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Is it healthy for a cat to lie in the baking sunshine?

Sunshine is good for cats

Too hot to handle: cats evolved to cope with the burning sun

Cats love the sunshine. It’s not surprising. As desert creatures, cats developed high heat tolerance. The earliest cats were short-coated, long-bodied, which was conducive to cope with a lot of heat.

Our cats today still like to feel secure and warm when they fall to sleep. They like to use sunlight to compensate for the drops in body temperature we all have when we sleep.

Indeed some cats change their sleep positions so they can follow the sun’s movement.

Cats run hotter than we humans do – at 102°. They evolved in the deserts of the Middle East, with a high metabolism, and a particular style of hunting.

There are of course cats who cope better in cold climates. They are noticeably different with stockier bodies and longer fur keeping the heat in.

So while a Siamese may be soaking up sun on a window sill, their Persian counterpart would be belly down on a tile floor on the same summery day.

Because cats are mammals a proportion of their fuel intake is used to keep them at a warm temperature. Indeed, almost a third of their fuel goes to maintaining their skin and coat in good shape.

Cats are very dependent on protein. They even synthesize their body’s glucose needs from it. Their livers keep producing metabolic protein enzymes all day and night every day and night. This is different to other mammals whose metabolism has an on/off switch.

The cat’s predatory style is very fast for short periods. They can’t outpace their prey so they have to outwit them. All of which requires energy too.

The heat doesn’t have to be from the sun. We can be puzzled by cats seeking out stifling spaces in the un-air-conditioned garage or curling up under a lamp even in summer, but that metabolic heat advantage is why they will seek out what seems like an uncomfortable temperature.

For our cats, it means their body doesn’t have to work as hard, and they stay warm and comfortable while they sleep.