The winter of 2017 and 2018 has been one of the harshest on record, particularly throughout the eastern and central United States. Chilling Arctic winds have been rushing across the continent nonstop, leading to the setting of many record lows. Residents from Wisconsin to New York have suffered through this freezing cold, not to mention the lower average temperatures observed throughout the entire country. If you own a cat, you are probably concerned about your feline’s well-being in these types of temperature extremes. They can be negatively affected by this type of weather, particularly if they are outdoor-dwelling cats. For example, even short-term exposure to extreme lows can result in frostbite.
Whether you have an indoor, outdoor, or indoor-outdoor cat, you should take care to ensure that your pet has a warm place to relax out of the elements. However, if you are considering adopting a new cat there wouldn’t be any harm in finding one of a breed meant to withstand cold conditions. To learn more about these hardy felines, read this list of Twenty Cat Breeds Perfect for Cold Weather.
Siberia has one of the harshest environments on the planet. The extreme cold of Siberian forests can only be navigated by the hardiest of animals. They also gave rise to the Siberian Forest Cat, a breed also known as the Moscow Semi-Longhair. These cats lived alongside humans for a while, and over time slowly assimilated into the human population. They are a landrace variety, which essentially means that their domestication was gradual rather than intentional. As time passed, they sought the warmth and accommodation of people. In turn, they kept rodent populations down. The Siberian Forest cat has a thick, luxurious triple coat that helps them to survive even the harshest of climates. The layer closest to their body is down, which provides excellent insulation. The next layer is awn hairs, which keep the down close to the body to enhance the insulating effects. Finally, the guard hairs break up wind and are water-resistant.
Manx cats were first observed on the Isle of Man (an island between Great Britain and Ireland). They are distinguished by their long legs, round head, and lack of a tail. The tailless nature of this cat originates in a genetic anomaly that was transmitted throughout the generations. This breed of cats was particularly prized by people with rodent problems. They could often be found on farms throughout the history of the Isle of Man. In addition, they were coveted by sailors – both for their unique appearance and strong hunting ability. The Manx breed’s coat has two layers. There is a dense, soft insulating layer on the bottom, with a coarse outer layer (including guard hairs) to protect the cat. This enabled them to survive harsh winters, a trait that was invaluable for farmers on the Isle of Man.
One of the rarer breeds of domestic cat is the Chartreux. They are found primarily in France, and have a history there that stretches back several centuries. In fact, the first mention of this breed in writing comes from a 1558 poem by Joachim du Bellay called Vers Français sur la mort d’un petit chat. They have always been great hunters, and were prized for it. The Chartreux breed is quite famous worldwide, and finds great appreciation in France. In fact, some famous French individuals have owned Chartreux cats. The poet Charles Baudelaire, novelist Colette, and French president Charles de Gaulle have all owned cats of this breed. They are well-suited to winter due to their water-resistant double coats. Their fur will remain dry, which keeps them warmer. Plus, the inner layer is great for insulation. This was very important for the early ancestors of the Chartreux – it has been posited that the precursors to this breed lived in the Chartreuse Mountains as temple cats.
This breed is one of the oldest breeds in the world. British Shorthair cats most probably date back to the first century AD, accompanying the Romans on their invasion of the British mainland. The Egyptian domesticated cats that came with the Romans likely interbred with the local wildcat population, creating the breed we know today. These cats are notable for their frequent media appearances.
They often feature in movies and television shows due to their calm temperament and friendly looks. John Tenniel was even inspired by the looks of the British Shorthair when creating his drawing of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Though British Shorthairs do not have an undercoat, they adapted over many generations to the conditions on the islands. Their coats consist of a single layer of dense, thick fur that is plush to the touch. Plus, they come in many colors including black, blue, white, red, cream, silver, golden, cinnamon, and fawn.
