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Should You Have an Indoor or Outdoor Cat?

Should You Have an Indoor or Outdoor Cat?

Whether you’re a new or seasoned cat owner you may be pondering the question –  Should my cat be an indoor or outdoor cat? On one hand, cats are naturally drawn to the outdoors and enjoy exercising their feline instincts, on the other you can better control your cat’s safety and health within your own home. So which one do you choose ultimately it’s up to every individual cat owner to choose whether or not they want their cat to be an indoor or outdoor cat? Hopefully,  after becoming more well-versed on this topic you’ll find it easier to make a decision. Now here are the pros and cons of each option as well as some guidance on how to make your decision. 

Pros of an outdoor cat

There are some benefits to allowing your cat to live outdoors most of the time. Most of which have to do with their ancestry as wild creatures. First, outdoor cats undeniably have an abundant amount of freedom with the ability to explore the outdoors as much as they desire. This will lead them to be a much more engaged cat that rarely experiences boredom. Outdoor cats are highly stimulated by their surroundings; they can engage all of their senses and be surrounded by entertainment opportunities therefore outdoor cats have plenty of mental stimulation which is excellent for their overall mental health and well-being.  Second, there are also some physical health benefits for outdoor cats.

Outdoor cats are thoroughly exercised and as a result, are more likely to be physically healthy after all they are spending the majority of their day exercising by walking and hunting. Third, allowing your cat outdoors provides them with an authentic connection to their roots as a wild animal. While many of their natural instincts can be replicated indoors with scratching posts or artificial cat trees, some would argue that the real thing is more enriching. Outdoor cats can scratch, mark and climb real trees and hunt real animals like mice.

Finally, outdoor cats additionally alleviate a lot of the responsibilities that an indoor cat owner has, for example, you don’t have to worry about the litter box as much considering the outdoors is a giant litter box for your kitty. Outdoor cat owners can also spend less time with entertainment planning as mentioned earlier cats get plenty of stimulation and entertainment from the outdoors, which means they require less entertainment at home.

Cons of an outdoor cat

While having an outdoor cat may seem like the ideal way to allow your cat to engage with their environment it’s not always the best idea. After all, cats have been domesticated for centuries so living outdoors is arguably not a requirement to keep them happy and healthy. Most importantly there are lots of risks that come with having an outdoor cat which we’ll go over next. First,  outdoor cats are much less safe than indoor cats.

Naturally, they are exposed to far more threats than indoor cats since their environment is not regulated. Astoundingly, outdoor cats tend to live two to five years on average while indoor cats can live up to 15 years or more. Keep in mind that these are averages. It makes sense that an outdoor cat with a caretaker is likely to live longer than one with no help. Either way, the number of dangerous situations your outdoor cat may encounter increases substantially.

Next, it’s important to understand that the wild outdoors isn’t limited to the literal wild anymore. Cars, people and other animals are all more than capable of inflicting harm upon your cat. If you’re living in a residential area your cat is likely to encounter man-made threats. As mentioned earlier cars pose a significant threat to cats especially in more densely populated areas. Your cat may also encounter poisonous substances or toxic materials on people’s properties. Whether it be fertiliser, pest repellent, rat poison or something else there are lots of potentially dangerous chemicals that your cat may encounter outdoors. 

Additionally, outdoor life isn’t feasible for all cats. Older or sick cats should not live outdoors because they need extra attention and care. If you’re unsure if your cat is even fit for the outdoors, ask your veterinarian. Finally, disease and infection are also something to consider for your cat. Outdoor cats need to be kept extremely up to date with their vaccinations, flea prevention and veterinary inspections. They are much more at risk for developing infections or diseases than indoor cats. There are more than a few parasites that are common among outdoor cats including tapeworms, ticks, ringworms, mites and more. Outdoor cats are also highly likely to encounter fleas and develop some sort of infestation which can be problematic for their overall health and well-being. While fleas are not usually deadly and can typically be treated it’s best to avoid them altogether. 

