For most cat owners, it is an important decision on whether you should keep your cat indoors or allow them access to the outside world. There are pros and cons of both options which this article will discuss.
The benefits of keeping a cat indoors:
The risk of physical injury is lower in indoor-only cats and these cats may live longer. Physical risks that they will avoid include road traffic accidents, falling from trees, drowning, attacks from other animals and aggressive encounters with other cats in territorial disputes (unless they are living in a multi-cat household with incompatible cats).
The risk of someone else physically harming the cat or stealing it is eliminated if they do not go outside.
Protection from infectious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).
Some breeds or types of cats may be at higher risk of challenges in the outside world. For example, hairless cats are at risk of exposure to higher and lower temperatures and direct sunlight, white cats are more at risk of skin cancer and long haired breeds are more at risk of matted fur by being in the outside world. These risks can be minimised or removed by keeping them indoors.
An indoor-only lifestyle prevents cats from hunting wildlife, which is not necessarily a positive for the cat. However, this is a positive for the wildlife population and can be an ethical decision for some owners concerned for the wildlife population or who experience pressure from neighbours to keep the cat indoors.
The downside of keeping a cat indoors:
There is less opportunity for the cat to perform natural predatory and exploratory behaviours which can lead to boredom and frustration. These behaviours can and should be mimicked in the indoor environment with the use of prey-like toys, puzzle feeders and scatter feeding.
Accidents within the home such as falling from windows, poisoning from cleaning products, medications or plants are still prevalent in indoor cats. These risks still apply to indoor-outdoor cats but there may be a slightly higher risk to cats who spend all of their time indoors.
Indoor cats will tend to be less streetwise if they do manage to escape from the house and may be at higher risk of startling from traffic, being involved in a road traffic accident or getting lost.
Indoor cats may perceive threats from seeing neighbouring cats enter their garden or pass the house without being able to chase them away, which can lead to frustration.
If an indoor cat is part of a multi-cat household, there is a risk of them experiencing negative emotions and subsequent inappropriate behaviours from sharing space with incompatible cats. This might include house soiling, increased marking or scratching behaviours and over grooming to name a few. This can still be the case with indoor-outdoor cats, but the pressure could be much higher on those cats not able to remove themselves from the house at times of high stress.