This cat breed is a recent addition to the registrars of several cat fancy organizations. It was first developed by the American breeder Ann Baker in the early 1960s. They got their name from their tendency to go limp when physically handled – a trait that not many other cats display. Ragdolls exhibit a few other traits that are unusual in felines. They love to follow people around, and soak up affection and attention. They also are rarely aggressive towards other pets (even canines are safe around Ragdolls). In the States, this breed is often called puppy-like due to their general demeanor. These cats have a thick coat that mostly consists of guard hairs. This keeps them nice and dry, regardless of weather conditions. As a result, they are able to withstand cold temperatures for longer periods of time than other breeds. However, they do not have a dense undercoat, and should not stay out for too long.
The Russian Blue breed of cats first was observed near the town of Arkhangelsk, Russia. This is where they get their alternative name, Archangel Blue. This breed continues to exist in the area today, but began to be exported as early as the 1860s. The earliest recorded appearance of the cat outside of Russia was at the Crystal Palace in England in 1875. Russian Blue cats are quite popular worldwide. They are also frequently featured in media productions. For example, Felicity from Felidae was a Russian Blue. The assassin cat from Cats & Dogs was also a member of this breed. They even inspired the Nyan Cat meme that came out in 2011. These cats are a naturally-occurring breed, and as such had to survive in the wilds of northern Russia. Russian winters are incredibly harsh, and the cats had to accommodate. This breed’s coat is generally a solid color, and consists of an insulating layer and a coarse outer layer of guard hairs. This type of covering is perfect for a cat that needs to survive in a harsh wilderness.
The origin of this breed is uncertain, as known genetic ancestors of cats from the Middle East never displayed a long-haired trait. However, the first documented Persians were brought to Italy from Iran in 1620. They spread throughout Europe from there, and any information the early adopters of the breed had on their origins was soon lost. These cats are quite beautiful, and have been the inspiration behind many works of art over the course of many years.
In fact, one painting (the “world’s largest cat painting”) sold at auction for over $800,000. It was called “My Wife’s Lovers” and depicts the large cat collection of a wealthy philanthropist. Wherever Persian cats originally came from, it had harsh winters. This is evident because they display some of fluffiest fur of any cat breed. Their fur is divided into two layers – a thick, wooly undercoat and a long, hairy outer coat. This means that they are great at withstanding the elements.
The Ragamuffin breed was first established as a variant of the aforementioned Ragdoll cat. However, it became its own breed in 1994. They are quite friendly, and display a powerful and hardy stance that sets them apart from other felines. Ragamuffins are a bit unusual in regards to the guidelines that they are judged on by cat fancier organizations. Unlike most breeds, they can come in any color or pattern, as long as they display other trademark physical features. However, a Ragamuffin must have two Ragamuffin parents to be considered a member of the breed. These cats have “rabbitlike” fur. This thick, plush fur will help them to trap heat near their body. However, much like the Ragdoll, it consists of only guard hairs. The lack of an undercoat means that they will not last as long in a cold environment as some other breeds.
The Scottish Fold breed can be traced back to a single cat found in Perthshire, Scotland. The cat in question was named Susie, and her ears had an unusual fold (which has since become a trademark feature of the breed). Every Scottish Fold cat can be traced back to Susie. This breed is rather rare, and Scottish Fold kittens fetch some of the highest prices of any other cats. Their unique physical features are certainly a selling point – but their loving personalities and great demeanor are the cherry-on-top, so to speak. Whether a Scottish Fold has short or long hair, they can exhibit any coat color or combination (except for pure white). Their fur is thick and soft. However, long-haired Scottish Folds are better suited to harsh environments due to the exceptionally dense fur they possess around their toes, upper thighs, tail, and ears.
Somali cats were first observed during the 1950s. They were meant to be regular Abyssinian cats (another breed that originated in Ethiopia) but ended up having long hair and looking quite different from the standard Abyssinian. In fact, they were initially scorned by breeders and were seen as a detriment to the Abyssinian line. Some people decided to breed the Somalis, however, and we ended up with the cats we have today. They are even named after the nation of Somalia, which borders the homeland of their Abyssinian ancestors (Ethiopia). The American breeder Evelyn Mague coined this name. Unlike Abyssinians, the Somali breed often displays a thick coat. This makes them far more capable of enduring low temperatures. They have even been nicknamed “Fox Cats” due to their bushy tails and pointed ears. However, you must keep in mind that they are only recently descended from Abyssinians, and thus do not like the cold.
