Chances are, you have a heating pad or electric heated blanket (or both) in your home. As cat parents, we know our furry loved ones are notoriously drawn to heat. But are heating pads safe for cats and kittens? What about electric blankets? Learn more about the precautions, as well as when it’s a good time to break out these heat sources for pets.
Why do cats like heat so much?
Cats are biologically drawn to heat because their wild ancestors originated from the desert. Their internal body temperature is also higher than ours, at 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they have to compensate for greater heat loss.
Are heating pads safe for cats and kittens?
Generally, heating pads are safe for cats and kittens on a low or warm setting. It’s best if you supervise when your cat is using a heating pad or another heat source. Your cat shouldn’t lie directly on the heating pad or be exposed to the heat for too long. (Start with 20-30 minutes.) If need be, you can place a blanket or thick layer of fabric on top of a hot heating pad for your pets.
What makes heating pads potentially unsafe for cats and kittens is their wide—and in the case of homemade heating pads, unpredictable—range of temperature. A homemade heating pad such as a wet dishcloth, oven-heated towel, or even a microwaved sock filled with uncooked rice, can feature an inadvisably high level of heat.
Of course, common sense will likely dictate whether a heating pad (homemade or otherwise) feels too hot to the touch. If it’s too hot for you, it’s certainly too hot for your cat! Test the heating pad on the inside of your arm before applying it elsewhere. Something that feels comfortably hot to you is probably too warm for your cat.
When to use heating pads on cats and kittens
There are a few instances where it’s a good idea to have a heating pad or other heated accessory handy for cats and kittens.
If you are fostering orphaned kittens, it’s important to provide them with a heat source in place of their mother’s body heat. Set up a kitten-proof area that has a heating pad set on low, with a soft blanket covering it completely. Also provide a soft blanket for them to lay on that is not directly on the heating pad (so they have the option of moving away from the heat source). Be sure to supervise the kittens’ behavior with the heating pad, and check up on them frequently.
Cats with arthritis
Heat therapy can be used to reduce pain, joint stiffness, and muscle spasms in cats suffering from arthritis. For 20 to 30 minutes, place a heating pad on its lowest setting on your cat’s bed and cover it with a thin blanket for your cat to lie on. (Get other tips on helping your aging cat sleep better.)
Outdoor cats during the winter
Do you see feral cats in your neighborhood during the winter? Do them a kindness by providing them with a warm covered box for shelter. If you have electrical outlets outside, you can put a heating pad in the sleeping box. Cut a small hole in the end of the box, feed a waterproof outdoor electrical cord through, and place a heating pad between a carpet square and blanket. Turn it on to a low setting and use a timer to have it come on at dusk and go off the next morning. Be sure to place it in a dry, covered area like on a porch, covered patio, or storage shed. Kitties will stay toasty and warm even on the coldest nights. Be sure to check the heating pad regularly for wear and tear, and replace it when needed.
Another option: Cat heating pads
You can also shop specifically for cat heating pads! These tend to have a much lower wattage (4-6 watts) than regular heating pads, which typically range between 15 and 60 watts. There are also “self-warming” cat heating pads and beds, which include insulated layers that absorb, hold, and reflect your cat’s body heat.
Are electric blankets safe for cats and kittens?
Electric heated blankets tend to emit lower levels of heat than heating pads, which means it is typically safe for cats and kittens to lie directly on them. But that is not always the case—so be sure to follow the same guidelines of supervision and temporary use as you would when allowing your cats to use heating pads.
So, are heating pads safe for cats and kittens? When in doubt, opt for a cat heating pad or be sure to supervise your pet’s use of these heat sources.
Cover photo by Jordan Bigelow on Unsplash