Should I Let My Cat Be an Indoor/Outdoor Cat?

There's plenty for your cat to explore indoors.
There's plenty for your cat to explore indoors. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Consider all sides of the situation when trying to decide if your cat should live indoors, outdoors or a combination of the two. Cats can seem pretty self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves, but the truth is that outdoor cats are exposed to many different hazards that can significantly shorten their lives. Keeping your cat indoors all the time minimizes the dangers he’s exposed to and can increase his lifespan.

Outdoor Dangers

Animal shelters, veterinarians and other cat experts agree that it’s much safer for your cat to live indoors full time. According to the Tufts-Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, outdoor cats only live about four years while indoor cats generally live to be about 14. Cats who go outside are exposed to dangers such as cars, dogs and predators. Many outdoor cats end up with abscesses as a result of fighting with other cats. They also are more likely to pick up parasites or to encounter serious illnesses when they are outside.

Indoor Considerations

Keeping your cat inside protects him from many dangers, but indoor cats face their own issues. An inside cat may try a bite of a toxic houseplant, gain weight due to inactivity or he may develop some odd habits including sucking on fabric, pulling out his hair or racing from door to door as he seeks a way out. He also may mark his territory, scratch furniture or refuse to use the litter box.

Enhancing the Indoors

Most problems indoor cats have are avoidable if you’ll consider his needs. Place a litter box where he can find it easily and keep it clean so he’ll use it. Put a cat tree in front of a window so that your kitty can climb up, hang out and see what’s going on outside. It also will give him a place to scratch instead of using your couch or favorite chair. Playtime with you helps to keep him in shape and to eliminate boredom, and if you leave him a couple of toys, he’ll have something to do when you’re not home.

Outdoor Safety

It is possible to have an indoor cat who goes outside briefly and safely, with a bit of effort and planning on your part. Use a cat harness to take him for walks. He’ll need some time to get used to it, but once he does he’ll enjoy time spent outside under your watchful eye. Another option is to make him an enclosure in your yard. Include plenty of shelves and branches for him to climb on. To make it easy on yourself, place the enclosure where your pet can access it whenever he wants to through a cat door or a convenient window.

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