Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats
Like many cat lovers, you may have thought about letting your cat go outside.
A lot of cat owners feel guilty about keeping their cat inside, and worry
that they are depriving their cat of natural instincts or fresh air and
sunshine. If you have experienced some of these feelings, American Humane
Association appreciates your concern for your feline friend and would
like to help you make an educated decision.
Lets look at the issues surrounding Indoor vs. Outdoor cats:
Disease: The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there
are approximately 60 million feral and homeless stray cats living in the
U.S. Many of these cats may carry diseases that can be passed on to your
cat if they come into contact with them. A number of these diseases can
be serious or potentially fatal. Common examples include:
- Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
- Feline AIDS (FIV)
- FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
- Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)
- Upper Respiratory Infections (or URI).
Parasites: While usually not life-threatening for cats, several
common parasites can be picked up by your cat when venturing outdoors,
- Ear Mites
- Intestinal Worms
- Ringworm (A Fungal Infection)
These parasites can cause a variety of moderate to severe symptoms, such
as scratching, skin infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, these
creepy crawlies can hitch a ride into your home and infect your family.
Parasites can be very difficult to eradicate from your pet, from humans,
and from your home.
If You Decide to Let Your Cat Outside:
- Protect your cat from other cats. Keep them on a leash or secured
in a cage or other confined space where they cant get out (and
other cats cant get in).
- Make sure an adult supervises your cats outdoor time to ensure
strays cannot come into contact with them.
- Take her to the veterinarian at least once every year for lifesaving
vaccines, as well as parasite screening and treatment.
A major consideration for cat lovers thinking about letting their cat
venture outdoors is safety. In addition to the risks posed by fellow cats,
other potential hazards that can seriously threaten your cat's well-being
and even "their life" include:
Cars: Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have the innate
instinct to avoid busy streets, and they frequently get hit by cars.
Animal cruelty: Roaming cats may be at risk for animal cruelty.
Sadly, some people have been known to shoot cats with BB guns or arrows,
while some cats end up being trapped, abused, and killed in the name of
sport or for fun.
Loose dogs and wild animals: We may think of our feisty felines
as good hunters who are capable of taking care of themselves with sharp
teeth and claws. Unfortunately, cats may be good hunters, but they also
often wind up being hunted. Cats are commonly attacked by loose dogs and
wild animals, such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and even alligators (depending
on where they live). Injuries from wild animal and stray dog attacks are
very serious and often fatal.
Toxins and poisons: Outside cats also face danger from coming
into contact with toxins, such as antifreeze, that are often ingested
because they have a pleasant taste. Cats may also end up accidentally
exposed to rodent poisons when they hunt and eat rodents that have recently
ingested poison bait.
Trees: Trees can be a source of some danger for cats that climb
to a place where they are afraid or unable to climb down. In some cases,
they may be up in a tree for days until they become so severely dehydrated
and weak that they fall and suffer severe, serious, or fatal injuries.
Killing birds and small animals: A cats prey drive is so
strong that even well-fed cats may naturally enjoy hunting birds or other
small animals. Although the impact made by one cat might not seem like
a big deal, it is important to think about the total impact of all the
cats who are allowed outside. Loose cats are estimated to kill hundreds
of millions of birds each year, yet birds are believed to be only 20 percent
of the wildlife stray cats kill. Birds are especially at risk around homes
with feeders and birdbaths.
Keeping Indoor Cats Happy
Here are some great ways to ensure that your cat enjoys a happy, healthy
life inside your home:
A Companion for Your Cat
Many cats enjoy the company of other cats or in some cases, dogs! Playing,
chasing and mutual grooming and snuggling can fulfill your indoor cats
need for exercise, companionship, and affection while you are at work
or away from home.
Provide your indoor cat with a variety of different interactive toys
to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
- While cats have individual preferences for favorite types of toys,
most enjoy the thrill of getting any new toy. However, just like children,
they may get bored with it after a few days. This does not mean you
have to buy your cat new toys constantly. Try putting some of the toys
away while you leave others out, and then rotate them every few days
to give your cat the new toy excitement without the expense.
- A great way to stimulate a cats hunting instinct is to provide
your cat with a prey-like toy, such as a laser toy or cat fishing pole.
Enjoying these types of toys with your cat for several minutes each
day is an ideal way to interact with your cat and provide much-needed
exercise and playtime, while allowing an appropriate outlet for her
natural prey drive.
Indoor cats should be provided with appropriate surfaces on which to
exercise their natural instinct to scratch. Cats have individual preferences,
and many prefer to have a variety of scratching posts and surfaces, so
be sure to offer your cat several types in multiple locations around your
Creating a Perfect Indoor Environment
- Climbing places: Your house may already provide climbing opportunities
on furniture, shelves, or cabinets, but you may also want to have climbing
areas specifically for your cat, such as a cat tree. You can buy cat
trees at most pet supply stores, or research online how to make your
- Cat perches: Cats are natural-born sun worshippers. Giving your cat
access to several windows will give her the opportunity to both sunbathe
and watch the world from the safety of your home. If you have narrow
windowsills, consider installing a cat perch on several windows so your
cat has a place to stretch out and enjoy the view. Shelves made especially
for this purpose can be purchased at most pet supply stores, or you
can research online how to build your own.
- Cat TV: Provide entertainment for your cat by placing
a bird feeder or birdbath in your yard within view of the windows. If
you decide to provide feeders and baths, please keep our winged friend's
safe by keeping your cats inside at all times. A screened-in porch can
also be a safe, enjoyable place for your cat to enjoy the sun and a
view of nature; just be sure that the screens are secure to prevent
- Hiding places: Most cats love to hide. Providing your feline friend
with fun hiding places is easy and does not have to cost a dime! Most
cats will be thrilled to have a cardboard box or paper grocery bag to
hide in. If you prefer, you can purchase a cat tent, condo or tunnel
at a pet supply store, or figure out how to make one at home.