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Indoor Cat Versus Outdoor Cat: Pros and Cons

by Erin Platt April 14, 2016 0 Comments

Indoor Cat Versus Outdoor Cat: Pros and Cons

So, I’ll be completely honest with you.

When I first started researching for this article, I assumed I would read article after article, study after study, about why you should keep little Fluffy inside versus outside. Write it down, my fellow cat-loving friends. I was wrong. (Just don’t tell my husband! My being-right track record still stands.)

Turns out, as long as you take the right precautions, you and Fluffy can choose which lifestyle best fits your family. No judgment required. There are simply pros and cons to both lifestyles.


Dangers Exist for Indoor Cats and Outdoor Cats

Outdoor dangers are fairly obvious. The biggest risk, of course, is when little Kitty decides to play chicken with a car. Unfortunately, physics doesn’t work well in her favor and the car almost always wins.

The other outdoor dangers include cat fights (no, not the kind in a bar; we’re talking cats here people), spreading diseases from feral cats, weather, and annoying neighbors. That last one may sound a little off, but you’d be surprised at how many articles talked about neighbors who, annoyed that Oreo leaves them treats in the garden or digs up their flowers, decide to take matters into their own hands. This can mean calling animal control, or worse.

Yes, these dangers are very real. If you’re like me, at this point you’re thinking “why would I ever let Tigger out of my house?!” Well, your house is more dangerous than you may think.

Remember when Romeo brought you those beautiful flowers last week? Ever wonder what happened to them? If they included Lilies, the mystery of why Tigger is no longer with us is no longer a mystery. Cats love indoor house plants and flowers. Many cat horror stories involve fur parents who were unable to train their kittens that eating plants and flowers in the house was a no-no. Unfortunately, calling poison control doesn’t always save our furry friends in time.

House cats are also in danger of dryers, obesity, psychological issues, and doors. Again, that last one took me by surprise, too. However, it makes sense if you think about it. We all know our cats are brilliant, so its really not a shock to realize that many cats have figured out how to open doors. The problem can come when they get locked outside, or get locked in rooms away from their litter boxes and food while their owners are gone for a day or two.

At this point, you may be wondering how on earth you can possibly keep your fur baby safe in this big, bad world. Luckily, there are a few ways to lessen the risks for both indoor and outdoor cats.


The Benefits of Outdoor Living for Your Cat, and How to Mitigate the Risk

Cats are natural hunters. Yes, that includes the overly groomed Princess. In fact, Princess grooms herself to make her a better stalker. Four thousands of years, cats have evolved into some of the most efficient predators in the animal kingdom. We’ve talked about cats’ sense of smell, but in reality they have super-senses in every respect. They can see in dimly lit areas to help them hunt rodents during their nocturnal scampering. They can hear at levels close to that of a bat. They also have super sensitive noses and whiskers. All of these amazing traits give cats killer instincts. In an outdoor environment, cats hone these skills and stay fit and trim naturally.

With the ever-changing seasons, weather, and scenery outside, Princess doesn’t have to worry about the psychological dangers of staying in one place too long. She’ll never be bored with the freedom to roam her territory. Indoor cats are prone to bad behavior in response to their confinement. While Princess may act out for other reasons, her inability to keep herself amused as an outdoor cat isn’t one of them.

Ways to ensure she can enjoy being an avid hunter and continue to hone her stalking skills are centered on your ability to keep track of her food, territory, and most importantly, her medicine. Even more than with indoor cats, keeping up with vaccinations, shots, and monthly meds are vital to your hippy kitty continuing her outdoor roaming.


Shelter is another essential piece of the outdoor-living puzzle. Until the 1950s, cats didn’t have a choice but to go outside since kitty litter didn’t exist. This meant cat parents often provided shelters in the same form as dog houses so that cats had a way to escape rain, snow, cold, and even other predators. For those of you who willingly live in the frozen north (something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand), giving your frozen fur baby a place to get warm can and will mean the difference between her making it as an outdoor cat, or not.

So yes, it is possible to have a healthy, happy outdoor cat. Our friends in the UK let most of their cats live successful outdoor lives, and always have. Just remember that she’s out there, make sure she has food and shelter, and make sure she’s safe from predators, both of the four-legged and two-legged variety.


Why Indoor Living Can Be a Happy and Healthy Lifestyle for Your Cat

There are too many benefits of indoor living to name them all. Some highlights include: no predators, less threat of disease, consistent diet, and NO CARS. Yes, that warranted all caps. Cars are the leading cause of kitty deaths world-wide.

For those that embrace city-living, the indoor lifestyle is your only option if you choose to be a cat parent. There are simply too many cars and people in the urban world for a cat to safely live outside.

Yet, we don’t want Mario to lose his feline hunting instincts. There are fancy toys and feeding-apparatuses that make sure Mario can develop as a healthy little predator. However, simply using toys to act as “prey” during playtime can do the same thing without breaking the bank. That laser your used to use to drive your teacher crazy in class can now serve and even better purpose. Letting Mario chase that little point of light will give you endless hours of kitty videos with which to entertain the internet, and Mario will continue his hunting education.

Get creative with your space. Giving Mario choices for perches, cat trees, scratching posts and hiding places will also make sure he doesn’t get bored.  Cats love to climb, both for fun and as a means for feeling safe. If you don’t have places ready for kitty-paws, they will find places that you may not enjoy as much. Unless, of course, you’re going for the cluttered bookshelf or torn window curtain look. 

In the same way we tend to binge-watch Netflix, cats can be mesmerized by their own forms of entertainment. Mario can be content for hours if you put a bird feeder just outside your living room window. Watching the birds, and probably squirrels, racing to get food is better than watching all ten seasons of Friends in your pajamas in one weekend. Hard to believe, I know.

What this all breaks down to: you and Fluffy have choices. You can have an outdoor cat, an indoor cat, or an indoor/outdoor cat. Fluffy has the ability to be happy, healthy, and precious either way, as long as you take the time to make sure she stays safe.


Did we miss something? Is your cat an indoor or outdoor pet? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Erin Platt
Erin Platt

Erin has 6 years experience working directly with Cats in a Chicago based VET. Since 2014, Erin has also contributed to various pet magazines including AGE, NY times and LA weekly writing pet related articles. Her focus is mainly of health issues, pet food and housing.

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