There are three types of cat owners; those with indoor only cats, those with outdoor only cats, and those with indoor/outdoor cats.
The one thing we can ALL agree on is, when allowed to go outdoors, cats have a much higher risk of encountering serious dangers to their health and their lives.
But despite being aware of the inherent risks, many people still choose to allow their cat outdoor access.
Some people believe that it is cruel to keep cats indoors, because it robs them of their freedom, and sets them up for an indoor life of boredom.
The reality is, the vast majority of cats can live very happy, healthy, and fulfilled lives indoors. They will also live far longer lives! Statistics show indoor cats live an average of 10 - 20 years, whereas cats allowed outside have a far shorter lifespan of only 2 - 5 years.
That’s a pretty dramatic difference, and it’s clear that allowing cats outdoor access correlates directly with a shorter lifespan.
This should not be surprising, given the many dangers outdoor cats face on a daily basis.
The Top Dangers for Outdoor Cats
- Cars - According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, 5.4 MILLION cats are hit by cars each year in the United States.
- Parasites and Disease - According to the National Library of Medicine, “Cats with outdoor access were 3 times more likely to be infected with parasites than indoor-only cats”. In addition, outdoor cats are at a much higher risk of contracting feline leukemia, feline AIDS, upper respiratory infections, distemper, and more.
- Predators - Unlike us, animals can’t pop into a grocery store to buy food, they have to hunt to survive, so understandably, domestic cats often make an easy meal.
- Weather - Extreme heat can be very dangerous for cats, especially if they do not have access to water. Cold temps can be equally as dangerous and even life-threatening for a cat that is not provided proper shelter.
- Going Missing / Becoming Lost - Cats can be very territorial. Many people fail to understand the very high probability of a cat being chased out of their own yard, not only by predators, but also other outdoor cats. Sadly, once “displaced”, a cat will often hide, and may not come out even when their owner is calling to them right nearby.
Check out more info on this behavior and other important tips for recovering a missing cat: When a Cat Goes Missing Blog
When a cat is outside, they are surrounded by constant stimulation, but this “freedom” comes with some sizable risks. The good news is, you can keep your cat safe, while also providing them with mental and physical stimulation indoors.
Ways to Enrich an Indoor Cat’s Life
- Spend quality time interacting with your cat through play, or simply by hanging out together.
- Cat towers, scratching posts, toys, and even “cat puzzles” are great ways to engage your cat both physically and mentally.
- Add a cat perch or make a window seat where your cat can sit and look outside. Want to really keep their attention? Add some bird feeders!
- Build an outdoor enclosure, aka, a CATIO! A quick google search will show some amazing ideas to fit any budget.
- Take your cat for a walk! Yes, it is possible to walk a cat using a halter and a leash, and many cats LOVE it.
- If possible, consider adding another pet to your household. Having a companion to play with has the potential to enrich your cat’s life in many ways.
And for some additional ideas that are simple, creative, and cost nothing, check out this video A HUGE THANKS to the MSPCA for creating it!
In addition to keeping cats indoors for their own safety, it’s important to note that outdoor cats can harm native wildlife.
As reported by the American Bird Conservancy, “Outdoor domestic cats have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the wild.
"In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats.”
This is a staggering statistic, but as most owners of outdoor cats know, even well-fed cats predate small mammals, and especially birds, making this a pretty valid reason for keeping cats indoors.
Ultimately, the most compelling reason for keeping your cat indoors is for their safety.
Cats show us, unconditional love, they bring us joy, and they enhance our lives in many ways. In return, it is our responsibility to keep them safe, healthy, and happy.
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