At this time of the year, it’s not unusual to walk into the Sanctuary and see sprawled bodies all around!
With the exception of cats who are caged for medical attention, or because they have just arrived with us, all our cats have pretty free rein to go wherever they want. The Single-Wide cats don’t actually get out into the courtyard, but at least they have access to light and air on the back deck, and space by windows on the front. Similarly with the leukemia cats in Old Aids – their courtyard is shaded, but depending on the time of day, patches of sunshine are available.
Humans rely on sunlight for Vitamin D and their health; cats get all they need through their food, and sunshine isn’t a necessary factor. Because they are obligate carnivores and dependent on protein, their bodies process food differently from omnivores.Their natural body temperature is warmer than a human’s and their metabolism tends to run higher. As predators, they are made for bursts of activity, followed by quiet.
If a cat can run on solar, it will. When they sleep, there is a drop in their basal metabolism that is part of shutting down the body for the sleep process. If they can offset that drop with external application of warmth – whether from a heater or from a bout of sunbathing – they can conserve energy.
On the hottest days, the ambient temperature may be sufficient, and the bodies will be sprawled in shade. But we all know the cats that will wake up every 30 minutes or so and follow the patch of sunlight to its next location.
We do need to be aware of sensitive skin – especially ears; white cats, in particular, can get sunburned ears, and we have had several white cats who have developed skin cancers on their ears, needing careful supervision and treatment.
Age, of course, comes into it. The younger the cat (as with humans), the more likely it will be active despite the temperature. Most of our Sanctuary cats are older (rather like we older humans who look after them!) and they prefer to conserve their energy for important things like mooching for treats!