Comparing the amiability of indoor/outdoor cats and full-time indoor cats

This is an interesting survey which compares the behaviour of indoor/outdoor cats with those who are kept indoors full-time and living with other cats. I think it’ll be useful to people considering adopting a cat and whether they should keep the cat indoors full-time or allow them outdoor access without supervision. Of course, there are other considerations for the latter, the primary one being the cat’s safety due to road traffic but in this article, I’m going to discuss how personality is impacted by the environment in which cats live with respect to their housing.

The indoor cat versus the indoor/outdoor cat.
The indoor cat versus the indoor/outdoor cat. Image: MikeB.
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The survey found that: “Cats housed both indoors and outdoors [I believe this to mean indoor/outdoor cats] were significantly more active than those housed mostly indoors and those housed only indoors”. Comment: this would appear to be common sense as indoor cats often live in unenriched environments. They become inactive, unchallenged and bored.

Also, they found that full-time indoor cats “were significantly less aggressive to other cats than those housed MOSTLY indoors and those housed both indoors and outdoors [indoor/outdoor cats].

Comment: I’m going to comment on that last paragraph. Other studies have found, and experts have stated, that the multi-cat homes is more likely to result in aggressivity between cats. The general trend appears to be that the more cats there are living a multi-cat homes the more likely there will be antagonism between them because they live in very compressed home ranges which overlap which is likely to create some friction as domestic cats like wild cats want their own territory. And as you know they mark their territory and see-off invaders into it. It depends upon the character of the cat as to how forcefully they do this.

But the point is this, although multi-cat homes can create animosity and antagonism, cats are adaptable and therefore they learn to live with other cats. And this I believe is the reason why full-time indoor cats are less aggressive to other cats than those allowed outside. There is also the effect of boredom and submission to being forced to live indoors. I believe that domestic cats give up trying to live what for them would be a normal life involving hunting. They are partly switched off making them less aggressive.

Also, when a cat is allowed outside to return home after they’ve explored environment and done some hunting they become for a while a wild cat so when they return to their home, the inside environment, they bring in a wildcat character for a while until they readjust to the human environment. This can make a cat unnaturallly aggressive even towards their owner. That’s my theory on this.

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The survey also found that the “total number of cats in a household had a significant effect on many traits”. They added that cats living alone were “significantly more aggressive to owner, aggressive to familiar people, aggressive to other animals, solitary and fearful of other cats”.

Comment: my theory here is that when a cat lives alone with their owner to whom they are probbaly connected quite closely, any other cat is going to be an invader into their territory and they can express this desire to protect their territory which is denied indoor cats living closely with other cats. This makes these cats more aggressive. Aggressivity towards their owner is disturbing to read about and that doesn’t really make sense in my opinion. It may be because, as mentioned, the single cat in a home has dominion over their territory which is the home and the surrounding area and therefore they can be more aggressive in defending it. Also allowed outside they can come inside and be aggressive for a while even towards their owner to whom they are closely connected for the reason stated above.

Although the survey also found that “single cats were less dominant over other cats and friendly to other cats compared to cats housed with other cats.”

And interestingly, they also said that as “the number of cats increased within the household so did amiability”.

Comment: this, then, is a reference to the fact that cats have to adapt to live with others and therefore they have to become more amiable towards others in the interests of their survival.

The conclusion that I take from this survey is that indoor cats living with other several other cats learn to be more amiable because they have to but despite that there will be more antagonism between cats than in a home where there are just a pair of well-matched cats.

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P.S. This was a survey. Survey as based on cat owner opinions which are not always reliable. Title: The effects of owner and domestic cat (Felis catus) demographics on cat personality traits. Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105570

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