Cats and Hibernation?

In Northern climates the long and extremely cold winter season is no picnic for some animals. Aside from the freezing temperature, the frozen ground makes it very difficult to find food. To survive the rough and tough condition, animals hibernate. Animals that live in areas with very cold winters are most likely to hibernate. Cats have become one of the most popular pets and can live in areas with freezing temperatures. Do cats in these locations hibernate too? The short answer is no. With an ample supply of food and adequate shelter, there is no need for cats to hibernate

What is hibernation? Hibernation is one of the winter survival strategies of animals. When the time of the year comes along they are faced with a choice, animals can either migrate to warmer areas or hibernate. Animals need to burn energy in all their activities. Working, walking, breathing, even thinking are energy burning activities. The normal functioning of the body’s systems like pumping blood and breathing are activities that burn energy as well. Animals instinctively eat unaware that filling the stomach ensures that energy will fuel all their activities. Finding food during the winter months may be very difficult. Animals in the wild can go out all day without finding food. Searching for sustenance is an energy burning activity. In order to survive the harsh winter months, animals conserve energy by hibernating.

Obligate hibernators eat large amounts of food before the winter months set in. This is to build up the fat reserve. Hibernating animals use the reserve body fat at a much lower rate. The energy needs will be reduced to a bare minimum. An animal in a state of hibernation has a lower than normal metabolic rate. Hibernation is often viewed as a very long sleep…sleep that can last for weeks or even months for some animals. Hibernation though is more than sleeping as the animal goes through drastic physiological changes. Body temperature drops to almost the same as the temperature of the environment so that mammals can almost have the same temperature as cold blooded animals. Heart rate and breathing rate drastically drop. A hibernating animal has a diminished consciousness; it’s oblivious to its environment. Waking up a hibernating animal would be very difficult.

Animals have different ways of coping with the winter months. As mentioned, some migrate to areas where food is easily available and some animals hibernate. Some animals stay in their burrows that already have a cache of food and very occasionally go out. Other animals adapt with the change in the season by growing thicker coats. Dogs and cats belong to this category. Domestic cats have no need to hibernate since these cats will be provided with enough food. Inside temperature controlled homes, domestic cats can easily weather the winter months. Cats are predators. Although not plentiful, small fast moving animals can still be hunted. Having grown a thicker coat, stray and feral cats can survive the winter months. Feral cats have another way of surviving winter. These animals can go through temporary hibernation. Cats can go through torpor, a state or physiological activity characterized by reduced rate of metabolism and lowered body temperature. With this short term hibernation the cat maintains its normal body temperature during the day while doing its usual activities. These activities would include foraging for food. To conserve energy, the cat would drop its body temperature usually at night and spend longer amounts of time sleeping. Just as with hibernation, the heart rate and breathing rate of the cat are considerably lowered.

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Do all cats shed?

Leaving the cityCat hair on the furniture, on the clothes and even on food is a fact that must be accepted by all cat owners and cat lovers. All haired cats shed Similar to human’s hair fall and hair growth periods; cats’ shedding is a natural process that allows these animals to remove old hair that will be replenished with new healthier growth to keep the coat in good condition.                

Cats generally shed their hair twice a year. In the spring, cats shed to lose the heavy winter coat in order to adapt to the hotter summer weather. Cats undergo another shedding period in Autumn to grow a thicker coat that is more suited to the cold winter months. The shedding pattern depends on the breed, on the grooming routine and on the number of hours the cat is exposed to sunlight. Some breeds are heavy shedders, others are known to shed minimal amounts of hair. Owners of Cornish Rex and Devon Rex may not notice the pets shedding because the thin coat has very short curly hair. This breed appears not to shed hair at all but they do so with little visible effect. Indoor cats shed all year long but in lesser amounts as compared to outdoor cats. Shedding is influenced by photoperiod which is the number of hours the pet is exposed to sunlight. This is why outdoor cats shed more compared to indoor cats. Indoor cats shed less because of the artificial light and the controlled temperature inside the house.

Cat owners love to run the fingers through the soft coat of a cat. People love to own Persian cats because of their volumous hair. However, it cannot be denied that the cat’s shedding is one of the less pleasant processes associated with cat ownership. Shedding though is a natural process. Pet parents should be glad that kitty is shedding because this coat renewal process is a sign of good health. Sick cats don’t shed. Shedding though is not only a concern of good housekeeping. The hair shed by the cat has dander. People hypersensitive to this allergen suffer from allergy symptoms. Shedding and the associated effects it can have on people is one of the reasons why some cat lovers are prevented from taking a cat for a pet.

Shedding cannot be eliminated. People that cannot live with this concern should opt to get a hairless breed of cat as even thin coated breeds are known to shed. The Sphynx is a non-shedding breed. Although not totally hairless, a Sphynx cat’s fine fuzz gives the skin a suede-like appearance. Shedding of cats though can be controlled. Since what is shed is loose hair, a regular grooming routine will significantly reduce the amount of hair that will be shed by the pet. Aside from removing loose dead hair, daily brushing will maintain the health of the skin and the fur. Cats are fastidious groomers. They tirelessly groom for hours. However, grooming the pet is still advisable as it also prevents the pet from ingesting loose hair. Regular brushing prevents the formation of hairballs. The grooming routine is a wonderful chance for the cat owner to interact with the pet.

Shedding can also be minimized by providing the pet with a high quality diet that will promote the health of the skin and the coat. Vitamins and supplements that will strengthen the coat are available from pet supply stores. Some products like sprays can be used to minimize the shedding of the pet. Of course, there are different strokes for different folks.