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Outdoor vs Indoor Cat

Updated on August 23, 2016

Most cat owners keep their cats indoors over fears of safety and although there is no scientific evidence, it is generally thought that indoor cats live longer. So should you let your cat outside? What are the pros and cons of having an outdoor cat?

Cats outdoors love to explore

Cats love to climb and will take advantage of this while outdoors
Cats love to climb and will take advantage of this while outdoors | Source
Indoor Cats will climb, jump and explore everywhere!
Indoor Cats will climb, jump and explore everywhere! | Source

Pros and Cons of Having an Indoor Cat.

Most people believe it is the safer option to keep cats indoors. Their health can be monitored more closely and their diets regulated. Indoor cats are less likely to catch fleas or diseases if they are not in contact with other cats, particularly feral ones. They are less likely to succumb to the dangers of outdoors such as cars, poisonous plants or wild animals.

On the other hand many people also feel that they are depriving their cats of fresh air and sunshine and feel guilty for not providing a natural habitat for them. Cats have a natural hunting instinct which is harder to satisfy indoors. Some believe cats kept indoors are prone to be overweight if overfed and are more likely to have health issues related to diet and exercise.

Cat Exploring Outside

Cat Enjoying Outdoors
Cat Enjoying Outdoors | Source

Pros and Cons for Letting your Cat Outside.

Cats love to explore, hunt, climb and jump. Outside they can fulfill their instinct to hunt and scratch. Cats spending time outside have less need for a litter tray indoors and receive plenty of exercise.

There are however dangers outside for domestic cats. The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are approximately 60 million feral or homeless cats in the US. These cats can provide dangers for domestic cats in several ways. One aspect is disease. Feral cats can carry fleas or ear mites that they can pass on to cats they come in contact with. More seriously they could also carry diseases such as Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS or Feline Distemper. Outdoors carry the dangers of ticks, ringworm and intestinal worms.

Feral cats can also provide danger through fighting. A scratch or bite received can lead to a skin infections.

The outdoors provide further dangers for domestic cats. There is danger from cars and vehicles if you live close to the road. Dogs and wild animals may attack/scare cats and cats may climb a tree to discover it can't get back down. Chemicals used for lawn maintenance and gardening may be harmful to cats.

What is your Cat?

Is your Cat an Outdoor Cat?

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Cat Eager to Get Outside


So What is the Best Thing to Do?

There are lots of ways you can compromise with a cat that seems desperate to get outside. You can train your cat to be comfortable on a leash. First practice by having your cat wear a harness indoors. A harness is a better option than a collar as they are harder for the cat to escape from. Once they are used to wearing a harness it is possible to attach a leash and take them outdoors. The outdoors can be intimidating for a cat at first, noises, smells and the feel of grass may all be new to a cat on its first trip outside. It is important to let the cat explore by itself and you may need to follow it around and not expect it it be guided by you like a dog would. As well as a harness all cats going outdoors should have a collar with a safety release and an ID tag with contact information. All cats should also be microchipped so that if their collars are lost they can be identified.

There are also several types of commercially made cat fences and enclosure many cat owners use to provide their cats with outdoor experiences. it is also possible to build an enclosure from chicken wire or mesh to provide a safe outdoor environment.

All cats need regular check ups with a vet for wellness and vaccinations. This is even more important for cats who spend time outside.

Provide Scratching Equipment

Example of a scratch post
Example of a scratch post | Source

Things to do if you Decide to Keep your Cat Indoors.

There are many things you can do to ensure your indoor cat has a happy, healthy life. Opportunities for playing, chasing and grooming will fulfill the need for exercise. Providing interactive toys, prey like toys and scratching posts will ensure cats can satisfy their natural urge to scratch and hunt and consequently they will not get bored. Cats love climbing and cat perches should be provided. Cats love window watching and double hung windows are perfect for providing fresh air, safety and the opportunity to watch the outside world while staying inside the screen.

Interactive Toys Keep Cats Stimulated and Provide Exercise.

Interactive cat toy
Interactive cat toy | Source

Cat Proofing your Home

Homes can be cat proofed by ensuring breakables, chemicals and cords are all keeps out of the way. Some plants and human foods can be dangerous for cats so it is important to keeps them out of a cats reach.

A list of some things that can be poisonous/dangerous for cats found around the home.

Household items
Anti freeeze
human medications
some types of mulch
string/rubber bands/dental floss - can be easily swallowed
citrus fruits
traps and poisons for ants/rats/bugs
hoilday decorations and lights

In conclusion, it is possible to give your cat the best of both worlds, both indoor and out. By training you cat to be comfortable with a harness and leash, ensuring both indoor and outdoor environments are as safe as possible and by having regular vet checks and vaccinations cat can enjoy an life in both areas.

© 2014 Ruthbro


Submit a Comment
  • North Wind profile image

    North Wind 

    4 years ago from The World (for now)

    The cats love to be outdoors but I know if I ever had a cat again I would probably only let him go out with a harness. My cat was an indoor/outdoor cat because I found him on the street when he was a few months old . He would go and come as he pleased and was very happy but he did get knocked down. He really would run outside any chance he got or would bawl if he was cooped up. Outside made him so happy but then so did inside. I think that cats really like to feel free.

  • profile image

    Julie fry 

    4 years ago

    Really interesting article! It's also interesting as here in the UK its more unusual to have indoor cats and those that stay indoors are generally those with health issues or are kept in households without outdoor space such as flats - however we don't have the similar disease risks and man are more of a danger than wild animals!

    Mine love to go out and become extremely vocal and destructive when for example kept in over the firework season but they are not wanderers and

    are in and out constantly.

    The collars and tags is also interesting as although mine are chipped they don't wear collars as after losing numerous I was worried of the dangers of the being caught/trapped or hanging from them if they caught on anything.


  • Ruthbro profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from USA

    Thank you, I agree with keeping cats indoors, I have three 10 month old kittens 2 of whom are desperate to get outside! One in particular cries at the door and dashes out if he gets a chance. Leaving the house is a complicated event and I hate to leave them shut in a room every time we leave. Luckily we have plenty of windows we can open that have screens so they can watch the world go by and feel the fresh air.

  • profile image

    Bronwyn Hansen 

    4 years ago

    Hi Ruth. Interesting Hub. My three-year-old cat Shi-mi, (Tibetan for "cat") has been inside his entire life. Even so, he is chipped and de-sexed.

    I have always been a firm believer that a cat should be inside, especially in rural and regional areas, such as mine.

    One local council here in Victoria, Australia, has recently introduced a 24/7 cat curfew. That area is also home to many native species of birds and animals, many of which are endangered.

    Voted up.


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