White cats shouldn’t feel the cold more on dull, grey winter days but they may be slightly colder than other cats with darker coats in cold, bright weather (the sun is out) when they are outside.
White cats have the same amount of fur (top coat and undercoat) as any other cat so the warming benefits of their fur is the same as for all cats. The only difference is the colour. White fur reflects light quite effectively while black fur absorbs light which is why black cats are black and white cats are white.
As white reflects more light, less light is absorbed. Light carries energy which is transformed into warmth. A black cat will feel warmer in the sun than a white cat because the sun’s energy is absorbed in the fur enveloping the cat. If the conditions are cold but bright a white cat should be slightly cooler than a black cat.
Coat colours in-between the extremes of white and black have a graded effect in terms of heat absorption and reflection.
If in a multi-cat household there is a white cat and a black cat and both are full-time indoor cats, the conditions won’t be cold provided the home is heated in winter and therefore you can’t say that white cats feel the cold more. The science of this argument only really applies to the outside.
However, if in some rare instances the home is very cold because it is unheated in winter and a black cat and white cat are lying on a window sill on a bright day the same science applies. The white cat will be cooler than the black one and perhaps even feel the cold.
Sunburn and frostbite
White cats tend to get sunburnt ears in summer and frostbitten ears in winter. I’ll try and address that issue. White cats are white because there is a lack of pigment (melanin) in their hair fibres. This may be replicated in the skin because coat patterns are followed in the skin because the pigment producing cells are in the skin. If the skin of white cats is less protected by pigment it is more liable to be sunburnt. As for frostbite, this may occur more often in white cats because they have less fur on their ear flaps. A cat’s ear flaps are vulnerable to frostbite and sunburn in all cats of any color because the fur is very thin in that area.
The famous South African golfer Gary Player often wore black clothes top to bottom to absorb the available heat in places like the UK. This loosened his muscles and allowed him to swing more freely. It also provides the body with the sun’s energy. An empowering feeling. In hot weather, black is the wrong colour.
Note: cats have guard, awn and down hairs.
SOME MORE ON WHITE CATS: