What's the Best Indoor Temperature in Winter to Protect My Pets?

British cat and Golden Retriever

For most homeowners, winter's cold weather means adjusting your home thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature. This, of course, raises your energy bill, so it's common to lower the thermostat when leaving for work each day. What you might not realize is this potentially makes life in the home difficult for those left behind — your pets. If you're interested in learning about how to keep pets comfortable while also controlling your energy bills, it helps to learn more about how your pet's body works.

Understanding Your Pet's Physical Traits

Like their human owners, dogs and cats do not respond well to abrupt temperature changes, which they may be forced to endure if the thermostat is altered while you're gone for the day. And while a human's average body temperature registers at 37° C (98.6° F), dogs run warmer at an average of 38.6° C (101.5° F). Cats, too, typically fall somewhere between 37.8°C (100° F) and 39.2° C (102.5° F). Smaller pets will have slightly lower average temperatures, and the opposite is true for larger animals.

In addition to the size of the animal, other aspects of a pet's physical composition play an important role in its ability to regulate temperature. Many animals will grow a "winter coat," but the protection this coat provides against the cold depends heavily on the breed of animal. Short-haired pets with smooth coats are naturally less insulated and more susceptible to temperature changes than longer-haired, shaggier animals.

Finding the Best Indoor Temperature for Pets

Because pets are equipped with their own biological temperature controls, they are generally comfortable in the same temperatures as homeowners. They can even tolerate temperatures that are slightly lower. However, many pet owners make the mistake of significantly dropping their home's temperature when they leave, assuming their pets' coats will keep them warm.

This is not good for a pet, as its body is focused on regulating its temperature to the match the comfort level of the home, not the abrupt changes that come with lowering the thermostat. To help keep your pets comfortable during the winter, you should focus on maintaining a consistent temperature as much as possible in their home.

Slight temperature decreases can be made in homes with larger, shaggy-haired pets, but as a rule of thumb, you should follow the golden rule – If the temperature in the home is too low for you, then it's too low for your pets!

Note: These tips are suggested as general practices. However, actual results may vary.