Maine Coons are native to the northeastern United States. They originated as genetic descendants of European cats that bred with native long-haired breeds. Over time, the breed developed the distinctive size and temperament that they are known for. This breed of cats is quite popular, and has even been named the official cat breed of Maine. Some of their popularity arises from the myth that has spread about their ancestry. The genetically-impossible tale states that the Maine Coon breed is the result of feral cats breeding with wild raccoons. A similar folktale states that the breed came from domestic cats and wild bobcats. The Maine Coon is one of the breeds that has adapted the best to survival in winter climates. They have dense, water-resistant fur. It is even thicker on their chests and bellies, an adaptation for walking through the snow. Their tails serve as something that can insulate them by curling it around their bodies. Even their paws are much like snowshoes, letting them cross snow without sinking.
This type of breed was originally created in the late 1950s, when Persians were crossed with American Shorthairs in an attempted to develop a short-haired version of the former. The result was the Exotic Shorthair, a breed that became quite popular until it was banned from the shows. After a brief period of being banned, the breed was reinstated as its own breed under the name of Exotic Shorthair. These cats were developed as domestic show animals. They are gentle and calm like a Persian, but curious and playful like an American Shorthair. They have performed well in the ring, and the Exotic Shorthair was even named Grand Champion only 5 years after the breed was officially recognized. Despite the intent behind the breeding of the Exotic Shorthair, they are well adapted to the cold much like a Persian. They do have short hair, but it is thick, dense, and coarse. This leaves these cats in a pretty good position when they go outdoors in the cold – though they aren’t quite as well adapted as a pure Persian.
This breed, also known as the Longhair Manx, first began to be recognized in the mid-1970s. These cats began as a longhaired mutation of the regular Manx, until they were intentionally bred during the 1960s by Canadian breeders. Before this, the cats were often discarded by breeders and thought to be mutants. In a subvariant of the Cymric breed, known as the Isle of Man Longhair, the generally-tailless cat will have a fully-formed tail. This breed is not recognized individually anywhere except in New Zealand. In other registries, they are simply labeled “Tailed” versions of Cymrics. Much like the original Manx, the Cymric breed has a double-layered coat. The lower layer is best for insulation, whereas the outer layer will keep water from soaking the cats insulating layer. The longhaired Cymric is even better for winter survival, as it boasts improved insulating abilities due to the longer guard hairs.
Norwegian Forest cats are among the best-suited for winter survival out of any other breeds. They originated in Norway, and are probably descendants of cats from Great Britain. It is uncertain whether they were brought to Norway by Vikings or Crusaders, but they likely reproduced with farm cats and feral cats already located there to become the modern-day Norwegian Forest breed. This breed nearly went extinct during World War II. However, a local group of Norwegian Forest Cat fans, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club, helped to preserve the breed by creating an official breeding program. It was not long afterwards that these cats were officially recognized by fancier organizations. These cats are particularly well-suited to winter climates. They have a top coat of glossy, long, waterproof hairs. These guard hairs keep the thick woolly undercoat from getting wet, and thus keep the cat warm despite outdoor temperatures. Their coat is the thickest around vital areas, another mark of their cold-weather adaptations.
This breed is rather new, and was first introduced during the late 1960s. They were the product of a short-tailed tabby male that was bred with a Siamese female. Their main distinctive feature is their short, stubby tail that is similar to that of a Manx. In fact, their tales were the source of an urban legend that stated that these cats were the product of a tabby cat breeding with a bobcat. While this is theoretically possible – or at least has not yet been disproven – no bobcat/housecat hybrids have been conclusively proven to exist. Most evidence for this is mostly circumstantial or anecdotal. American Bobtails have a sturdy, shaggy coat that is perfect for winter weather. They also inherited the bi-layered coat of their Persian ancestors, meaning that they can stay well-insulated in the cold. This breed is rather rare, but their beauty is undeniable.
The Turkish Angora breed is incredibly old, with a direct ancestral line to the African wildcat. They get their name from their region of origin, Ankara in central Turkey. Though they have been around for a very long time, the earliest documented examples of the cat date back to the 17th century. These cats are quite coveted worldwide. In their area of origin, they are a prized piece of national heritage. They have even been included in an Ankara Zoo breeding program that sought to increase the prevalence of odd-eyed (that is, one blue eye and one amber eye) specimens. Because the Turkish Angora is a natural breed, they are well-adapted to survival in the wilderness, including harsh winters. These cats possess the trademark dual-layered coats. An interesting occurrence in the Turkish Angora is that the undercoat will be a different color than the top coat. This can lead to some gorgeous visual effects.
The Balinese breed is an offshoot of the original Siamese cat. They came about as a natural mutation of traditional Siamese cats, and are essentially the same cat with a different length of fur. They were first intentionally bred in the mid-1920s, with large-scale breeding efforts beginning in the mid-1950s in the United States. Balinese cats are quite sociable and playful. They share this trait with their short-haired Siamese cousins, who also show a marked interest in the world around them. They are quite athletically-capable, and love to be in constant contact with their owners. Unlike the Siamese, the Balinese has long, silky hair. This leads them to be the only offshoot of the Siamese that is capable of withstanding a cold environment. However, their lack of an undercoat means that they should not be outside for too long, regardless.
This breed is one of the most recent ones on our list, and only began to be recognized in the 1990s. In fact, the very first example of his breed did not exist until the mid-1980s. The Nebelung breed first arose when Cora Cobb bred her cats Siegfried and Brunhilde, resulting in this Russian Blue-like cat with a long coat. Nebelungs have come into some prominence in popular culture, despite their relatively recent introduction to the cat scene. A Nebelung was featured on the Animal Planet show Cats 101, for example. A user who completes a personality test on Pottermore can even be assigned the Nebelung as their Patronus animal. This breed is remarkably hardy in a cold environment. Their long, dense fur allows them to spend longer periods of time outside than other cats. They inherited much of their durability from their relatively-recent Russian Blue ancestors. As the breed gets older, it will become more distinguished from these cats. Either way, the Nebelung is a beautiful and durable breed.
Another relatively new breed, Himalayan cats first cropped up in the 1930s as Siamese-Persian crossovers. It took around twenty more years, but they were eventually recognized as their own breed by many cat fancier organizations. They have, over time, become more distinct from their Siamese and Persian ancestors. A Himalayan played a prominent role in the famous Meet the Parents trilogy. The cat in the movies was called Mr. Jinx, and he was a gorgeous and intelligent example of this lovely cat. Another famous cat was Colonel Meow – he became an internet celebrity in the early 2010s, and was even entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 as the cat with the longest fur. These cats have thick, dual-layered coats that are perfect for fending off the elements. It is also worthy to note that they produce a fair amount of skin oil. In practical situations, this will keep water from sticking to the cats fur and freezing. However, a domestic Himalayan should be bathed occasionally to keep skin oils from reaching excessive levels.
British Longhairs are not yet recognized by many cat fancier organizations, who see them as undesirable specimens of the British Shorthair. However, these cats are slowly becoming more accepted in the public eye. It will be interesting to see whether they ever gain full recognition with all cat fancier organizations. This breed of cat is quite active, and needs to be allowed frequent exercise. If they are kept as indoor-only cats, they can quickly become obese.
This problem is especially significant if they are allowed unrestricted access to food (such as leaving a bowl full all the time). These cats are well suited to the winter, and boast a dual-layered coat like most of the other cats on our list. They are even better than British Shorthairs, as their hair is fluffier and provides better insulation. Though the breed is not yet officially recognized everywhere, we can hope they will be in the future – they are truly gorgeous cats.