indoor vs outdoor cats

Should I Let My Cat Roam Outside - A Big Decision

We are often asked by caring cat owners, should I let my cat roam outside? The most honest answer to this question is that there is no absolute right or wrong answer. There is certainly no absolute and definitive answer as it fully depends on the nature of your cat.

There are however some very startling facts that may help you quickly make up your mind. We will include those in this article, and then of course leave you the reader, to make up your own mind and take the final decision.

This is always a huge debate for all cat owners. They are constantly trying to balance the natural outdoor behavior of a cat against keeping the cat safe and sound. It is a very difficult decision to make, and most people make their decision based on the facts.

A cat is by its very nature an outdoor animal, that has developed natural hunting and killing skills, and is very adapt at living outdoors. However, with the growth of towns and cities their natural habitat is a very different place. Nature is also quite cruel, and in the wild it really does come down to the survival of the fittest.

If we decide to bring this natural animal into our homes, then we have to try and weigh up, the natural instincts of the feline creature, against the safety of living in a built up area, and all the risks associated with this. It is always a decision that is difficult no matter which one you make.

The information that I have provided below may however help you decide as to whether you should let your cat roam outside or not?

Indoor vs Outdoor Cats - What's the Difference?

  • A cat that spends time indoors and outdoors has an average life expectancy of four years
  • A cat that spends their time indoors has an average life expectancy of 14 years

As you can see the difference is huge with a full ten years of difference. We know when we started doing research on this topic of cats living indoors, that we knew there would be a difference.

We were however shocked at the huge contrast in the two life spans. It is a pretty staggering difference.

We did then look as to why that would be the case, and when you read the information below, I think you will better understand all of the reasons why this would be the case.

Why do Outdoor Cats Have Such a Short Life Span?

There are of course the obvious risks of a cat being outside, but nevertheless I have listed those below:

  • Traffic Fatalities - I know you will be familiar with the old saying that a cat has nine lives, but in reality many cats living outside are either killed or seriously injured by road vehicles (20% of all cat deaths)
  • Cat Fights  - Cats are very much a territorial animal and they will fight to defend what they have marked out as their patch. They will in fact fight to the death is they have to, or become so badly injured that they can not recover from those
  • Infectious Diseases - When cats are outdoors then they become much more susceptible to picking up viruses and a whole range of infectious diseases that will either weaken them or even kill them

Now those are of course the main reasons why cats who spend time outdoors die long before an indoor only cat. Cats living indoors are protected from all of the above, and they never have to experience any of the trauma, that outdoor cats will encounter.

With reference to road accidents, it is estimated that those account for around 20% of all cat deaths. Younger cats are of course more vulnerable as they have not developed any type of road sense. Cats living in a city are also at higher risk as there is simply more traffic.

Cat fighting and infectious diseases also cause a lot of deaths for outdoor cats. When a cat is injured outside or even bitten and cut, then there is no treatment available unless the cat is found and someone takes the trouble to care for it.

Injuries like this that go untreated can then become poisoned and infectious, and the result of that is never good.

Keeping Your Cats Indoors - Cat Decisions You Can Make

There are two decisions which in my opinion you can make:

  • Never try and convert a cat that has been outdoors into an indoor cat only
  • If you have decided on an indoor cat only, then do that right from the start

It will of course be very important should you decide on an indoor cat only, to try and give them enough stimulation and exercise, that replicate the behavior they would normally display if they were outside. That will take a considerable amount of work on your behalf.

Known Problems With Indoor Cats

Although it is clearly safer to keep your cat indoors, it does result in different types of problems. Being fed and pampered does make cats inherently lazy. They sleep a lot more and they do not get as much exercise as they would were they outdoors.

Cats are still hunters by nature so cats that stay indoors should be encouraged to follow their natural instincts through play that mimics hunting behavior.

This can be as simple as chasing a ball of string, to chasing a toy mouse. Anything that keeps your cat stimulated and interested is a very good thing.

What Do Cats That Go Outdoors Actually Do?

This is an interesting question and there have been studies done of what cats get up to when they go outdoors. They mainly patrol what they deem to be their territory, which they have marked as a warning to other cats to stay out. Talents that have naturally evolved will automatically kick in.

For example they will hunt and practise hunting skills, even if they are being fed indoors. They will also rest and even bathe in the sun exactly as they would do if they lived in the wild.

They are slightly different to wild or feral cats who have to hunt to survive. Wilder cats need to catch around 12-15 mice per day to have enough food. They will also try and catch wild birds when they are feeding.

So although they also like to sleep, that will be a lot less than an indoor cat, who is having all its needs met in the comfort of a warm home.

The Final Decision - Keep Your Cat Indoors or Not?

Mainly this will come down to your own lifestyle, and how much time you have to spend with your cat. We know many retired people who like spending time with their cats, and indeed many cat owners who have the time to create a very good environment for their cat indoors.

There are also cat owners who feel it is wrong to limit their cat's natural outdoor nature. That is why we said at the start, there really is no exact precise right or wrong answer. Personally my own cats do roam about outdoors and I find that they never stray too far from home.

I had 2 cats who just disappeared and I never seen them again. On the other hand I have had cats for well over 10 years that just come and go as they please.


Steve is a content creator with an unhealthy cat obsession. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, entreprenuership and cuddles with his cat Fij.

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