Why Do Cats Love Laying In The Sun?

Cats Are Cold Weather Animals

Cats originated in desert environments with extreme temperatures. Despite this, they became domesticated and acclimated to colder climates across the world. According to the Daily Paws (1), cats lack an efficient internal temperature regulation system compared to other mammals. This makes it difficult for them to maintain a consistent normal body temperature. As a result, cats are prone to feeling cold and will seek out warmth whenever possible.

Cats Love Warmth

Cats are instinctively drawn to warm places and surfaces because their bodies are optimized for conserving energy in cold environments (https://www.ourcatsworld.com/2016/02/cats-like-warm-things-and-heres-why/). A cat’s normal body temperature ranges from 100-102°F, much warmer than humans. Seeking out heat allows cats to maintain their high body temperature with minimal effort, saving energy for other essential activities like hunting and grooming.

Cats gravitate toward warm spots like sunshine, heated blankets, or laps because the external warmth feels soothing and comfortable. The ambient heat keeps their muscles relaxed and their core body temp steady without having to burn extra calories. Cats enter a state of deep relaxation when comfortably warm, which lowers their heart rate and allows for longer, deeper periods of rest.

Snuggling into a warm place also triggers the release of endorphins in a cat’s brain, inducing a pleasurable, comforting sensation. This is why cats love to curl up and nap in patches of sunlight or on top of heating vents – the warmth makes them feel peaceful and content.

Sunbathing Warms Cats Quickly

Cats evolved as desert creatures, so their bodies are designed to conserve heat in cold environments. Direct sun exposure warms a cat’s fur and skin rapidly, allowing radiant heat from the sun to be absorbed efficiently. Within minutes of laying in a sunny spot, a cat can raise its body temperature by several degrees. Sunbathing allows cats to reach their ideal temperature range of 100-102°F quickly and with minimal effort[1]. By basking in the sun rather than relying solely on internal heat generation, cats can conserve calories and energy.

A cat’s fur acts as insulation to trap heat against its body. When fur is warmed by direct sunlight, it essentially turns into a solar collector, absorbing and retaining heat[2]. Cats have dense fur with two layers – a soft undercoat and a topcoat of guard hairs. This combination allows cats to heat up rapidly in the sun. Dark colored fur absorbs solar radiation more efficiently than light fur. Once warmed, cats can maintain a toasty temperature for hours by curling up into a ball and trapping the heat gained from sunbathing.

Compared to humans who sweat to regulate body temperature, cats rely on behaviors like sunbathing to control their thermal environment. Seeking out radiant heat from the sun is an energy-efficient way for cats to reach their desired body temp with minimal effort.

[1] https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/weather/2020/08/03/does-your-cat-run-on-solar-energy-

[2] https://cats.com/why-do-cats-love-to-sunbathe

Vitamin D from Sunlight

Cats’ bodies produce vitamin D when sunlight hits their skin, just like humans. Vitamin D is essential for supporting bone health and immune system function in cats [1]. Since cats lack the ability to synthesize vitamin D from dietary sources alone, sunbathing provides an important and easy way for cats to obtain vitamin D.[2] When cats lounge and nap in sunny spots inside or outside, their skin produces vitamin D to support overall health.

Open Sunny Areas

Cats love to sunbathe in open, sunny areas that provide them with a good view (Cats.com). Having an open, unobstructed area allows cats to watch for potential threats while they are relaxing and sunbathing. Open areas also provide cats with quick escape routes if needed, as there are no physical barriers limiting their movement.

Cats are always alert, even when appearing relaxed and sleepy in a sunbeam. Their natural instincts mean they like having a good vantage point and multiple exits when choosing a sunbathing spot. Tall furniture, cat trees, windowsills, and decks allow cats to survey their territory and remain aware of any activity around them.

Providing cats with access to open, elevated sunny areas allows them to relax and benefit from sun exposure while still feeling secure. Cats want to sunbathe in spots that make them feel safe yet allow them to satisfy their curious nature by watching the world go by.

Sunbathing is Relaxing

Laying in the warm sun is soothing for cats. The heat releases endorphins that reduce stress and anxiety (https://cats.com/why-do-cats-love-to-sunbathe). Sunbathing can lull cats into a relaxed, sleepy state as the warmth makes their muscles loosen up. Many cat owners observe their cats becoming very calm and content when stretched out for a sunbathing session.

Exposing their bellies while sunbathing shows that a cat feels safe and comfortable in their environment. The warmth of the sunlight penetrating a cat’s fur is like a natural massage. Just as humans find laying on a beach or in a hot tub relaxing, cats enjoy the soothing sensation of soaking up the sun’s rays.

Social Sunbathing

Cats will sunbathe together if they are bonded. Group sunbathing strengthens social connections within cat communities. Cats that sunbathe together may partake in mutual grooming and engage in light physical contact during these sessions. According to https://cats.com/why-do-cats-love-to-sunbathe, sunbathing gives cats “an excuse for snuggling up together.” Multiple cats sunbathing together is a sign of positive relationships and trust between the felines.

Sunbathing Burns Fat

Warm temperatures from sunbathing can actually increase a cat’s metabolism and help them burn more calories throughout the day. According to research, cats’ resting metabolic rates are higher on hot days than on cooler days1. This is because their bodies have to work harder to regulate their temperature and stay cool.

The increased metabolic rate from sunbathing means cats end up burning more calories when lounging in the sun than they would if resting in the shade or indoors. For overweight or obese cats, this extra calorie burn can be quite beneficial and support weight loss efforts. The heat from the sun helps activate brown fat in cats, which are special cells that generate heat and increase energy expenditure1.

So providing a sunny spot for cats to relax and sunbathe can help burn fat and slim them down. Just make sure not to leave them too long to avoid overheating. With moderation, sunbathing is an easy way to get cats moving more and losing weight!

Risks of Overheating

While most cats enjoy lounging in sunny spots, it is possible for them to become overheated. According to Bond Vet, cats can tolerate temperatures between 75-86°F, but anything above that can cause them to overheat. Thick fur coats that are great for cold weather can quickly lead to heat exhaustion on hot days.

Some signs that a cat is getting too hot while sunbathing include heavy panting, lethargy, and warm ears. They may also stretch out on their side instead of comfortably curled up to expose more skin. According to Chewy, dangerously high body temperatures above 104°F put cats at risk of heat stroke.

To keep cats safe, it’s important to provide access to shade and cool, fresh water while they are outside sunbathing. Keeping windows cracked for ventilation can also help indoor cats cool down. Limit sunbathing time on extremely hot days. Know the signs of overheating and help cats cool off if they appear distressed in the heat.

Providing Safe Sunbathing Spots

Cats need a comfortable, warm area in the sun in order to sunbathe safely and enjoyably. According to this article, sunbathing areas should be near a water source so cats can hydrate and cool off as needed. Shaded areas are also important so cats can get out of the direct sun if they start to overheat.

Creating sunbathing perches or platforms is one good way to provide safe sun access, as explained in this video. Perches allow cats to bask in sunny spots up off the ground, while still being able to observe their surroundings. Strategically placed perches near windows or in cat trees give cats awarm, cozy space to soak up the sun’s rays.

With a designated sunbathing area that includes water, shade, and elevation, you can allow your cat to enjoy relaxing and healthy sun time safely.

Scroll to Top