Check out our 9 practical tips for moving with pets for more information.

Worried about how your cat is adapting to a new climate? Chat with a veterinary professional now for expert advice.

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