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This is the most heated cat debate I have come across. Do you keep your cats indoors or outdoors?
I am a member of a lot of cat groups on Facebook (shocker), I encounter many people while volunteering and I also talk with plenty of cat owners, both online and in my day-to-day life. One thing that always pops up that no-one seems to be able to agree on is whether your cat should be an indoor or an outdoor one.
In the US indoor cats are more common whereas only about 15% of cats are kept indoors in the UK and in this post I am going to look at both sides of the coin and give my preference, just to get all the arguments out there and look at things as objectively as I can. I have always found this cat debate interesting because it is always from passionate cat owners who believe one way or another, and a lot of times things get heated. I don’t think it will ever be formally resolved and there are always exceptions to the rules but here is my take on indoor vs outdoor cats.
Reasons To Keep Your Cat Indoors
Starting with indoor cats, there are plenty of reasons to keep your cat indoors and it is primarily to do with safety. Although there is a number of reasons, here are a few main points:
- Medical reasons e.g. FIV positive cats, those with mobility issues
- Reduced risk of traffic accidents
- Increased control over food consumption
- Reduced risk of contractable diseases and parasites
- Flats or extreme urban living
- The law – in some countries, cats need to be kept indoors otherwise they are considered strays.
Because of the reduced risks mentioned, indoor cats live longer on average and keeping cats indoors can help avoid issues with your neighbours. This is because cats aren’t straying into their gardens, potentially digging or toileting as well as interacting with other animals. Remember that not everyone likes cats and unfortunately, some have been known to poison cats just to keep them away. One point to note: It’s important that your cat should be neutered and kept up to date with vaccinations, even if you keep them inside.
- Prone to weight gain
- They need more stimulation or they get bored and exhibit more scratching or bad behaviours
- Prone to stress and anxiety
- Smaller properties can leave them feeling trapped
- Increased need to change the litter tray
- They can get lonely if they have no companion or you are working a lot
The main drawback to keeping cats inside is negative health impacts that can affect behaviour. Indoor cats require more work because they need entertaining environments, exercise and stimulation that they would normally receive in an outdoor or natural habitat. Otherwise, indoor cats can become lethargic, fat and stressed!
Reasons To Let Your Cat Outdoors
The other side of the cat debate is usually geared towards natural instinct and predatory behaviour and includes reasons such as:
- Expresses natural instincts
- To avoid some bad behaviours, giving in to predatory instincts outside avoids issues in the home
- Reduces stress
- Allows them a diverse environment
- Accommodates healthy exercise needs
- Aids in rodent control
- Personal space
All outdoor cats specifically need to be microchipped, neutered and up to date with their vaccinations.
- Safety risks e.g. car accidents, poisoning (accidental and deliberate)
- Lost or stolen
- Shorter average lifespan
*More injuries and accidents happen at night so if you let your cat outdoors you should consider bringing them in at night.
Where I Stand
This is my opinion:
I have owned indoor and outdoor cats. With some situations (a top floor flat) requiring indoor cat care and others (such as now) where we have a garden space and quiet road, allowing for outdoor cats. The world is a dangerous place and I love my cats but I believe they should be allowed to exhibit their natural behaviours so given the option, I let my cats outside. I believe they should have some freedom and I treat them, in the same way, I do my children, let them play, have fun and explore the world but with boundaries.
Cats who are kept indoors can suffer from a variety of mental health problems including stress and anxiety if not looked after properly and I think that is the problem for many owners. They cannot give indoor cats the increased amount of attention and stimulation in order for them to be healthy so they use the outside as a tool to help. That being said, a lot of the time, cats will decide for themselves. Our cats can go days without going outside (particularly in the winter) and then be out all day long so we mustn’t forget that cats have individual preferences too and I don’t recommend forcing them one way or the other!
I think the most important part is care and love, I don’t think owners who keep their cats inside are “bad” or “hate their cats” in the same way that outdoor cat owners “want their cats to die” and I think it is important for people to respect others’ wishes! So ultimately, I am for letting cats outside when the circumstances are right (bring on the haters)