Indoor or Outdoor Life for a Cat?

Indoor or Outdoor Life for a Cat?

by Dino

Cat indoors on a man made cat tree - photo by dacotahsgirl (Flickr)

Cat indoors on a man made cat tree - photo by dacotahsgirl (Flickr)

In a perfect world, living in safe, comfortable homes while going outside to experience the wonders of the wild would be the best life for our treasured cat companions. They could exercise their wild instincts hunting prey and running in the outdoors, then return to their homes and rest in the comfort of their pet beds.

But in some areas, as is the case in many urban and suburban areas, the outdoor world can be a dangerous place for domestic cats. Traffic is obviously a risk, as are dogs and humans who are not cat friendly. There are other factors, such as poisoning. Antifreeze is the most common culprit, whether it was spilled accidentally or placed for the intent purpose of poisoning an animal. There are types of antifreeze that claim to be pet friendly due to the replacement of ethylene glycol with propylene glycol. But these types can still cause a cat to become uncoordinated and possibly have seizures, and although death is unlikely from ingestion, the cat may be harmed during his temporary loss of faculties.

Cats can also be endangered by rodent poisons or even by a rodent with the poison in its system. Some plants can be harmful to cats, causing such symptoms as abdominal pain, diarrhea, or problems of the heart, kidneys, or respiratory system. Some plants can even cause convulsions.

An outdoor enclosure can, in some cases, be the best of both worlds. The cat can enjoy the outdoors without the dangers already mentioned. But should the cat escape, they are again at risk. Just as dangerous as the cat getting out is the possibility of another animal getting inside. Dogs or raccoons could find their way into an enclosure if so inclined. Poisonous snakes can easily fit themselves through tight crevices and become a danger to the cats inside.

In more rural areas, wild cats can be a danger. But the most prominent danger to cats in outdoor enclosures is most likely other humans. Those who see cats as meaningless animals instead of the sentient creatures that they are may see an enclosure as an easy place to find an animal to torture, maim, or kill.

There are plenty of news stories about teenagers stealing cats and mutilating them, setting them on fire, and murdering them. They may also look upon an enclosure as a place to test their skills with an air rifle. The sad truth is that if a cat were found in its enclosure maimed or dead and the police were called, unless it had been shot, they would most likely not “waste their time” investigating what was “obviously an animal attack”.

If the cat were not found in the enclosure, it would be assumed that it had escaped. Either way, the true perpetrators of the crime would be free to do it again.

It is because of the dangers I have explained that, in some areas, cats are much safer inside. A responsible cat keeper can prevent harm to their companion animals by learning what can be dangerous to them inside the home and removing those dangers. Poisonous household products can be locked away where the cat cannot get to them.

Sharp objects can be put away as well. The home can be “cat proofed” just as it can be child proofed. Inside the home, the cat keeper can more effectively control the cat’s exposure to dangers. They can also more closely monitor the cat’s behavior and notice signs of illness faster than if the cat spent more time outside.

Simply by tending to the indoor cat’s litter box, telltale signs of illness such as blood or discharge in the urine and feces can be spotted infinitely easier and faster than with a cat who eliminates outside.

This, of course, comes as a sort of trade off to the experiences of the outdoors. The indoor only cat must have opportunity for stimulation and exercise. They must have cat furniture for climbing, scratching posts, and toys to keep them occupied. Their human companions must become involved with them as well, but of course they cannot play with the cat all the time. They have to work, and have other places that they have to go, and during these times the cat would have to occupy himself.

Also, cats are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk. They are often ready to play while their humans are asleep. For these reasons, it is often a good idea to have more than one cat. They can entertain each other during the times of day that their humans can’t. They can also form a bond together and actually help each other to recover from illnesses and surgeries by nurturing their will to live. The cat is also less likely to feel alone while his human is at work if he has a companion to nap with.

There are advantages and disadvantages for both indoor and outdoor life of our cat companions. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the cat keeper to weigh the options and decide which is better suited for their cats based on all of the factors involved, environmental and otherwise.


Indoor or Outdoor Life for a Cat? -- Associated Pages:

Bored Cats are Unhappy Cats

Outdoor Cat Problems

Original Photo on Flickr

Indoor or Outdoor Life for a Cat? to Cat Health Problems

Comments for
Indoor or Outdoor Life for a Cat?

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Mar 27, 2010 Manmade world too dangerous for cats
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Dino. Thank you for a well written and informative article. This is an issue that always raise feelings because we all do what we believe to be best for our cats, but circumstances vary a lot around the world.

As I wrote some time ago in a comment called 'Outdoor cats live in constant danger' I won't advocate the free cat life anymore, not even here in suburbian Denmark.

Right now we live on the third floor, so running free is not an option for our cats, but if we lived in a house, I would definitely build an enclosure for them. The manmade world has become too dangerous for cats and it's not a gamble I'm willing to take anymore.

