Should You Leave the Heat or AC on For Your Pets When You Are Gone?


Animals are just as prone to heat- and cold-related complications as us, which is why pet owners are always encouraged to let even their outdoor pets into the house during extreme temperatures. Fortunately, we have heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to keep us and our furry friends comfortable and safe.

However, many pet-owners still wonder whether they should leave their homes’ HVAC on for their pets while they are away. To answer the question, it’s very important to first evaluate the facts:

What is the Right Temperature for Pets?

During summer, you should keep your house between 75 and 80 degrees – the approximate comfort levels for pets. In the winter, the ideal temperature for your pets is between 68 and 72 degrees.

How Pets Are Impacted By Heat & Cold

dog yawning in bedFirst of all, we should acknowledge that domesticated animals are no longer like their ancestors or their relative species which have/had immense survival skills. Therefore, we cannot argue that pets should be able to withstand extreme temperatures just because their ancestors did.

Next, it’s worth noting that animals, dogs and cats in particular, have their own way of regulating body temperature, and it’s called panting. However, when situated in hot and humid places, this technique becomes less effective.

Finally, certain factors or animals characteristics can help you determine whether your pet needs an HVAC or not:

  • Health condition – animals that are overweight or those that have lung complications are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
  • Breed – panting tends to work less for animals with short muzzles, such bulldogs, Persian cats and pugs.
  • Fur length and texture – animals with longer and thicker fur tend to be more susceptible to heat-related complications; they, however, are able to deal with extreme cold temperatures better.
  • Behavior – during summer, if you observe that funny friend likes to hang around the air conditioning vent then it may be more comfortable in a cool condition. But, if it likes to stay by the window where there’s sunlight, it may not mind if you give your AC a rest while you’re away. Watch out for the reverse during winter – if it tends to hang by the furnace, it may prefer a warmer environment.

How to Keep Your Pets Comfortable When You Leave the House

cat sitting in a windowNow that we’ve looked at the facts, it’s time to check out your options:

Turn On a Fan

If you’re not comfortable leaving the air conditioner or heater on when you're not home, or you know that your pet can take a little heat or cold, you can switch it off and leave a fan running instead to help improve the indoor air circulation. During the summer, you can place a block of ice on the front of the fan to cool the air down even more.

Set Thermostat to a Higher Temperature

Some experts would advise homeowners not to completely shut off their HVAC systems when they leave home, but instead, simply raise the thermostat level. This will not only keep your pets comfortable but save energy and be more cost-effective. Why is that? They say that the energy consumed when the homeowner leaves the system on while he’s away is greatly outweighed by the energy it takes for it to heat/cool the entire room or house all over again after shutting it down and turning it back on. If you take this advice then there wouldn’t be any harm in letting your pet in on it.

Lock Your Pets in the Coldest or Warmest Part of the House

The bathroom and the basement are usually the coolest places in a house. If you have a particularly cool basement, you can set up a nice and comfortable place for your pet keep them cool during summer. On the other hand, you’ll most likely find the kitchen to be the warmest place during winter.

Ensure Outdoor Pets Have Plenty of Shade

If your furry friend enjoys the outdoors you may let them out while you’re away during summer. Just make sure they aren't able to stray too far. Also, make sure there’s a cool well-shaded place where they can hang during the hottest times of the day. However, by no means should you leave your pet outside during winter.

Tips for Keeping Your Pets Comfortable During the Summer & Winter

You may also enforce certain additional precautions to ensure that your pet is comfy and safe from the heat, whether he’s inside or outside the house:

  • Make sure to leave them enough drinking water until you get back. You can connect their water dispenser to a hose that automatically refills the container when it’s almost empty.
  • For outdoor pets, you can fill a wading pool and place it is a shaded area. They can dip into it whenever they feel hot.
  • Some pets like ice in their water while others don’t. Run some trials before you decide to leave them with ice in their drinking water.
  • If you’re willing to spend a little more for your loving companions, you can invest in a pet cooling pad – they’ll love you for it.
  • If you’re leaving your pet indoors, make sure you close the curtains or window shades to shun the sunlight.
  • You don’t want to enclose your pet in a cage, especially when it’s really hot and the cage is not particularly spacious.

During winter, make sure that your pet has a warm and comfortable place to sleep or rest in – throw in some cozy blankets or quilts – and don’t let it stay out in the cold for long hours.

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