Should You Allow Your Cat to Go Outside?

kitten in grass
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Next to declawing, the indoor-outdoor question is probably one of the toughest questions for cat owners, with both sides polarized to their own views. Indeed, this debate seems to be more prevalent in the United States, as in many other countries, cats are allowed free access to the outdoors.

Pros and Cons for Outdoor, Free-Range Cats

The bottom line is that sometimes circumstances are conducive to allowing cats free rein to the outdoors.

Here's the balance sheet of the pros and cons of keeping cats indoors for reference, in case you're undecided:

Pros

  • More exercise and space to run

  • Freedom that comes with outdoor life, fresh air, and sunshine

  • Increased happiness and mood


Cons

  • Could be injured or killed by vehicles

  • Could be poisoned intentionally or accidentally

  • May experience fighting with other cats that can lead to injury or death

  • More exposure to infectious diseases contracted from other cats such as: FIP, FIV, FeLV, URIs

  • Can contract parasites like fleas, ticks, ringworm

  • More susceptible to injury or death by dogs or predators

  • May sometimes kill outdoor wildlife like birds or lizards

  • Can get lost and picked up by Animal Control

  • Could be captured for sale as laboratory animals or "bait" for illicit gaming

  • May litter in neighbor's yards

How to Keep Your Cat Indoors and Happy

While there is no absolute rule about how to care for your cat, the evidence is all on the side of keeping them indoors. Cats are able to live a healthy, happy life indoors under the right circumstances.

To keep your cats happy indoors, you'll need to combat kitty boredom. There are a number of options for making this happen:

  1. Provide your cats with viewpoints from which they can easily observe the outside world. Bird feeders can attract wildlife to a spot where your cat can watch without touching. For many cats, observing wildlife is almost as much fun as catching and killing it.
  2. Have a variety of ways for your cats to exercise. You can purchase cat towers or build your own. In fact, building a cat's playground can become a terrific weekend DIY project.
  3. Engage with your cat. One of the great benefits to letting your cat roam free is the reality that he will find his own amusement. That takes a load off you, the cat owner. When you keep a cat indoors, he will get bored and want to play—and it's up to you to say "yes" as often as possible. Cat toys, lasers (being careful to avoid the eyes), and human/cat games can be a lot of fun.
  4. Set limits to preserve your home and sanity. While it's great to create kitty fun zones, it's also important to set limits to your cats' indoor range. One easy way to keep your cat out of your bed, off the counter, or out of the trash is to latch doors between your pet and temptation.

It is tough to limit your beloved pet's activities—but safety (for your cat and local wildlife alike) must come first.