Are you a new cat parent and wondering if it is okay to let your furry friend go outside? Well, the answer you get will depend very much on who you ask. While many people living in the UK allow their cats to roam freely outdoors, there are those pet owners who prefer keeping theirs indoors. This is what we refer to the indoor vs outdoor cat debate, and it has probably been going a few hundred years ago when Felis catus, or cats, first took over our homes.
In this article, we are looking at whether it is better to let your cat outside or keep them in and what you need to do to make sure it is happy and healthy, depending on your choice.
Indoor vs Outdoor Cat?
Let’s start off by saying that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to indoor vs outdoor cat debate. Instead, the decision you make will depend very much on your cat’s personality. This is because, like humans, cats have different personalities, and while one might feel caged in inside all day, another will prefer the comforts of home.
Your kitty’s background also plays a role. For example, if you have adopted a stray that is used to living outside, you are going to have a hard time keeping it locked up in your house all day.
If, on the other hand, your cat has had a traumatic encounter with a human or another animal while being outdoors, chances are it is going to be very reluctant to leave the house.
Why Cats Like The Great Outdoors
Before cats ruled our homes, they ruled the great outdoors, which explains why many can’t resist the “call of the wild”. Being naturally curious, a cat likes exploring and is stimulated by the myriad of smells, sounds, sights, tastes and even textures of being outside. Hunting, stalking prey and climbing trees is what they are hard-wired to do, which is why so many cats prefer being outside.
As a ‘pawrent’, it is worth weighing up the benefits and risks of letting your cat spend as much time outside as possible.
Let’s take a look at what these are in a bit more detail.
5 Benefits Of Letting Your Kitten Or Cat Outside
Letting your moggy come and go as it pleases allows it to enjoy the best of both worlds – warmth, shelter and a lot of love in your home, while outdoors it gets to be a hunter, explorer, climber and everything in between.
1. Physical activity
A key benefit to letting your cat outside is physical activity. Whether it is stalking and hunting birds or rodents, climbing trees, running around or exploring the neighbourhood, outdoor cats are less likely to put on weight.
2. Instinctive behaviour
Pouncing, claw scratching, climbing… These are all part of a cat’s instinctive behaviour, and they will pretty much do it everywhere. But there is less chance of your curtains, carpets and couches being destroyed with an outdoor cat.
3. Mental wellbeing
Cats are curious by nature, and being outside gives them the chance to explore and discover new things. Exciting new smells, sounds, sights and tastes will keep your kitty mentally stimulated. It also lets your pet get away from stressors in the house.
4. Endless entertainment
Being outdoors keeps the boredom blues at bay for cats, especially if you are not home a lot of the time. With all the mental stimulation and physical activity, moggies that spend time outside have endless entertainment sources.
5. Answering nature’s call
If your cat spends a large portion of the day outside, it can answer nature’s call without you having to worry about overflowing (and smelly) litter trays inside. Remember, however, there should still be access to one (or more) litter boxes in your home.
The Risks Of Raising Outdoor Cats
Unfortunately, there are quite a few risks in raising an outdoor cat. These include:
Cats are notorious for roaming, so there is a reasonably good chance yours may wander off too far and get lost.
Cars pose a massive threat to outdoor cats, and we’re not only talking traffic-wise. Looking for warmth or shelter, cats will often hide under cars, behind the tyres and even in the bonnet.
Unfortunately, outdoor cats are at risk of being attacked by other animals, including foxes, stray or rival cats and aggressive dogs.
An outdoor cat is exposed to serious, and sometimes fatal, diseases. These include Feline AIDS, Feline Leukemia, upper respiratory infections and of course COVID-19.
Cats that spend time outside will invariably have a flea infestation at some point. This article will help you prevent, treat and manage future infestations. Ticks and worms are also a problem, although indoor cats aren’t immune either.
Cats going outside are at risk of being poisoned. Antifreeze, rock salt, mice and rat poison, pellets for slugs and even some garden plants pose a serious threat to outdoor cats.
Read here to find out which plants are toxic.
As you can see, there are more risks for outdoor cats than those that spend their time indoors. However, with careful assessment and taking the necessary measures, you can keep your outdoor kitty safe.
How To Keep Your Outdoor Cat Safe
Before your cat goes outside for the first time, you must assess the environment. Essential things to be aware of include:
- High traffic areas and busy roads.
- Neighbours’ pets and stray cats.
- Predators such as foxes.
- Toxic plants in your, and your immediate neighbours’ gardens.
