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Q & A: hot cats

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Most recent answer: 10/09/2014
Q:
Re. heat transfer between two bodies: If I were to put a large block of ice on my lap it would melt ie. I would "feel" hot to it and it would certainly feel cold to me. This makes sense to me - temperatures averaging overall - no energy lost or gained. However, when my cat curls up on my lap I know that I feel hot to him (since he's only started doing this since my heating broke down and the colder it is in the house - currently 10C - the more likely he is to do this) and he feels toasty warm to me. How can this be? The sum of our temperatures now seems to have increased. [People with more of a life would probably quote snuggling with a partner in bed on a cold night rather than with a cat in a cold house but - hey ho! - the principle must be the same]. Please help - am going nuts.
- Nicky Kyle (age 59)
Scalloway, Shetland Islands, UK
A:

You and your cat each get used to losing a certain amount of heat to the air in the room. Heat flows to your skin from your insides, kept a bit warmer by metabolism. That rate of heat loss feels normal. When you're touching, the part in contact doesn't lose much heat since you're both about the same temperature. So the parts in contact get a bit warmer than usual. That's what you feel. Not nuts.

Mike W.

 


(published on 10/09/2014)

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