Do Cats Need More Food When It Gets Cold?

Domestic cats, especially indoor, have a steady nutritional supply and access to a temperate climate. Because we humans provide their food and shelter they’ve lost the need to hunt. Still their appetites have seasonality. Scientific studies have been done to support this hypothesis. A recent, notable study took place in the south of France. What can we do with this information? We can use it to create a more balanced and strategic diet plan for our cats to help them maintain their weight and lengthen their lifespan.

Warm Days and Cold Nights

Summer days are longer and hotter making cats sleepy and lazy. Cats are also nocturnal meaning they are more active after the sun sets. Longer daylight means more napping; the heat seems to enervate cats (as it does to most mammals). As their need to slumber goes up their desire for food goes down. 

Dr. German’s study on 38 domestic cats in southern France showed they ate 15% less food in the summer than in the winter. Eight of the cats were kept indoors, a number too low to statistically extract any meaningful information as a control group. The other cats were allowed to roam within an enclosed cat-run, free to go inside or outside as they pleased.

Interestingly, 16 of the 38 cats were overweight, but more girth did not mean they had the same appetite in warm weather. The heavier cats likewise showed signs of decreased appetite, thus dispelling the notion that domesticated varieties eat the same amount year-round. 

In the same study, cats ate the most during October, November, December, January, and February. It was a very clear indication that cats have kept this primal instinct, even when their living conditions were optimal. Why would their appetites be seasonal even when they knew they had a dependable food source and they didn’t have to be out in the cold? Cats seem to have a built-in system to ensure they eat more in cold temperatures so that they can store energy in the event they need to increase their hunting activity. Their bodies are in-tune with the changes in temperature and light, thus increasing or decreasing their appetites.

Practical Application

Our domestic cats have the good life which often equates to indolence and obesity! We can use their natural cycles in appetite to help our felines stay as sleek and fit as possible. So what does that mean? Perhaps putting our cats on a strict diet in the dead of winter is a losing battle. He is already hungry and his body is telling him he needs to store calories for survival. 

Delaying his diet until the springtime is a more effective strategy. At that time you have several months to decrease his intake and to increase his energy level. By the time winter rolls around again you’ll have a kitty who will be more fit to take on those cold days and nights once again!

By Gabrielle Allemeier


PetMD: Seasons Affect Your Pet’s Appetite Domestic Cats Eat More in Winter, Study Finds

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.