Pros of an indoor cat

There are plenty of advantages to keeping an indoor cat especially when it comes to health and safety. First, with an indoor cat you can regulate most aspects of their environment, for example, you have control over what they eat and can ensure that your cat is maintaining a healthy diet.  Additionally, most of the threats that come with the outdoors are removed.  Unfavourable weather, cars,  dangerous animals and unkind humans are no longer threats to indoor cats.

Second,  indoor cats can be healthier than outdoor cats considering they’re much less likely to be exposed to disease, pests or toxins.  As discussed in the cons section of outdoor cats, outdoor cats are likely to come across a variety of illnesses and parasites. Indoor cats are much better protected against these threats as their chances of encountering them are slim to none.  Next just because a cat lives indoors doesn’t mean they can’t get enough exercise in enrichment.  Experts say that most cats need at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.

This can easily be achieved with a daily routine of short play sessions.  Interactive toys, scratching posts and food puzzles are just a few of the many ways to get your cat moving and engaged. These play sessions also serve as opportunities for you to bond with your cat.  It’s much easier to bond with an indoor cat because you’re around them more often.  Finally, cat owners can ensure that all of their cats’  needs are met. With indoor cats, you can make sure that they have enough food, water, toys,  shelter and warmth indoors while all of these factors are variable outdoors.  As an added perk you’ll be able to pamper your cat as much as you’d like. While indoor cats require more maintenance it’s absolutely worth it for most cat owners.

Having a personal stake in your cat’s happiness, well-being and health is an incredibly important aspect of being a cat owner. Generally, indoor cat owners have more regulation over these factors than outdoor cat owners. 

Cons of an indoor cat

Just like keeping an outdoor cat, there are some downsides to keeping an indoor cat.  Indoor cats require more work to keep happy, healthy and engaged. Indoor cats are much more likely to experience boredom than outdoor cats. Their domain is significantly smaller and there is much less to explore. That’s why cat owners must put in a lot of effort to keep their cats engaged and stimulated. As mentioned before there are plenty of ways to do this however it takes commitment. Some cat owners with extremely busy schedules may not be able to set aside adequate play time every day. 

Second,  indoor cats are also much more prone to falling out of shape. It’s much easier for an indoor cat to gain an unhealthy amount of weight and not exercise frequently enough.  After all, they have much less space and motivation to exercise.  So as mentioned it will require more effort on behalf of their owner to make sure they are getting enough exercise. Watching their weight closely and providing many outlets for them to exert energy are essential steps for indoor cat owners. Lasers, feather toys, plush mice and other toys are a great way to get them physically moving and engaged. Finally, indoor cats may be more susceptible to stress as they don’t have a natural escape like outdoor cats do.

They may become irritable or especially aware of changes to their environment. However, this can be counterbalanced by providing your indoor cat with plenty of dark quiet spaces to hide and relax.  

 Mixing indoor and outdoor cat life

Keep in mind that your decision to have an indoor or outdoor cat does not have to be black or white. If you want your cat to have all the safety of indoor life while still having access to the outdoors there are middle-of-the-road options. For one you can invest in a cat patio – catio for your feline friend. A catio is a cat enclosure for your cat to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment. Another option is to take your cat outside with a lesion harness. Contrary to popular belief cats can be harnessed and trained it just takes more time, effort and patience than their canine counterparts. By walking your cat out on a harness you are letting them enjoy the outdoors in a safe way.  Some cats on a harness may simply want to lounge instead of walk and that’s perfectly fine for cats like this, you can simply sit and enjoy some fresh air together.

With these options in mind, it’s possible to give your cat plenty of outdoor time while still regulating their environment and health.  While this may not be possible for everyone, especially if you don’t have access to an outdoor area or backyard it’s a good alternative for plenty of cat owners.  Ultimately while there are pros and cons to each lifestyle it’s up to each individual cat owner which lifestyle they determine is best for their cat. All cat owners want what’s best for their feline friend and what is best for one cat might not be best for another. 

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