Confined cats live longer than cats allowed to roam freely outside but there are health issues directly associated with full-time indoor living. In the United States between 50 and 60 percent of domestic cats are kept indoors permanently while in the UK the figure is 2.5%. In a survey of UK cats, 8.4% were indoor cats but of these cats 70% were under a year in age and would eventually be allowed outside.
Despite recognition that cats living indoors are generally healthier they are more prone to encounter different hazards. There are many household hazards. The health issue which is discussed more than another other is feline obesity due to inactivity due to an impoverished environment. Obesity is a health risk causing other diseases.
Below is a table of conditions and diseases which may be associated with keeping a cat indoors compared with letting a cat roam freely outside. Some studies found a link with the below mentioned health issues and indoor cats.
Common sense dictates that cat owners should keep their cats inside in urban and suburban areas although in America the AVMA and the Humane Society of the United States advise it. Nearly all British cat owners ignore common sense and this advice. They have this overwhelming desire to let their cats live naturally which trumps the cats’ welfare. Cats living in poor conditions inside can offset this by being let outside where conditions will almost always be better in terms of naturalness albeit potentially more dangerous.
In the UK, RTAs usually involve younger cats (46% are between 7 and 24-months-of-age) and males and non-pedigrees. For every one year increase in age there is a reduction in the odds of an RTA occurring by 1.9 times for male cats. Most RTA involving cats occur at night.
In 2002, Irene Rochlitz stated in The Welfare of Cats (an excellent book):
“With the current state of knowledge it is not possible to definitively say that confining cats indoors is preferable to allowing them outdoor access; each situation should be assessed individually, taking into account the cat, its owner and the local environment.”
No doubt there are many instances where letting a cat outside can reasonably considered safe and where the degree of risk concerning the cat’s health is on a par with being confined inside the home. However, overall, from the standpoint only of cat health indoor life is better. Many non-cat owners cannot understand why cat owners let their cats go outside. There is a gradual trend towards forced cat confinement in Australia where they like to think they can manage nature.