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Indoor Cats Live Longer

Updated on August 6, 2007

The debate over indoor cats vs. outdoor cats isn't a new one. There are folks strictly for keeping cats indoors, people on the other end who never let their cat inside, and those in the middle, who have indoor/outdoor cats.

I used to be a middle-of-the road cat owner. My cat Santo was allowed in and out as he pleased, for many years. He got into the occasional fight, ate the occasional bad piece of someone's garbage, and brought in the occasional dead bird. But that all ended abruptly when he disappeared for two weeks, at age 9. I placed "lost" ads in the newspaper, stuck signs up around town, cried, prayed, and remained as hopeful as possible.

My poor kitty literally dragged himself home five pounds lighter and toting a dislocated hip from what the vet guessed was a healthy blow from a car. One extremely expensive surgery and many follow-up appointments later, I decided that was it. He was never going outside again, no matter how much he yowled, protested, and rattled the blinds.

Once I became an indoor cat person, I realized many things that just weren't apparent to me before. If you are on the fence, so to speak, regarding keeping your cat inside, mull these thoughts over.

  • Your cat will live longer.

Let's say the average cat will live to be fourteen. If that same cat lives 100% outside it can drop to about four years. Indoor/outdoor cats can fall anywhere in the middle. Granted, there are exceptions to every rule as I have a friend who has an indoor/outdoor kitty that is pushing 17. But tally up numerous diseases, catfights, cars, dogs and cat haters, and the odds are quickly stacked against your cat.

  • Your neighbors will like you better.

No one cares for cat prints on their car or having their prized petunias being used as a litter box, and it doesn't matter if your cat is the darling of the neighborhood. I once had a neighbor call me to report that she was at the grocery store. Upon arrival, she turned around to get her baby out his car seat. She found Santo happily draped across her son's lap (he was a bit of a weird cat). It turned out fine but what if her windows had been open and he decided to head out? That would have been terrible for her to have assumed that responsibility.

  • No fleas! No dirt!

Fleas and other parasites come from outside. Keep kitty in and you don't have that mess to deal with. I can't count the number of times Santo came in covered in grease from having taken a nap under someone's car. Thankfully, he was a good bath-taker.

  • They can't get hit by a car in your kitchen.

Silly thought, but true, unless you park inside.

  • Your cat won't be responsible for loss of wildlife.

As I said, Santo brought me birds. And lizards. And once even a jackrabbit! Yes, that's cat nature, normal and true. But it also makes for unhappy non-cat neighbors who enjoy attracting birds and squirrels to their yard. Buy your kitty lots of fun, fuzzy, feathered toys and play inside. They also won't be exposed to disease or parasites sometimes accompanied by wildlife.

Santo made it to almost seventeen years old before I lost him to kidney failure and cancer. I cannot say for sure, but I'd wager he wouldn't have made it that long had he continued to go outside. He was too friendly, too laid back, and too prone to go for car rides with the neighbors.

Since his death, I have adopted two FIV-positive cats that are strictly indoors for all of the above reasons and then some. They appear happy and content to watch the birds and squirrels from the safety of our front window, and I'm more secure in knowing I'm keeping them as safe as possible.


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    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      So sorry you lost Santo but, you gave him a great, long life filled with love, I'd bet. Thank you for a very down to earth, factual and honest opinion about indoor/outdoor cats. I agree with you. I am most impressed that you adopted two FIV + cats...these are the most loving and appreciative kittys. Over the years, I've had a total of 8. They do quite well for quite a while indoors and can have wonderful, pleasant lives. This is great to FIV+ kitties have their own "condo" - an attached addition to my home with AC/Air and lots of room. They are very happy. I appreciate your well written article.

