Indoor cats vs. outdoor cats: it is a source of constant debate for pet owners. Is it cruel to make your feline live inside permanently? Do the risks of letting cats wander outside outweigh the benefits? Every cat owner thinks very carefully about these questions before making a decision.
An indoor cat never encounters traffic and won’t leave dead mice or birds on your kitchen floor. However, he may require more stimulation from you as he cannot entertain himself outside. Your indoor cat will also need a strict exercise regime to keep his weight under control.
Your cat is likely to live longer, but he may grow frustrated. He’ll struggle to blunt his natural hunting instincts. Creating a stimulating environment is essential. We’ll assess the advantages and disadvantages before looking at how to ensure that your indoor cat is happy and contented.
My Indoor Cat Wants to Go Outside
Every indoor cat will want to experience the outside for the first time. Even cats that have spent their every waking moment inside will want to explore the outside world. When we stop and think, this is not surprising. Try to look at things from your cat’s perspective:
- You go outside every day and disappear for hours. Where are you going?
- You come home from time outside with all kinds of strange smells on your clothing. What are these unique aromas?
- When sitting in the window, your cat will often see birds. That infuriating pane of glass stops them from hunting them, though.
- Cats are territorial by nature. Your indoor cat will have claimed everything in the house as his. He’ll be keen to expand his empire.
- If you adopt a cat from a shelter, he will have had a previous home. Former owners may have allowed your cat to roam. Why are you keeping him inside?
- Cats love to hunt living prey. It’s in his nature. There are plenty of mice and rats outside.
- Cats love to lay in the sunshine. Sure, they can catch rays through the window. That’s not the same as feeling the sun on their skin, though.
If your indoor cat wants to experience the great outdoors, you can make some compromises. It’s possible for a cat to go outside without roaming free all day.
Have you considered taking your cat for a walk on a leash? This is a way of helping your cat get fresh air while keeping him safe. You can control exactly where your cat goes.
This may not work for your cat, though, as felines are independent animals. The idea of being told where he can and cannot go is not appealing. Mercola has tips on leash training if you decide this is worth attempting. It’s certainly a great way to get your cat some exercise.
Of course, you could also carry your cat. This means keeping him in your arms or his carrier. Your cat will feel safe if he’s close to you.
The problem arises when something spooks your pet. A loud noise, or something in his peripheral vision, may cause your cat to bolt. As cats do not have road sense, this can be very dangerous.
Another compromising solution could be to create a designated area in your backyard for your pet. An outdoor enclosure gives your cat a playpen to enjoy.
In theory, this means that your cat can enjoy a safe time outdoors. In reality, there is always the risk that he’ll find a way to escape.
Compromise can be tough on cats. They love and relish routine, and chopping and changing will confuse them.
Advantages of Keeping a Cats Indoors Permanently
There are benefits to keeping your cat indoors. The most notable examples of these are as follows:
Indoor Cats are Always in the House
If you have an indoor cat, you always know where they are. This means no sleepless nights wondering why they didn’t come home. This will be a relief as outdoor cats can sometimes go missing for days.
Eventually, these felines usually stroll back home as though nothing happened. As an owner, you’ll naturally be worried sick.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll always be able to find your cat. Felines are masters at hiding, when the mood takes them. You may want to fix them with a collared bell for safety.
Indoor Cats Cannot Get Run Over
All cat owners live in fear of their pet being struck by a car. Sadly, as cats lack basic road sense, it’s always a risk with outdoor cats. If your cat stays home, you eradicate this risk (unless they somehow get outside.) If there is no road to cross, your cat cannot be hit by a car.
It’s not just moving traffic that’s dangerous, either. Some cats doze under stationary cars or on top of the wheels as the engine keeps them warm/dry. This can end badly.
Indoor Cats are Less Likely to Get Sick
Cats carry all kinds of infectious diseases. Even if your pet is vaccinated, he can still suffer from several ailments.
If you limit your cat’s interaction with other animals, you’re minimizing their risk of him getting sick. Perhaps more importantly, you’re also reducing his exposure to fleas and ticks.
You should still keep up to date with prevention treatments. These parasitic bugs are stubborn, and can find ways of attaching to indoor cats. It’s far less likely than when your pet is roaming free.
Indoor Cats Will Not Bring Dead Animals Home
Your cat means well when they bring you a bird of mouse carcass. It’s supposed to be a present. How can you explain that you’d prefer something from Tiffany’s?
If your cat lives indoors, he won’t hunt live animals. This, in turn, means that he won’t drag the corpses home. This is good for the ecosystem. Cattledog Publishing explains how cats are responsible for a dwindling bird population.
You’ll need to engage your cat’s instincts in other ways. You can do this with toys, however. It’s cleaner, and safer, that hunting wild animals.
Indoor Cats Will Not be Bullied or Attacked by Other Animals
Sure, your cat is a lovable softy. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the same can be said for every cat in the neighborhood. If your cat goes outside, he may be bullied. This usually arises from encroaching on another cat’s marked territory.
Two felines may settle for hissing and growling in the hope of scaring the other away. Sometimes, however, teeth and claws will be used. If your cat gets into a fight, he could be seriously injured. Keeping them home eradicates this risk.
