Letting your cat outside vs. keeping her inside
Choosing to let your cat outdoors or to keep her inside is often a momentous decision for new and even experienced cat owners. For those of you who share or have shared your lives and homes with a feline friend or two, you have probably already noticed that the indoor vs. outdoor debate tends to outrank in importance even such concerns as the merits of wet food vs. dry food, choosing the right litter for your cat (as well as the most effective for your family), or just if and when to draw the line about letting your cat sleep in your bed at night. So, whether your new family member is a young kitten or a more mature surefooted cat, chances are you will eventually grapple with what can initially seem like a daunting question: should I let my cat outside or keep her indoors? And as one good question often leads to another, you may well then ask yourself a number of related questions such as: What are the benefits of being outdoors to my cat? What are the risks of letting my cat out? Can I let my indoor cat outside? Can my cat be happy indoors? What are the advantages or drawbacks of the indoor life? Should a kitten be allowed outside? However, there is no reason to panic. With a little preparation and thought, these questions need not be overwhelming.
In fact, deciding to let your cat outside or to keep her in the house does not have to be stressful for you or your cat. To help you make an informed decision that is first and foremost best for your cat’s wellbeing, and incidentally a decision you can really live with, we suggest taking a look at some of the most common issues associated with indoor vs outdoor cats.
Respecting Your Cat’s Individual Personality and Needs
Above all when weighing the pros and cons of the outdoor vs. the indoor life for your cat, it is important to remember two things. First, like people, every cat is different with individual personalities and different preferences, so what is best for one cat may not be right for yours. For example if you have adopted a stray cat, who has lived the roaming life, your new companion may likely be eager to go out. On the other hand, if your cat has had previously traumatic experiences with other animals perhaps she will be more than a little reluctant to venture outside again. A young kitten that has never been out of your flat, may or may not feel the pull of the outdoors. Secondly, there is no “right” or “wrong” side of the outdoor /indoor debate. Both outdoor and indoor cats can live full, satisfying, happy lives, provided you take some practical steps to make your cat’s outdoor or indoor environments as safe and stimulating as possible for your cat.
The Call of the “Great Outdoors” and Your Cat
Many cats will want to go out especially once they have experienced a taste of outdoor freedom, while other cats may be timid and downright wary of venturing into an unknown environment full of unfamiliar sensory experiences. Having said this, cats tend to be curious, and are natural explorers. Cats are easily intrigued and stimulated by the myriad fascinating sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells they may encounter outside including insects, the play of light and shadow, rodents, birds, and plants, to name a few. So if your cat seems interested in venturing out, or waits longingly at the door, it is worth considering some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of the outdoor life.
What are the Benefits of Letting Your Cat Outside?
- Outdoor cats undoubtedly have more opportunity to get physical activity through climbing, running, or exploring. Free to roam or simply explore a limited outdoor space, your cat has naturally less chance of gaining weight.
- Outdoors, your cat is totally free to engage in instinctive behavior such as scratching that you may not appreciate indoors on your furniture or brand new curtains.
- The outdoor environment offers countless opportunities for your inquisitive cat to explore wider spaces and encounter new sights, smells, tastes, textures and experiences, stimulating her natural curiosity and wellbeing...
- You can create a natural litter for your cat in a protected area of the garden, in addition to her usual indoor litter for rainy days and at night.
- She may also enjoy having her own corner of the garden planted with long grass to hide and roll in.
What are the Risks of Letting Your Cat Outside?
- Cars are one of the greatest risks to your cat outdoors. Busy roads are especially dangerous but a cat may also be surprised and hurt by a car on a quiet country road.
- Cats are also at risk of hiding under the bonnet of a car.
- Your cat may wander too far and get lost. However, avoid putting a collar on her to prevent any risk of strangulation. Make your cat wearing a well-fitted ‘break-free’ safe collar with an ID disc is a good alternative option.
- Depending on where you live, other animals such as foxes, dogs, and especially other potentially aggressive rival cats are also a potential threat to your cat.
- Outdoor cats are much more exposed to contracting infectious diseases especially through fighting with other cats. Common serious diseases are Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, abscesses, and upper respiratory infections, among others.
- Toxic substances such as slug pellets, anti-freeze or rat poison, are also dangerous.
- Some common garden plants and flowers such as lilies or poinsettia are toxic for your cat.
- Your cat may get trapped in someone’s garage or shed.
- Outside your cat is more exposed to common parasites such as ticks and worms.