    • profile image

      Catman 7 years ago

      Hello I have a strictly indoor cat but he seems to be bored and foes cry frequently. Iras thinking of getting another cat as some company for him do you think this is good idea? I have a one bedroom flat and live with my partner. My cat is 8 months old x

    • profile image

      Dan 7 years ago

      We lost our indoor/outdoor cat two days ago due to a stray dog attack on him. I don't know how the dog caught him but it was very tramatic and totally avoidable, if he was an indoor only cat. Now we are keeping our other indoor/outdoor cat indoor 24/7. She is about 12 and seems very nervous wanting to go out. It has only been two days and she will eventually get used to it. If we learned anything, hopefully we learned to care for our cats a bit better. I neglected to say, we tried to save our dog attacked kitty and after x-rays and a doctor's opinion we're given a choice of a $2000 surgery with no guarantees he would make it through that we had to choose to euthenize him. It was tough never knowing if it was the right decision will stay with us. And the vet bill just for that visit was nearly $400. Imagine that, we paid $400 for an animal that was pretty much killed by a stray dog. I am sold on keeping cats indoors!

    • profile image

      chant21 9 years ago

      Sorry for your lose of Santo.

      I understand the argument of indoor cats living longer and with a indoor/outdoor cat myself can attest to the fleas, dirt and dead animals that comes from letting my cat roam free much of the time.

      But I really can't bring myself to force a natural animal into a confined space for there entire life. Guess thats why I never had more then one fish tank and never had bird. I guess I view my pets more as compains then animals simply there for my pleasure or liking. I'm not saying you or anyone here thinks that about there pets but I do notice alot of "what I want" and the reasoning being why I should disregard what my pet may want.

      To try to explain it better. I think of my pets as my babies too. All the things you stated are similar to what would be true for a person as well. If I never let my kids leave the house the would definately be safer, they may even live longer, they wouldn't bother anyone or make them angry. They would be alot less likely to get a disease or die in an accident. But would I really be doing what is best for them? Does quanity of years trump fullness of life (which includes experiences)? I struggle with the realization that someday my cat may not make it back to home or get killed outdoors. But for me its about the life,companionship and freedom that i provide for him that allows me to accept that possiblilty.

      I don't see how you can control another living creature and offer them a fullness of life at the same time. But this is just my opinion. The great news is that regardless of you being an indoor/outdoor or both the life they are able to lead do the domestication is far better then the life the would have in the streets or wild with no support system.

    • danits_24 profile image

      danits_24 9 years ago

      What a great hub! I agree with you. I own three cats and they are never allowed to go outdoors, because I'm affraid something might happen to them, and outdoor cats really do live less. Thank's for the post, I hope a lot of people will read this and understand that it's best for our beloved felines to stay indoors...

    • vreccc profile image

      vreccc 10 years ago from Concord, NH

      Miss Donna,

      My name is Dongdong. I am a very naughty cat. I am always getting into trouble. Right now I am lying across my owners arms sleeping while he is typing away on his laptop writing to you. He doesn't know it, but I can control his mind, as I'm doing it now, to send you this message.

      I am an indoor cat and I hate it. My owners will not let me go out. I sit all day in front of the window watching the birds and squirls outside. They know I'd like nothing more than to swat them out of the sky. They also know I'm trapped behind that glass and can't do anything. So they taunt me.

      I whine and cry in protest everyday and my owners just ignore my pleas to be let outside. You may think that I'll live longer. But for what?? Your pleasure? I want to run through the fields, chase the birds and terrorize the squirls. But alas, I'm stuck in the house all day.

      I guess it's not all bad. I love my owner. As I lie on his arms right now, I purr so loud that he just glanced over at me. I love him. I know he loves me, too.

      If you want to see a picture of me, head on over to my owner's profile. I'll make my owner put up a Hub of me right now.


    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 10 years ago from Hutchinson

      Terrific Hub! I agree completely. Cats can get into so much trouble outdoors. My cats are my babies. I also happen to love the songbirds that I am feeding outdoors. My cats would make short work of them. Thus my kitties are indoor furbabies.

      Loved this hub! Important to get this information out there.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      This hub has made me feel much better as I have 2 cats aged 10 and there 100% house cats because I have always lived on top floors of houses..

      They love watching bird and fish documentaries on the TV, but I do feel a bit guilty for not letting them out as I know cats love to explore, but knowing the above I'm glad now that they are indoors.

      I'm sorry to hear about Santo, I lost a cat last year so I know the heartache and tremendous sadness it brings..