Indoor/Outdoor Cats: Let Them Roam or Keep Them Home?

Times have definitely changed over the years on whether or not it is ok to let your cat roam the town on its own free will. Growing up in the 90’s at any given moment we had 2-3 cats that were outdoor cats. They came and went as they pleased. They came from my grandparent’s farm and knew nothing but being outdoors. According to the American Pet Product Association National Pet Owner’s Survey from 2004, over half the cats in the U.S were kept strictly indoors and about a third of all cats were allowed to be inside or outside. By 2014, 70% of cats were indoor only, 25% indoor/outdoor and 5% as outdoor only cats. Now day’s it is frowned upon to let your cat roam free and keeping your cat indoors has become the cultural norm. Now I have not had a cat as a pet in over 16 years but recently I found a new furry friend hanging out in my yard on a regular basis. He was super friendly and didn’t mind my dogs at all. It got me to thinking about how the world has changed over the past 20 years and what is acceptable or not when it comes to owning a cat. Since I have not had a cat in so long, I assume that the outdoor cats I do see are really strays and don’t have a home to go to. But after talking to a few of my cat owning friends I decided to really look into the benefits of keeping your cats indoors vs letting them roam the neighborhood and have access to the great outdoors.

Having an indoor cat has many benefits. Indoor cats won’t get hit by a car, get lost, be attacked by dogs, other cats or any other animals. They are also less likely to pick up parasites like fleas or ticks or catch any diseases spread by other cats. Indoor cats having a longer life expectancy because you can catch any protentional health issues early on. Indoor cat’s life expectancy is 13-17 years vs the live expectancy of 2-5 years for an outdoor cat. The drawbacks to having an indoor cat are minimal but important to consider. Cat’s need stimulation and can then become dependent on their owners for stimulation, which could then cause anxiety in the cat when the owners do leave. However, this problem can be minimal if you provide you furry baby with adequate toys to enrich their environment. These would be any kind of toy providing exercise, hunting games, hiding places or perches.
A pro to having an outdoor cat is the being outdoors provides adequate exercise and promotes mental health in your feline friend. Being outdoors gives them the chance to use their natural insistent to hunt, mark their territory and explore. Giving this freedom can help with any behavioral problems that could develop. While your feline friends are out getting exercise, he/she also helping keep rodents and other pesky house guest a bay. Outdoor cats are also at risk for many other things such as fleas, ticks or worms and other diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus. Outdoor cats depending on where you live have a high risk of getting injured by getting hit by a car or getting lost.

Now that we have weighed the pros and cons of having an indoor cat vs an outdoor cat, I think I can safely say it is doing to come down to what works for you and your cat. If you do decide to have an outdoor cat please do consider the following tips to help keep your cat safe and healthy.

  1. If you cat is declawed do not let them be an outdoor cat. Cats claws are their main way of defending themselves. This should be highly considered in your decision of indoor vs outdoor cats.
  2. Make sure you take a trip to the vet and keep your feline update with all vaccinations.
  3. Microchip and tag your furry friend. Microchipping with help keep tabs on your cat but note rabies tags and county tags are required in many areas.
  4. Get your cat neutered. If you are going to have an outdoor cat it getting it neutered will help make sure you don’t have any surprises. Additionally, unneutered male cats tend to be more territorial and have issues with marking their territory causing issues with other cats.
Can’t have an outdoor cat but have a cat who wants to be outdoors? There are many things you can do to keep your cat entertained or give access to the great outdoors. Indoor cats need to be stimulated so by providing a few toys that promoting hunting and promote the use of their brains and natural instincts will help keep you cat happy. Cat trees and puzzle feeders are great toys to keep your cat’s mind stimulated. You could also consider as leash training your cat. Yes, I said leash training. Some cats are just meant to be outdoors but if you cannot safely let them out on their own you can try putting on a harness and taking them for a stroll. 

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