Indoor or outdoor cat?

Should you let you cat outside to roam in complete freedom, or is it better to have an indoor house-cat?

Cat looking through window blinds at the outside

For a new cat owner there are few decisions more difficult than whether to let your cat roam free outdoors or not. There is no easy way to teach your cat the dangers of the outside world as you could a child, you just have to let it go and learn. This leaves a thought in the mind of the owner - If your cat gets run over, injured, or lost, is it your fault for letting it roam free? On the other hand, is it cruel to deny your cat its natural instincts to explore, hunt, and play in a free environment? By keeping your cat indoors are you forcing it into a life of boredom and imprisonment? There is no correct answer to these problems and opinion will vary depending on who you speak to and what part of the world you live in. The best you can do is weigh up the pros and cons and make your own decision.

Letting your cat outside: Risks and benefits

Risks of outdoor life:

  • loosing your cat
  • Injuries from natural causes or fighting
  • Increased risk of illness
  • Increased need for coat grooming
  • Risk of theft
  • Risk of poisoning
  • Benefits of outdoor life:

  • More enriched life
  • Better excersise = healthier cat
  • Less need for daily play
  • Can be trained to toilet outside
  • Eating grass aids digestion
    and hairball production
  • Country road with cat crossing sign
    Cats near quiet roads may be more at risk than those near busy ones

    Busy roads

    It is often said that if you live near a busy road, you should not let your cat outside. Whilst it is true that some outdoor cats do end up being hit by cars, and the lifespan of an outdoor cat is on average less than an indoor cat, there is a bigger picture to look at. There is also evidence to show that cats living near busy roads tend to be more 'streetwise' and are better at avoiding traffic, so may in fact be at less risk of being run over than a cat which lives near quieter roads. Of course, your cat has to learn to be streetwise before it becomes less likely to be hit.

    Risk reduction

    There is no reliable way to train your cat to stay away from roads or traffic or teach your cat to stay away from dangerous situations. An outdoor life is usually preferred by cats, and if that is what you choose to allow for your cat then it may be worth looking at some risk reduction options such as outdoor runs, garden fencing, or making some areas undesirable to limit your cats outdoor area.

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