Disadvantages of Keeping a Cats Indoors Permanently
There are compelling reasons to keep your cat home 24/7. Despite this, there remains a school of thought that cats should roam outdoors.
Indoor Cats Need to be Exercised Regularly
Arguably the biggest drawback of having an indoor cat is his comparative lack of exercise. The average outdoor cat walks for miles while roaming. Indoor pets are considerably more sedentary.
You’ll have to make up for this lack of exercise with quality, if not quantity. That means making your cat’s playtime a high-intensity cardio workout.
You may be tired after a day at work. Your cat relies on you for their exercise, though. Failing to get him moving for at least 20 minutes a day is failing to meet his basic needs.
Indoor Cats Need a Very Strict Schedule
Indoor cats will grow reliant on you for entertainment, so your feline can become demanding. This could be said for any cat. All felines like to feel that they are the center of their owner’s universe.
If you have an indoor cat, it’s more important than ever to keep him on a strict schedule. If your cat has a routine that he can rely upon, he’ll be calm and relaxed.
If he feels that his days are descending into chaos, cats become incredibly anxious and stressed. This must be avoided at all costs.
Indoor Cats Struggle to Escape if They’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Cats can sometimes feel as though it’s all too much for them. They become sensitive to noise and want some time to themselves.
For an outdoor cat, that’s easy. He’ll slip through the cat flap, find a quiet place, and take a time out. An indoor cat does not have that option.
If you want your cat to stay indoors, ensure he has a safe space. This could be a room, shelf, or box. Your pet needs to know that he’ll be left alone while he’s in this place.
Do Indoor Cats Get Depressed?
It’s true that indoor cats sometimes become depressed. So do outdoor cats, though. If your pet has a stimulating environment, staying inside will have no bearing on his happiness. All kinds of things can leave a cat depressed. These include:
- Changes to routine such as moving house, rearranging a home layout, and rehoming.
- New family members or houseguests, especially if they absorb the attention that your cat previously received.
- Bereavement of a human owner or cat companion.
- Separation anxiety, due to an owner being away for prolonged periods.
- Bullying from other pets, whether this is in or out of the home.
Do you notice what is missing from that list? Being kept indoors. Keeping a cat at home does not impact his mental health. It’s what they do in that home that makes a difference.
If you create a happy, welcoming, and loving environment your indoor cat will be perfectly happy. He’ll likely be happier than an outdoor cat. Everything he needs is at his disposal.
How to Make Your Cat Happy Indoors
Cats are more than capable of embracing indoor life. You need to ensure that everything he wants and needs is within the home. Focus on is establishing a routine for your cat. Felines live and die by a schedule. If their meals and playtimes are chaotic, cats quickly become stressed.
Get into a routine with your cat that is easy for you to maintain. This could look something like this:
- Allow your cat to wake you at the same time every morning
- Spend a few minutes petting and fussing your cat
- Feed your cat
- Head to work
- Return from work
- Play with your cat
- Feed your cat
If you can stick to this schedule daily, your cat will be happy. Cats can tell time, in their own way. If you’re going to be late, get somebody else to step in.
A reliable routine is undoubtedly the most important thing to your cat. However, you should also consider the following:
- Does your cat have enough toys?
- Can your cat climb to elevated positions?
- Is your cat able to look out of the window?
- Does your cat have enough privacy?
Toys are also crucial. The more toys a cat has, the more ways they have to amuse themselves. Ensure that your pet’s toy collection covers all play styles, too. There are, of course, different ways to play with your cat without toys.
Some toys should give your cat a chance to hide. Some should be small enough for them to bat around. Others can be chased. If your pet gets a buzz from catnip, add plenty of that.
Don’t neglect the importance of interactive toys. Interactive play is the highlight of any cat’s day. Fishing rods, used to tease your cat, indulge his hunting instincts. This keeps your cat content, as he does not feel unfulfilled.
If your cat is food-focused, you could also hide snacks around the house. Puzzle games, which dispense treats when solved, will also entertain a cat for hours. Just make sure your cat burns off those snacks with exercise.
Grant your cat access to windows in the home. Just make sure that they’re firmly closed, and locked where possible. Cats will pass many contented hours watching the world go by.
Anything high up is a winner for cats, too. Felines like to climb and they gravitate to summits. Fill your home with cat trees, ideally ones that run from floor to ceiling.
One of the reasons that cat likes heights is for privacy. Sometimes, a busy household can get too much for cats. They need to feel they have somewhere to escape to.
This may be the top of your closet. Maybe he’ll climb into your sock drawer. It could just be a cardboard box. Wherever possible, create ‘safe spaces’ for your cat where he won’t be disturbed.
Cat trees typically have scratching posts built into them, too. A good scratch is another way for cats to entertain themselves. You’d rather they used a scratching post than your furniture.
Perhaps most importantly, you should consider having your cat spayed or neutered. If you are not going to breed your cat, this is sound advice anyway. Spayed and neutered cats are less territorial. This, in turn, gives them less wanderlust. Unfixed males, in particular, are prone to roaming for males.
Cats do not need to spend time outdoors. The right home environment is every bit as enriching as an outdoor lifestyle. There are also numerous benefits to keeping your cat inside.