The indoor vs outdoor cat debate has raged for years among pet owners. What do the experts say about the best way to keep your cat safe and happy? Let’s take a closer look.
Cat And Kitten Care: The Indoor Vs Outdoor Cat Debate
There are a lot of dangers that face cats living an outdoor life. Feral cats, for example, can have feline immunodeficiency diseases. Your cat could easily catch one of them if they come into contact with an infected animal.
Parasites can also find your outdoor pet, such as ticks, ear mites, fleas, or even worms. If you live in an urban setting, cars can be a major threat to your cat’s safety. Coyotes and other types of wildlife are predators who often feed on cats. Loose dogs in the neighborhood can pose a substantial risk as well.
Trees can even be a problem. If a cat is scared and climbs one, it could be days before they come down. Sometimes they’ll come down on their own. In some instances, though, they’re so scared they’ll stay in a tree until they become weak from dehydration. They can then fall and be severely injured or killed.1
On the other hand, cats used to living outside can get bored or frustrated when cooped up indoors all day. And they might take out that frustration by scratching your furniture – or worse yet, another pet, or someone else in your home.
Your Cat’s Health And Well-Being: Benefits Of Indoor And Outdoor Living
Is there a happy medium? Can you have an indoor and outdoor cat? Can your pet be inside most of the time while still being able to go outside once in a while?
There are a lot of good reasons to always keep your cat inside, of course. But there’s also something to be said for letting your pet breathe in some fresh, outdoor air from time to time.
Cats love to play, of course. But even if you’re a doting pet parent and play with your feline friend every day, there’s nothing quite like getting outside to keep your cat mentally stimulated.
Cats love to hunt as well. They naturally like to stalk. Proponents of having indoor/outdoor cats argue that if cats don’t have the chance to express that behavior every now and then, that aggressiveness can sometimes lead to destructive behavior. Also, some cats have a problem finding the litter box indoors and prefer to do their “business” outside.2
Pros And Cons Of Keeping Cats Indoors
There are significant advantages to keeping cats indoors. Predators can’t hunt them, they’ll remain safe from diseases and parasites, they won’t get into fights with other animals, and they can’t get up into trees. They typically have a longer average life span than their outdoor-only counterparts. Since they’re always inside, you know they’ll be safe and sound. When cats get outdoors, they can sometimes be gone for extended periods of time before they return. And in the case that your female cat has not been spayed, they can return home pregnant.
That’s not to say there aren’t any drawbacks to keeping a cat inside 24/7. They can easily turn into couch potatoes, packing on potentially dangerous pounds. They can also get bored without enough stimulation. So, you’ll need to keep them active as often as possible – even if you’re tired after a long day at the office.
Indoor cats are also typically very routine-oriented. That means they expect to eat at certain times, and may also expect to play with you at specific times. Keeping a routine can also keep your pet relaxed and calm.
While an indoor/outdoor cat can get through the cat flap to get away from noise in your home, an indoor cat doesn’t have that option. That could lead to stress and other problems, such as scratching up your favorite chair.3
Living The Outdoor Life And Your Cat’s Safety
So, what’s the right answer? There are ways your cat can have the best of both worlds, whether they’re a kitten or an adult.
One great option for safely allowing your cat to explore the outside world is to use a harness and leash. Yes, you can train a cat to walk on a leash. You just have to be willing to put forth the effort and time. But if you have the patience, you can make it happen.
Your cat may feel strange on a leash at first. They may react by crawling or slinking instead of walking. But over time, your pet should gradually get over this feeling. Some cats love to walk around on their leash and harness. Others are fine simply chilling out with you on the porch.
If you choose to have your cat on a leash and harness, you can’t simply tether the leash to something outside and then go back indoors. You’ll need to keep a hold on the leash and give your cat plenty of attention and supervision.
Never leave them alone outside either – the leash could be a choking hazard. Your cat could also find a way to get loose and run away. Test the leash and harness inside first, ideally over several days, so the cat can get used to wearing them.4
If you’ve tried and tried and your cat still isn’t comfortable with the harness and leash, don’t force it. If you still really want to let your cat outside for some fresh air, talk to your vet about the safest way to do so.
Keeping An Indoor Cat Occupied
There’s nothing wrong with keeping your cat inside if that’s what you decide is best for your cat. And there are a lot of things you can do to make sure your beloved pet stays happy and active. Here are just a few.
- Set up a spot for your cat to hang out – Think about setting up a perch near a window that gives a great view of your yard. You can probably find one at your nearest pet store or online. Cats love looking out windows the way many people love watching television.
- Get a variety of toys – The right toys can help cats express their natural hunting instincts. Toy mice and even cardboard boxes and paper bags provide great opportunities to stalk and pounce.
- Get a cat tree – Cats love to climb. A carpeted cat tree will provide them another fun, safe method to get the exercise they need.5
Should Your Cat Be Indoor Or Outdoor?
Still aren’t sure whether or not your cat should be indoors or outdoors? There is no one right answer. Talk to your vet about what is best for your cat and your unique situation.