This question is the subject of many differing opinions amongst cat owners. Should I let my cat go outside?
There are pros and cons to both sides of the issue as well as some statistics that support either outlook on the subject. You as the pet parent must make a judgment on what is good for every cat you own and your cat’s behaviors will tell you without a doubt whether they want to be outside or stay cozy with you inside only.
Let’s start with some facts about both outlooks
Many veterinarians and cat veterinary websites do state that indoor cats can live over 15 years while outdoor cats only live about 5 years.
This is due to the dangers of being outside, such as poisonous plants, being harmed by a predator, being injured while climbing, and even the fact that cats can hide in the underbelly of a vehicle for warmth. But that is for cats that go loose without any supervision at all, and no domestic animal should be allowed to roam free without supervision.
Cats that roam free without supervision oftentimes are picked up by others
They also will eat food left out and can seem to be homeless. If a cat wanders too far, they do get lost. Their eyesight is not good, especially in daylight and this contributes to the “lost cat phenomenon”. Unlike dogs, while cats can be chipped most countries or areas do not require licensing so once a cat disappears it can be forever, unfortunately.
The right answer to this question is quite possibly a combination of considerations
Does your cat get enough exercise indoors only?
This is a primary consideration for allowing them outside. Stimulation and exercise are necessary for a healthy cat and some cats that yearn to go outside can become overweight, listless, and destructive unless a pet parent can provide sufficient indoor activities which are not easy since cats are easily bored. Diabetes in cats and other health problems are common in indoor-only cats as they do gain weight and can eat from boredom.
Does your cat even want to go outdoors?
If your cat never goes outside, it’s likely that they won’t know what they’re missing.
Once let outside, some cats will whine by the door incessantly. But if your new feline friend is a rescued feral cat – once rescued and established indoors lose the desire to even venture outdoors. Yes, this is true and many feral cat owners can attest to this. After braving neglect, abuse, starvation, and the outdoor elements they become perfectly happy to just live and exist indoors especially if play equipment is in place.
Outdoor only cats can thrive if a cat house is set up
These are new additions to living and loving cats who want to be exposed to the great outdoors constantly. Very much like a playhouse for children, some exceptionally creative cat lovers with many cats, do set up a cat play area or “catio” outside where their cats are housed in enclosures that are quite complex while still containing their cats.
The internet is a good place to start a search on how to build one of these or to purchase one that is prebuilt. This is a good option for some owners but there should be insulation and bedding as well as enough space and perches.
There is a mid-ground solution for indoor and outdoor opinions
This is a solution many cat owners adopt and that is “supervised” outdoor playtimes. Like when owning a dog, there are cat harnesses and leashed for cats that stray or climb outside even when you are present. Some can never stray or climb but supervision is still needed. While your cat may be perfectly happy 90 percent of the time indoors, outdoor playtime is welcomed by most and does give cats exercise and stimulation.
Most cat parents work supervision outdoors into the daily routine
This is a great way to satisfy a cat’s need for safety and security yet address their needs for going outdoors. The cat is essentially a housecat in this approach but like a dog or other pet is treated daily to forage into the outdoors. Depending upon the weather the time spent outdoors can rejuvenate a cat and fresh air and exercise are good for all creatures.
Bonding with your cat also occurs with outdoor excursions
If your cats are not “wanderers” you can let them explore without a leash or harness, just keep a close eye on them. Some cats do need a lot of outdoor stimulation and there also are those that enjoy walking on a leash through the neighborhood or being carried in a “cat pack” which are specially made knapsacks for cats.
Outdoor cats need more protection although accidents happen indoors
There is no guarantee that an indoor cat will not become ill or have an accident but the American Humane Society does state on its website that over 60 million feral cats exist in the USA alone, with millions of others in Canada and worldwide. Some ferals are born outside or abandoned but many have become feral by wandering away. Diseases such as feline leukemia, distemper, rabies, and heartworm are more common in feral and wandering cats, as are all worms and other parasites such as fleas and ticks.
When indoors, a pet parent has more control over the environment
You can remove harmful objects when you see them. Outdoors cats will spot things you do not see or hear and pounce and eat them before you even know it exists. Like dogs, they can get stung by poisonous and non-poisonous insects and snakes.
The prey instinct prevails more outdoors in cats than when they are indoors and they will always be quicker than you are! Some insects and plants in your home however can be toxic to cats so even indoors you must be on a watch for the prevention of incidences. You might love your plants too but with a cat, you may need to get rid of some both indoors and outdoors.
Even if supervised outdoors, cats do need regular parasite control
There is no way for a cat to avoid high grass or fleas and ticks plus worms when outdoors. Indoor cats should also be treated but those that spend more time outdoors will need more monitoring and more applications of parasite control products. This is just common sense as parasites such as fleas and ticks do choose warm-blooded mammals that are furry as their “favorite meal.”
Ear mites occur indoors or out so routine maintenance is still needed
Just because a cat remains indoors does not relieve any owner of routine vet care or regular bathing, grooming, or nail clipping. Preventing ear mites is done by gently swabbing the cat’s ears with a Q-tip and nail clipping can be done with practice at home. If you cannot bathe your cat some groomers or vets will do so. Especially if your cat is scratching their ears it is time for “swabbing.” Bathing is important to remove dander and dandruff. Yes, cats do groom relentlessly but that is no excuse for not bathing a cat regularly. Regular bathing also prevents hairballs.
Supervising more than one cat takes more work especially outdoors
Cats do like companionship and seem to do better with another cat. However, when outdoors you will need to take one out at a time or be very vigilant. Some individuals have dozens of cats and this can be questioned by many as to how much care can be given to each cat. Each cat needs care and has health needs so each cat costs more money. No matter how much you love cats try not to fall into the trap of having so many that you run out of time, energy, or money. Chances are you and the cats will both suffer. Cats also have different personalities and not all cats get along well.
No matter how your cat lives read their behaviors indoors or outdoors
There is no such thing as being non-vigilant with a cat. They are inquisitive by nature and although they cannot speak their behaviors and mannerisms can tell you a lot. Body language in a cat is a huge factor in discerning their mood, discovering health problems, and eliminating frustration.
Just keep watch as much as possible and no matter whether you choose to have a cat indoors or outdoors, or a combination your care will be what matters the most to them. Above all else, love them to death and all will be fine!
Jonathon is an entrepreneur and cat-lover. He is married to Joy and they share their home with their 2 feline-friends, Franklin & Ollie. Jonathon is a self-admitted “Crazy Cat Guy”