Indoor Vs Outdoor Cats
When it comes to owning a cat, there are two main schools of thought for how to raise your cat: either as an outdoor cat or as an indoor cat. Outdoor cats are given unrestricted access to go outside, and they often come in and out of the cat owner’s home as they choose. Conversely, indoor cats are restricted to the inside of a cat owner’s home so that they can be better cared for and watched over.
While both methods say they’re the best for giving your cat a long, enriching life, the question remains: When it comes to indoor cats vs outdoor cats, which one is truly better?
Indoor Cats: The Pros and Cons
There are plenty of benefits for raising an indoor cat, including:
- Increased Safety. Being outdoors without supervision can be disastrous for cats as they can easily be attacked by another animal or run over by a car. Plus, you run the risk of having your cat stolen or mistaken for a stray. Keeping them indoors guarantees that they will be safe.
- Better Health. As they’re kept isolated from other cats, indoor cats are far less likely to contract parasites or other cat-related diseases from other cats.
- Better for the Environment. Cats are an invasive species. Even if cats have been living in your area for centuries, they still pose a significant risk to the native bird and rodent life. Keeping your cat indoors helps to protect these endangered species with the added bonus of not receiving dead mice or birds as gifts from your cat.
While there are plenty of benefits that make raising an indoor cat ideal, there are a few shortcomings to keep in mind:
- Increased Boredom. Most cats get bored easily when they are stuck inside all day. This can lead to increased scratching and moodiness from your cat as they try to find enrichment and burn off excess energy. This is why it’s important to play with indoor cats frequently.
- Lack of Exercise. Along with boredom, many indoor cats become lethargic over time, which can lead to obesity and other health factors. Playing with your cat more or taking them on leashed walks outdoors can help to keep your cat moving.
- More Stress. Because indoor cats have a smaller living space, they experience more stress. Cats already like having a routine, but when in a small living space, deviations from how that living space looks (like new furniture) can cause mental anguish. To keep indoor cats happy, we recommend installing an indoor cat door into a special room that is your cat’s space so that they can have a place to retreat to when they are experiencing stress.
Outdoor Cats: The Pros and Cons
Like indoor cats, there are a couple of benefits your cat can experience by being an outdoor cat:
- Increased Exercise. The outdoors is filled with so many open spaces and nooks and crannies to explore that your cat will have no problem getting a healthy amount of exercise.
- More Enriching Experiences. The outdoors is an ever-changing space, which means your cat will never get bored. They can spend hours hunting down small prey, or just satiating their curiosity for the world around them.
However, there are also many drawbacks to allowing your cat to be an outdoor cat:
- Shorter Life Expectancy. The outdoors are a dangerous place. Between speeding cars that won’t see your cat on the road and coyotes looking for their next meal, outdoor cats have life-threatening experiences far more often than indoor cats.
- More Likely to Get Sick. Being outdoors all the time puts your cat at risk for many different types of diseases and parasites. That’s why you need to make sure that your outdoor cat has all of their shots and has check-ups with their veterinarian regularly.
- Higher Risk of Being Picked-Up or Stolen. When someone sees a cat wandering the outdoors by themselves, they may assume that the cat is lost or is a stray. Unless your cat has a collar or is microchipped, this can lead to someone else adopting your cat and you nevering seeing your cat again. Similarly, if you have a pedigree cat, a bystander may steal your cat to take as their own or to sell.
Providing Limited or Controlled Outside Access
While outdoor and indoor lifestyles provide their own benefits and drawbacks, they aren’t necessarily exclusive. There is a way to give your cat the enrichment of the outdoors without putting them in danger of cars and predators.
According to a 2021 study comparing indoor vs outdoor cats, providing limited or controlled outdoor access is one of the best ways to improve your cat’s happiness and health. Researchers found that limited time outside can provide the enrichment and exercise your cat needs without further risking their health.
How To Give Your Cat Limited Outdoor Access
There are a few ways to give your cat limited outdoor access:
- Build a Catio. A catio is an enclosed outdoor patio that your cat can explore. They’re often accessed exclusively through a cat door, and are filled to the brim with places for your cat to jump, play, explore, and scratch.
- Leash Train Your Cat. You can take your cat on walks using a leash just like your dog. While this method has a steep training-curve as many cats will need some time getting used to wearing a harness, cat owners who adopt this practice find that taking their cat outside on a leash to explore is a great way to give them safe access outdoors.
- Give Your Cat Access to Your Backyard Only. While letting your cat roam the outdoors without supervision can be dangerous, you can still let them outside safely as long as you have an enclosed backyard. There are plenty of ways to keep your cat inside the backyard that have the added bonus of also keeping other critters out. You can even give your cat even more freedom to explore by giving them their own cat door to access the backyard.
Should I Let My Cat Outside?
In the ongoing debate of inside cat vs outside cat, inside cats generally live longer, healthier, and safer lives. For example, when it comes to indoor vs outdoor cat lifespans, indoor cats take the cake.
But there are so many benefits to being granted access outdoors that providing safe, but limited outdoor time can help enrich your cat’s life. Your cat will then have the freedom to wander and explore to their heart’s content while you can rest easy at night knowing that they’re safe and sound.