Indoor vs. Outdoor: The Facts

cat tabby folded ears window

Outside or inside?

Many people believe that it is best to allow their cats to live like their ancestors; out in the wild, able to run around and roam freely. Well, many of these owners may think twice when they hear that outdoor cats live on average more than ten years less than their indoor counterparts. Although it may be debated whether cats are domesticated or not, the common housecat will certainly live a longer life if kept indoors. Here, we’re going to talk about all the factors that go into deciding if you want your cat to be indoors or outdoors, and how you can best equip either lifestyle choice.

One of the biggest factors to keep in mind when thinking about letting your cat outdoors is their likelihood of contact with a feral/outdoor cat. When your cat goes outside, they aren’t out there alone, and will likely interact with an unfamiliar cat. There are roughly 60 million feral cats in the United States alone; no matter where you live, there are street cats. These cats are usually not vaccinated, and can carry a number of diseases that they could spread to your cat. Some serious diseases and parasites include:

  • Feline AIDS (FIV)
  • Feline leukemia (FeLV)
  • Feline distemper (panleukopenia)
  • FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Fleas and ticks
  • Rabies
  • Ear mites
  • Worms
  • Ringworm

If your cat is declawed, allowing them outside is putting them in harm’s way each time they leave the house. Cats without front or back claws are less able to use their claws in times of need. Lack of claws makes it harder for a cat to climb trees, which is one of the safest getaways for a cat in harm. Also, without claws, your cat is disabled from defending his/herself in harm’s way. If you are considering declawing your cat, click here to learn more.

There are many other hazards out in the world that pose threat to an outdoor cat, including:

  • Wild animals: Other cats aren’t the only threat to an outdoor cat. Due to a cat’s quick and agile motion, they are often sought-after by dogs, wolves, coyotes, and other larger animals. Foxes and raccoons have also been known to hunt cats. Attacks on cats are very common and are usually fatal.
  • Cars: Cats become confused and startled when they go out into the world, and don’t really demonstrate their famous feline quick wit when it comes to the street. Cats are hit by cars on a regular basis. This will either result in a costly procedure, or death.
  • Humans: Animal cruelty is a prevalent issue that most of us would rather ignore; but the truth of the matter is that people look for animals to torture or shoot in many areas.
  • Poisons: Household toxins are one thing, but outside toxins are completely uncontrollable by cat owners. Cats that are allowed outdoors could get into any sort of toxins, from antifreeze to rodent and bug poison. They may also ingest poison second hand in the wild by ingesting a rodent or bug that has recently ingested poison.
  • Getting stuck in a tree: This may sound like a silly trope, but cats often get stuck in trees. They run up out of fear, and are too afraid to climb down. The way that a cat’s claws are built are great for climbing up but aren’t as helpful for climbing down. If this happens, usually the cat will stay up there until they become completely dehydrated and fall out of the tree. This will result in injury or death.

Male Serval Savannah KittenRegardless of whether your cat is going to be indoors or outdoors, you’ll want to spay/neuter your cat. Spaying and neutering can help elongate your cat’s life, and for outdoor cats, can prevent unwanted pregnancy and infection. If your cat goes outside, they will encounter numerous unknown animals. There is already an abundance of cats in the world, and you wouldn’t want the burden of contributing to the huge amount of homeless cats.

As you can tell, it is highly suggested that cats are kept indoors. Many cat owners feel bad about this, but if you really think about it, living inside isn’t so bad; regular meals, comfortable surroundings, safety, and ample playthings don’t sound worse than fear, not knowing where you next meal is coming from, or whether or not you’ll have a safe place to sleep. In order to make sure that your cat has all that they need in an indoor setting, there are a few things that you can do to make your cat happy.

  • Exercise: Obesity affects 50% of indoor cats. This is due to their sedentary lifestyles and voracious appetites. The best way to combat feline obesity is by putting in time to exercise your cat. Click here for a list of fun ways to easily exercise your cat each day.
  • Companionship: One great way to keep your cat from getting bored inside is by providing them with a companion. This could be another cat, or even a dog. Almost any two pets can get along with the proper introduction.
  • Perches: Let your cat get a good look outside. They will be endlessly entertained by the people, birds, and exciting goings-on of the great outdoors without the threat of infection or death. Cat trees placed near a window are a great way to let your kitty have a high spot to view the outdoors and indoors.
  • Comfortable living space: Make sure that your cat has a private place to go when they don’t feel like being bothered by other people or pets. Having safety will keep your kitty calm and in good spirits.
  • Scratching post: Cats have an internal desire to scratch their claws and get a good stretch. By allowing your cat to use a scratching post, you’ll avoid having scratched up furniture and other pets.

Regardless of if your cat is indoors or outdoors, you’ll want to keep up on their shots and medications. Even if you have a strictly-indoor cat, they should still be regularly treated for fleas and ticks. Outdoor cats are more susceptible to fleas and ticks, but if even one makes it in the door, a cat could quickly become infested at any time. Keeping up with your cat’s shots will elongate their life, as well as get you in the veterinarian’s door for regular checkups. Keeping track of your cat’s health will help them live longer and in better condition.
At the end of the day, keeping your cat indoors is an infinitely better decision for your cat’s health, longevity, and happiness. As long as you make sure that your cat has adequate stimulation indoors, they’ll have a content life that is safe and secure.