- Poisonous substances in your garage or shed.
- Your family’s schedule and home set up.
Guide To Letting Your Cat Outside For The First Time
If you decide your feline will enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors, and you are letting it out for the first time, there are a couple of practical things you can do to keep your cat safe.
Before your cat is allowed outside, take a look at our top tips to ensure your pet is healthy and happy. Ensuring you have done everything necessary will allow your cat to enjoy being outside and give you complete peace of mind.
1. Before you let your cat explore outside make sure it is microchipped and wearing a quick release collar with an ID tag.
2. Ensure your cat has been neutered or spayed. Fixed cats are less likely to wander off too far in search of a mate.
3. Make sure your cat has had all its vaccinations and is regularly treated for ticks, fleas and worms.
4. Lock your cat inside or in an outdoor enclosure at night. They are more likely to roam a little further at night and are at higher risk of being hit by a car.
5. Provide your cat with an outdoor house with access to food, water and warmth. Get one with a microchip controlled cat flap to stop unwanted visitors from getting in.
6. Make sure toxic substances are locked up and kept away from your cat. This includes pesticides, insecticides, antifreeze and rock salt.
7. Remove any potentially poisonous plants from your garden and replace them with cat-friendly plants such as catnip, catmint and lavender.
Raising An Indoor Cat – What You Need To Know
If, after weighing up the pros and cons of letting your cat or kitten go outside, you decide indoor life is best, you must understand the benefits and risks associated with this.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Reasons to keep your cat inside
There are many reasons pet owners choose to keep their cats inside. These include:
- Less chance of it wandering off or getting lost
- Reduced risk of it being hit by a car
- Lesser risk of it being attacked by another animal
- Less chance of it contracting an infectious disease
- Limited exposure to toxic substances
- Limited exposure to ticks, fleas and worms
Possible drawbacks to keeping your cat indoors
If you choose to raise your cat in your home, there are some drawbacks you need to be aware of. We list these below.
Cats need to be cats. This means they have an instinctive need to climb, explore, scratch and hunt. A cat may get bored and frustrated in an indoor environment, leading to behavioural problems such as clawing your furniture, refusing to use the litter box and aggression to other house pets, or people.
With a limited amount of space, there is less chance for your cat to be physically active, resulting in several health issues. Indoor cats are at risk of becoming overweight and suffering from illnesses such as diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Indoor cats rely on their owners for entertainment and affection. This could be problematic if you are away and unable to give your kitty the attention it wants and needs.
It’s not unusual for indoor cats to make a run for it when the opportunity presents itself. Keeping your cat safe inside all the time can be a constant worry, and chances are very likely that if it does get out, it will be scared and disoriented.
Keeping Your Indoor Cat Happy
The important thing for an indoor kitty is that it has a stimulating environment that encourages physical activity and mental stimulation. Here are a few ways you can entertain your kitty without breaking the bank.
Cats need to scratch, which is why we suggest getting a scratch post. Not only will this save your furniture, but it will also help your kitty release pent up energy.
A hammock is another must-have item. Cats naturally like to perch, and a raised hammock will allow them to do this, in a secure space. It also allows your cat to get away from over-enthusiastic children and dogs.
Hone your cat’s hunting instincts with a puzzle feeder. Not only do they make your kitty work for its food, but it also relieves boredom and gets them physically active.
Interactive toys are a great way to get your inside-loving cat active while providing entertainment and mental stimulation.
How To Keep Your Indoor Cat Safe
Even if your cat never ventures outside, it is still crucial that you take the necessary measures to ensure its safety. We suggest:
Microchipping your cat
In the event your kitty gets out, it must be microchipped. This will make it easier for finding your beloved pet.
Deworming your cat
Yup, even cats that live indoors can get worms as well as other parasites. Make sure that you regularly deworm your pets and treat them for ticks and fleas.
Get rid of toxic indoor plants
It’s not only outdoor plants that pose a threat to cats. Plenty of indoor ones are just as harmful. Make sure you get rid of any toxic plants in your house.
Keep doors and windows shut
Teach everyone in the family to close doors behind them and shut the windows at all times. And check that all possible escape routes are blocked off.
As you can see, it is entirely up to you whether or not you allow your cat outside or choose to keep it indoors. However, what’s important is that both you and your kitty are happy with the decision and that you take the necessary steps to make sure it is safe and healthy.
What do you do to ensure your cat’s safety, indoors or out? We would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave your comments below.