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Indoor cat pawing at window

House cat or outdoor cat?

For pet parents, the decision of having an indoor vs. outdoor cat is tricky. There are a lot of factors to consider. Below, we’ll delve into the pros and cons to help you choose the best scenario for your four-legged family member.

Is it ok to keep cats indoors?

Some may view it as cruel to keep cats solely indoors. After all, cats need fresh air just like humans for better quality of life. Yet the answer to the above question isn’t necessarily cut-and-dried.

Start by assessing your cat’s temperament. Let’s say, for example, your kitty was abused by its previous owner and jumps at every noise or sudden movement. Then it might not be the best idea to let your cat outside. It may, in fact, feel safer remaining indoors.

Consider your home and surrounding area, as well. For individuals who reside in apartments or don’t have access to an enclosed/safe outdoor spot, the decision may already be made for them. Obviously, avoiding the outdoors means your pet is put at less risk of being harmed by external threats such as vehicles, animal predators or viral diseases (e.g., rabies).

While felines are generally more independent creatures than canines, an indoor-only cat will require more time and attention from you. For starters, it won’t be expending energy outside. That means it’s up to you to help keep it active and healthy. It may become more needy for your affection, too. You’ll also have to stay on top of the daily litter box routine, since it won’t be able to “use the bathroom” outside.

If you’re capable and willing to provide the love and attention your cat needs, then this might be the right choice.

Tip: If you opt for an indoor-only cat, open a window a hair—or more if there is a dividing screen--just enough for your pet to get a whiff of the outdoors. Sitting by the window or screen door may become one of your feline’s favorite pastimes.

Should you let your cat outside?

The answer to this question depends on your lifestyle and surroundings. Consider the following:

  • Do you have an enclosed yard that would keep your cat secure?
  • Does your home lead to a busy street?
  • Is your area frequented by wildlife (hawks, coyotes, etc.) that could be a potential threat to your pet if left unattended?
  • If you have a female cat, is it spayed? If not, are you prepared for the possibility it may produce a litter?

There are certainly more risks involved when letting a cat outside. According to research, outdoor cats are 2.8 times more likely to acquire parasites—including toxoplasma. So, if you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, this information may factor into your decision to let your cat outdoors.

House cats or not, they are born hunters. Those fuzzballs and wands with the shiny toys attached play second fiddle to live prey. Don’t be surprised if your kitty embraces its wild side and leaves a surprise “present” on the doorstep from time to time (such as a mouse, bird or rabbit).

On the other hand, letting a cat outside helps it expend energy, interact with nature and invigorate its senses. This option also gives it a chance to assert some independence. Generally, if left alone, cats’ instincts kick in and they know how to take care of themselves.

If you have a fenced yard, then it could be a good idea to let the cat roam for a bit. Domestic cats will usually wait by the door to be let inside when they’re ready. However, there’s always the possibility that a cat could escape and get into mischief. Are you comfortable taking on that risk?

The Best of Both Worlds

The good news is, house cats can enjoy the outdoors with your supervision. We’ve been asked on occasion, “Can you walk cats on a leash?” If you’re willing to conduct the proper training and have an ample supply of patience — yes!

Also consider using a pet-friendly backpack. These strange-looking apparatuses enable you to safely carry the cat in an enclosed space. Most have some sort of breathable window that allows an animal to explore the outdoors. Again, some training probably will be required before a cat feels comfortable entering and exiting this contraption.

When it comes to having an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, the choice is ultimately yours. That said, we hope the above information has served as a great starting point so you can feel comfortable making the right decision.

Editor’s Note: Spaying or neutering your cat as early as possible can help reduce certain cancers and health issues. Veterinarian Dr. Lee discusses the benefits of female sterilization in this blog.


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