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Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats: Should You Let Your Cat Outside?

If you’re about to bring home a new cat, you may be struggling to decide if you should let them go outside or not. It’s a big decision and one that you’ll want to do plenty of research on before you make up your mind. There are quite a few pros and cons for each option, and we’ll take you through them all, so you’ll be in a much better position to decide whether you’re going to let your cat outside.

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Pros and cons of allowing your cat outdoors

birman cat sitting outdoor_Jeannette1980, Pixabay
Image Credit: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

Before deciding to allow your cat outdoors, we rounded up the pros and cons.

Pros
  • Cats can get plenty of exercise
  • Allows cats to enjoy a natural environment
Cons
  • Easier for cats to pick up parasites like fleas and ticks
  • Impact of cats killing local wildlife
  • Higher chances of contracting infectious diseases
  • Cats can go missing
  • Cats can get injured
  • Female unspayed cats may become pregnant
  • Not suitable for declawed cats

Pros and cons of keeping your cat indoors

Shorthair cat_Robyn Randell, Pixabay
Image Credit: Robyn Randell, Pixabay

If you’re wondering about keeping your cat indoors, we rounded up the pros and cons for this scenario too!

Pros
  • Increased safety
  • Less chance of contracting illnesses
  • You know where your cat is all the time
  • You can notice changes to their behavior or health more quickly
Cons
  • Potential for boredom
  • Some cats will exercise less
  • Some cats may become overweight

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Minimizing the risks

cat-vaccination_bmf.foto_.de_shutterstock
Image Credit: bmf-foto.de, Shutterstock

If you do allow your cat outside, spend the time taking a few simple precautions to keep them as safe as possible. We recommend the following:

  • Make sure your cat is fully vaccinated.
  • Keep your cat’s flea, tick, and worm medications up to date.
  • Make sure your cat is microchipped.
  • Have your cat spayed or neutered.
  • Make sure your cat wears a collar with an ID tag.
  • Keep your cat inside at night.

What about outdoor cats and wildlife?

cat walking in the wild_caligari77, Pixabay
Image Credit: caligari77, Pixabay

Researchers have estimated that domestic cats in the USA kill 1.3-4.0 billion birds every year. It’s also estimated that they kill 6.3-22.3 billion mammals. It’s important to note that these figures also include un-owned feral cats, which likely cause the majority of these deaths.

While the impact of one domestic cat doesn’t seem like much, the cumulative effect of outdoor cats, combined with the impact of feral cats, is enough for some owners to prefer keeping their cats indoors.

Life expectancy differences between indoor and outdoor cats

Cat_Katarzyna Kosianok_Pixabay
Image Credit: Katarzyna Kosianok, Pixabay

It might be natural to assume that an outdoor cat has the opportunity to live a more “natural” life and therefore, might have a longer life expectancy, but research has shown that’s not necessarily the case.

Research from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine suggests that indoor cats live around 10-15 years on average, while outdoor cats only live 2-5 years.

A note on declawed cats

cat indoor_Melanie Hogue_Pixabay
Image Credit: Melanie Hogue, Pixabay

If your cat has been declawed, you should never allow them to go outside. They won’t be able to climb trees or defend themselves if they happen to run into a predator or another cat that’s being aggressive. Instead, you can take them for walks on a harness and leash or build them a cat enclosure so they can enjoy the outdoors from a safe space.

Enriching indoor life

feeding cats_Dora Zett_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

The most important thing to remember is that all cats, whether they’re allowed outdoors or not, can live happy and fulfilling lives, as long as their owners provide for their physical and mental enrichment.

Many cats adjust extremely well to living indoors, but you do need to provide them with the environmental enrichment that they would usually find outside, including:

Adding a new cat companion to your house is also a great way to help your existing cat feel entertained. Or better yet, get two kittens at the same time! As long as your cats have been introduced carefully, they will often play with each other and keep each other entertained and exercised while you’re away from home!

You could also consider adding things like a birdwatching station, including a feeder in your garden near a window. Your cat can sit inside and watch the birds coming and going, but you don’t need to worry about them getting hurt or killed if your cat was allowed outside and decided to practice their hunting skills!

The best of both worlds

outdoor cat enclosure_SariMe_Shutterstock
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

If you decide to keep your cat indoors, there’s still a way that you can allow them to enjoy a small slice of the great outdoors. Adding a cat enclosure, or catio, to your backyard gives your cat the freedom to sit outside in the fresh air, while you can be confident that they’re safe. You can make a DIY catio or buy a kit that just needs to be assembled.

You can get a small catio that extends only as far as a window, which is great if you want to allow your cat a small area to sun themselves. You can also go much bigger and create a huge catio with walkways, platforms, and hiding areas all around your backyard!

You may also decide to teach your cat to walk on a harness and leash so you can take them in your backyard or even for a walk around the block, without worrying that they’re going to run off or get hurt.

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The choice is yours

Whether you decide to allow your cat outdoors is a decision for each cat owner to make. It’s worth remembering that many veterinary associations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, state that an indoor lifestyle is much safer for cats.

If you do decide to let your cat go outside, make sure you introduce them to the idea slowly, so they don’t get startled and run off. You should also make sure all their vaccinations and flea medications are up to date. You could also consider adding a GPS tracker to their collar, so you always know where they are.

Your vet may also be able to help you decide if an outdoor life is going to be suitable for your precious feline friend.

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Featured Image Credit: Andreas Lischka, Pixabay