Someone asked, “How do I know if my cat is feeling cold?” We know that cats tend to hide what they are feeling in the interests of survival so we usually have to observe and deduce from behaviour rather than from direct expressions of emotion. Cats like warmth but tolerate cold well.
My experience tells me that cats living in conditions around or near freezing point feel the cold. Freezing point is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees celsius. At about ten degrees celsius cats are fairly comfortable when outside moving around. However, their preference is for warm to very warm conditions around 22-35 degrees celsius. This means that they might feel that a certain place is chilly when resting and move. The character of the cat probably comes into play too.
However, we read many stories of cats and kittens enduring or tolerating very cold temperatures for long periods. Cats have a high capacity to tolerate cold or at least that’s the impression they give.
I can remember two kittens being frozen to the ground for hours and surviving. And an adult cat being transported under a lorry in freezing conditions for many miles and surviving both without any health issues.
Yet, it is common knowledge that stray cats make their way into the engine compartments of vehicles in winter for warmth. But this does not mean that cats feel the cold badly. It is more likely to mean that cats like to feel warm because they are domesticated North African wild cats at heart.
The domestic cat has inherited a liking for warm conditions and a tolerance for cold conditions. When a cat is neither warm nor cold he’ll go onto your lap for warmth. Or he’ll sit by the central heating radiator and so on.
My conclusion. What’s yours?
This is an expression of a desire to feel warm, even hot. In attempting to answer the question I’d say that you won’t necessarily be able to tell that your cat is feeling cold by his behavior but you can presume that he feels cold if he has to put up with temperatures in the low single figures and lower for a considerable time.
A caveat to the above is that cats can and do sometimes vocalise emotions and if they are unhappy for whatever reason including feeling cold they might tell you but you’ll have to guess the reason for the vocalisation.
P.S. Clearly long haired cats with triple coats are better protected from the cold and therefore are less likely to feel the cold as are outdoor cats acclimatised to it and who have thicker than normal coats.