Monday, October 10, 2011

Why do cats love heat?

cat next to heater
Eamon cuddling up to the heater (which isn't on).
Fall has arrived in Oregon, and that means I pulled out the oil-filled heater for my workroom. I rarely leave this room during the workday, so there's no sense in heating up the whole house. Instead, I just heat up this one room. It keeps me cozy, and it keeps me on task. Who wants to hang out in the cold part of the house?

My animals feel the same way, so in the fall and winter months, they're all in my workroom with me, trying to bask in the warmth. No one is more eager than Eamon, who practically danced for joy when I pulled the heater out of the closet. He hopped right up on this chair to snooze, and I didn't quite have the heart to tell him that the heater wasn't yet plugged in and therefore wasn't emitting any heat.

Theories abound as to why cats love heat. Here are my three favorites.

1. It's in their DNA. 

Back in 2007, scientists discovered that our domestic cats share genes with wild cats currently living in Saudi Arabia (check out the deets at National Geographic). That's a fascinating tidbit, and it could explain a lot.

If our cats originate with wild cats that live in the desert, that means their bodies might do best in super-hot climates. They've probably evolved to do well in places that are really hot. And since that's true, they're probably likely to seek out spaces that are really hot, like heated workrooms.

2. It's a background thing.

Very tiny kittens don't have the ability to see, and they can't hear very much, either. But, they need to find their mommas, so they can get the milk they need in order to survive. They do that, veterinarians say, by seeking out heat sources. Momma cats have hot bodies, and baby kittens are like heat-seeking missiles when they're hungry.

If this is true, adult cats might equate heat with childhood, and with nourishment and protection. When they're hot, they have a sense that they're safe and protected.

3. It has to do with health.

Senior cats like Eamon are even more attuned to the power of heat, and it's possible that their hot preferences have to do with health and bodily preservation. Senior cats can't regulate their body temperatures as well as young cats can, and they often have stiff joints due to arthritis. By sticking close to the heat, they can keep themselves just a touch healthier.

Which theory is the correct one? I really have no idea. But here's what I do know: I'll have a crowded workroom until the spring weather comes back around.