Indoor Cats Versus Outdoor Cats: 5 Things to Consider
Category: Cat Ownership
Are indoor cats better off than outdoor cats, or vice versa? While there are many things to consider when becoming a cat parent, one of the most pressing questions is whether it's better to keep your cats inside or outside.
Throughout neighborhoods worldwide, cats roam the streets to hunt, play, explore, and "use the restroom" (so to speak). Among them are those that aren't spayed or neutered, that do or do not have owners, and - sadly - some of these cats don't have a great quality of life. There are also added risks associated with outdoor cats, such as catnappers, vehicles, parasites or infections, and getting stuck in trees.
Some cat owners feel their pets are happier outside or have fewer potty issues than their indoor counterparts, making the associated risks worth taking. Many also feel bad keeping their cats indoors, imagining they are eager to get outside and enjoy the sun. While this may or may not be true, it's tough to refute that indoor cats are generally exposed to fewer risks than outdoor cats.
Although the risks are clear, it's important to remember that most cat owners do what they think is best for their furry companions. Here are five things you should consider about outdoor cats versus indoor cats:
1) Reduced Life Expectancy
While indoor cats continually experience the comfort and safety of their own homes, outdoor cats have both the freedom to explore and the dangerous added risks of being outside. The life expectancy of an outdoor cat is reduced significantly compared to that of an indoor cat due to various risks, such as cars, larger animals, cruel humans, and extreme weather.
The fact is, it's much easier for accidents to happen to our beloved felines when they're outside. That doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't put them out, but it's important to note so you can keep them as safe as possible if you do.
2) Added Risk of Fleas, Parasites, and Disease
Fleas, parasites, diseases, and infections are significantly more common in cats who spend time outside. Each of these categories has the potential to be fatal, and at the very least, they'll increase the cost and frequency of your vet visits.
Fleas - Fleas are parasites that embed themselves within cats' fur. They can be itchy and uncomfortable, and they'll lay eggs to retain their role as your cat's permanent pets.
Parasites - Other parasites, especially internal ones (sometimes called worms), are common in outdoor cats. These parasites similarly embed themselves in your cat. They can affect cats in various ways, including loss of appetite and even potentially life-threatening diseases.
Diseases - Cats can contract some common diseases outdoors, including Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and Rabies. These diseases can be lethal for your cat, and they're more likely to contract them outdoors. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the many illnesses which your cat can catch.
3) Threaten Local Wildlife
Since they are natural hunters, another difficulty with outdoor cats is their threat to local wildlife. While certain animals like mice, rats, skunks, and raccoons are considered pests, many other outdoor animals are valued. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and a whole slew of other wildlife enrich our neighborhoods, and cats pose a significant threat to their populations.
4) Bring in Other Animals
Along with cats' relationships with local wildlife, owners of outdoor cats have volumes of stories about their pets bringing in mice, hummingbirds, squirrels, and even rabbits, all as a prize to their owners. Unfortunately, we don't see these things as trophies like our kitties do. No one wants a dead animal to deal with or a live hummingbird or squirrel running amuck in their home, except maybe your cat.
5) Indoor Cats Do Require Some Extra Attention
There are a few risks specific to indoor cats - some say they're more likely to get bored, fat, sad, or even depressed. The truth is, it takes a little extra time and energy to care for an indoor cat. It's essential to play with them to offer adequate exercise and fun in order to avoid emotional or physical issues.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe if You Do Put Them Outside
If you decide to allow your cats out, you can do a few things to help keep them safe. Be sure to bring them in at night, especially in areas with animals like mountain lions, bears, and coyotes. Doing so will prevent them from being outside when humans are not, which is when these large, predatory animals are.
Another tip is to make sure your cats are spayed or neutered. This one may seem obvious to many cat owners. However, some could still use a reminder that outdoor cats need to be fixed in order to avoid impregnating other cats, otherwise it will lead to many sad, hungry kittens. Keeping your cat safe is keeping your neighborhood safe, which also means curbing the feral cat population.
Making the Choice
While it may be intimidating, many owners have successfully transitioned from having outdoor cats to keeping them indoors. And if you already have an outdoor cat, there is no need to feel like you can't still make them an indoor cat. This is especially true for those who realize the increased life span and general minimizing of risk for cats who stay inside.
Whatever you decide, be sure to look at the points mentioned above before making your judgment, and think long and hard about what's best for your furry friend. These decisions can significantly impact your cat's quality of life. After all, we all want the best for our sweet kitty companions!