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Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats: 5 Things to Consider

Category: Cat Ownership

Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti

Last updated: October 20, 2021
Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats: 5 Things to Consider

Are indoor cats better off than outdoor cats, or vice versa? While there are a ton of things to consider when becoming a “cat parent,” cat owner,” or the like, one of the most pressing questions is whether it’s better to keep your cats inside or outside.

Throughout neighborhoods all across the world, cats roam the streets looking to hunt, play, explore, and “use the restroom,” so to speak. These include a variety of kinds of cats too - some which are and aren’t spayed or neutered, some which do or do not have owners, and some which can or cannot be granted a great quality of life. There are also a handful of added risks associated with outdoor cats too - vehicles, parasites/infections, getting stuck in trees, catnappers, etc.

However, other owners have found that their cats are happier as outside cats, or have less potty issues than their indoor counterparts, and that the associated risks are worth taking. Many owners also feel bad keeping their cats indoors, imagining that these cats 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 exposed to less risks in general.

Although the risks are clear, it’s easy to forget that most cat owners are truly doing what they think is best for their furry companions. There are many factors to consider when thinking about making your cat an outdoor or indoor cat, so, to make it easy on our fellow cat-lovers, here are the 5 things you should consider about indoor cats vs. outdoor cats.

1. Reduced Life Expectancy

While indoor cats experience the comfort and safety of their own homes constantly, outdoor cats have both the freedom to explore and the dangerous added risks that come with being outside. The life expectancy of an outdoor cat is reduced significantly compared to that of an indoor cat because of a variety of risks - cars, bigger animals, cruel humans, extreme weather, etc. The fact is that it’s much easier for accidents to happen to our beloved felines when they’re outside.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t put them outside, but it’s important to note so you can keep them as safe as possible if you do.

2. Added Risk of Fleas, Parasites, Disease

Fleas, parasites, diseases, and other infections are much more common in cats who spend a lot of 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 which embed themselves within the fur of cats and dogs. They can be itchy and uncomfortable for your cat, 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, and they can affect cats in various ways, including small annoyances, loss of appetite, and even potentially life-threatening diseases.

Diseases - Common diseases cats can contract from the outdoors include Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and Rabies. All of these can be lethal for your cat, and they’re more likely to contract these as outdoor cats. In addition, these are just a few of the many diseases which your cat can catch.

3. Threaten Local Wildlife

Another difficulty with outdoor cats is the threat they pose to local wildlife. They’re natural hunters, and they don’t hold back on any animal, no matter how cute! While certain animals like mice, rats, skunks, and raccoons are considered outdoor pests, most of the animals in our community are prized. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and a whole slew of other wildlife are all adding to the livelihood of our neighborhoods, and cats pose a major threat to their populations.

4. Bring In Animals

Along with cats’ relationships with local wildlife, outdoor cat owners have volumes of stories to tell about cats bringing in mice, hummingbirds, squirrels, and even rabbits, all as a prize to their owners. Unfortunately for us, we don’t see these things as trophies like our kitties do. The fact is, no one wants a dead (or live!) squirrel or hummingbird running amuck within their home, except maybe your cat.

5. Indoor Cats Do Require Some Extra Attention

There are a few risks which are specific to indoor cats - some say they’re more likely to get bored, fat, sad, and even depressed. The truth is, it takes a little extra time and energy to care for an indoor cat. This means you’re playing with them to offer adequate exercise and fun, in order to avoid any emotional or physical issues.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe If You Do Put Them Outside

If you do decide to put your cats out, there are a handful of things you can do to help keep them safe. For one, be sure to bring them in at night, especially in areas with animals like mountain lions, bears, coyotes, and even other neighborhood pets. This will prevent them from being outside when humans are not, which is often when these large, predatory animals are.

Another tip is to make sure your cats are spayed or neutered. This one may seem obvious to any owner, but it’s especially important for those outside cats, to avoid them impregnating other cats which would lead to a lot of sad, hungry kittens! Part of keeping your cat safe is keeping your neighborhood safe, which also means curbing the feral cat population.

And if you already have an outdoor cat, no need to feel like you can’t still make them an indoor cat! While it may be intimidating, many owners have had success making the transition from outdoor to indoor cat upon realizing the increased life span and general minimizing of risks for cats who stay inside.

However you decide to navigate your cat’s escapades, whether indoor or outdoor, be sure to take a look at the aforementioned points prior to making your decision, and think long and hard about what’s truly best for your furry friend. These kinds of decisions can have a huge impact on your cat’s quality of life, and, of course, we all want the best for our sweet kitty companions!


Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti

Zachary Visconti, Santa Rosa Meowtel sitter and cat dad to Banks

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