Mar 24, 2010 Indoor cats
by: Tracey

I have 2 indoor cats. They are indoor because I live on a main road in a non cat friendly area.

We have had cats that went out in the past but 2 were run over.

My cats have scratching posts and toys, I play with them whenever I can and they chase and play with each other.

They have an outdoor pen but I would never leave them in there and go oout.

I am saddened to hear that a lot of cruelty cases in America are perpetrated by children.

I feel that the same cruelty should be inflicted on them as they clearly have no concept of the pain they cause, or perhaps they do know but are just pure evil. A few lessons are obviously lacking.

I feel strongly that these cases of cruelty should be reason enough not to de-claw your cat! I've mentioned many times on PoC that there are no guarantees that you will always be able to protect your de-clawed indoor cat. I would be inconsolable if I knew that my cat had been taken and tortured however I would never ever forgive myself if I had taken away his defences and knew that I had made it easier for him to be brutalised.

Please don't de-claw - EVER! Its just wrong.

Mar 24, 2010 Thank you
by: Jan Plant

I for one found this article very informative and quite to the point.Livivng in a rural area with lots of wild life,Such as coyotes,my feral colony run into a great bit of problems.We also had a "young boy"(read sadistic little soand -so) that was using all the animals in the area as target practice. Most of my ferals are wise to him,but he shoots anything moving.Or rather did until the police placed him in juvenile hall.I can not for the life of me comprehend the type of people who raise these little monsters.I also removed a lot of my hanging plants and planted plants,as I was never aware of their poisonous effect until recently.due to health issues all our cats remain outside kitties.But have safe havens to run to to get awa from predators.Both human and animal.Thank you for this very informative article.And the cat in the photo is just...stunning!

Mar 24, 2010 Keeping cats safe and happy
by: Michele S.

I'm from Europe, so apart from when I lived in an apartment for a couple of years my cats have always lived the indoor-outdoor lifestyle. However like Ruth, I also ensure my cats are kept indoors once it starts to get dark outside or if I'm not at home. They also use a litter tray for the valid reasons you mention and because I've no desire for my cats to upset any of my neighbours.

I thought your article was well-balanced and you obviously have the happiness of cats as your foremost thought. Thank you for pointing out that not only do cats need more mental and physical stimulation if kept indoor only, but that cat-proofing the home is a must. People forget that there are dangers on both sides of the front door. Many species of flowers and potted plants can be toxic to cats, and in the case of lilies the consequences can be fatal. Venetian blinds and electrical cables are other possible sources of danger.

Plenty of interactive playtime to relieve stress and provide an outlet for hunting behaviour is essential. Not only will it keep them fit, it can help prevent them from developing Pica (the craving to eat non-food items) which is a condition generally limited to indoor-only cats.

A variety of horizontal and vertical scratchers should be made available too. If more people put a little effort into teaching their cats claw manners, the horrible practice of declawing would stop.

I agree that it is the responsibility of the individual to weigh up how safe their local environment is for cats when deciding which lifestyle they should have.

Mar 24, 2010 All cats deserve fulfilled lives
by: Ruth

We are very lucky to live in a cat friendly place and our cats can enjoy their freedom outdoors.They can sit in the sun, breath fresh air and chew on grass,as cats need to do to live a fulfilled life.

Even so we never let them out after dark or when no one is home,we watch out for them when they are out and give them a warm welcome on their return.

We have a cat friendly garden with a wooden 'catnasium' catnip plants, trees to climb and also a cat friendly house with scratching posts and pads, toys, cosy beds etc.They never go far away.

These are all things all cats should have in an ideal world.

Next door we have 15 rescue cats with access to an outdoor run we built ourselves.There is no way for a cat to escape, we made sure of that.

Anyone whose cat escapes an outdoor run has done a poor job of building it.

It makes me very angry when people say they can't provide a simple safe run, if we can do it, anyone can.

Also annoying are the people who don't give their cats the attention they deserve.Indoor cats more than any cats need things to do.

Even worse are declawed cats with nothing to do but sleep or sit on a windowsill looking out.They can't even grasp and play with a catnip toy or stretch their muscles on a scratching post as all cats need to do.

There are many people who should not have cats at all.They are not possessions to be cast aside,they are living feeling beings with the right to live the fulfilled life they were born to live.As it's not an ideal world we need to do the best we can for our cats always, according to our circumstances, or not to have cats in our lives at all.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Mar 24, 2010 Thanks Dino
by: Michael

Thanks, Dino, for shedding some light on the downside of cat enclosures of which I am an advocate. You are right of course.

I just feel that of all the compromises the enclosure is the best.

I also feel that we carry a greater responsibility to entertain a full-time indoor cat and I am not sure that people consistently discharge that responsibility.

Thanks for the contribution to this difficult debate.

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