Should you keep your cat indoors or outdoors? That’s one of the most common dilemmas cat owners face. Both options have inherent pros and cons. It’s best to weigh the upsides and downsides of each to determine the optimal solution for you and your pet.
An increasing number of pet owners in the United States opt to keep their cats indoors. This could be for a variety of reasons, from animal advocacy groups actively campaigning to keep cats indoors, to the popularity of high-rise apartment living where there’s less access to outdoor space for your cat to roam.
The biggest upside of keeping your furry friend indoors is safety. It prevents exposure to the great outdoors and the inherent hazards, from contagious diseases to getting hit by a car. Plus, keeping your pet within the confines of your home allows you to be aware of any behavioral changes that could be a sign of a serious medical condition and warrant a call to the vet.
Cats have natural tendencies that potentially pose a problem indoors. Their scratching, hunting and stalking habits can take a toll on your furniture and your peace of mind. Furthermore, mental issues such as separation anxiety and depression may arise when cats are cooped up indoors. Another consideration for indoor cats: You need to monitor your cat’s weight, and not just for vanity reasons. "The dangers of cats being overweight are the development of diabetes, fatty liver disease, joint stress due to carrying around extra weight, and other health problems," says Cullen Dauchy, DVM, veterinarian at and former owner of Katy Veterinary Clinic in Katy, Texas.
However, according to the Humane Society, providing your cat with the stimulation it needs can help satisfy their natural instincts and keep them active. Invest in cat toys, perches and scratching posts to help alleviate these downsides and keep your indoor cat happy and healthy.
Historically, cats lived in the wild. In fact, prior to the 20th-century innovation of kitty litter, keeping cats indoors was not convenient.
Your feline friend will lack stimulation and exercise when it’s left to freely roam outdoors. As a result, your cat may be less likely to have behavioral or weight issues.
You’ll most likely contend with ticks and fleas when you leave your cat outdoors. What's more, according to a study published in July 2017 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, outdoor access is a risk factor for the development of infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
Outdoor cats are also at risk of getting hit by a car, getting lost, or getting into a brawl with another animal. And if your cat is declawed, leaving them outdoors can make them especially vulnerable to predators. A cat's claws are its prime defense against any unfriendly creature, so don’t let a declawed cat outside unsupervised.
If you do allow your cat outside, don’t have them declawed, and make sure they're up to date on all vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, and heartworm medications. They should also be spayed or neutered.
One way to reduce outdoor hazards and risk for mental issues is a combination of indoor and outdoor living. You could let your cat out during the day and keep it indoors at night. Additionally, you could install a fence around your property to reduce potential dangers. This way, you can help your cat meet their social, physical and mental needs without compromising safety.
As a pet owner, the safety and well-being of your cat are of utmost importance. It's ultimately up to you to decide whether your cat is safe outdoors or if it can stay well-stimulated indoors. Regardless, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that both indoor and outdoor cats get microchipped.