Should I Keep My Cat Indoors?

 

Dr. Justine Lee, PetMD

I’ve talked before about avoiding the “hit-by-car” emergency by keeping your dog or cat under control: either on a leash or by keeping them indoors.† I got a lot of grief from some feline owners and veterinarians when It’s a Catís World Ö You Just Live In It came out. Why? Because I stated my opinion: that cats should be kept indoors.

First, there are several medical reasons for why to keep your cats indoors. Let the statistics do the talking: the average outdoor cat lives to two years of age, while the indoor cat lives to a more geriatric age (approximately 15 to 18). So ultimately, it depends on how long you want to have your cat around.

As a veterinarian, Iíve seen too many cats succumb to the “trauma of outdoor living”: being mauled by dogs, maimed by cars, shot by BB guns, etc., only to have pet owners who couldnít afford to have them treated (resulting in euthanasia).

Next Page: risks for outdoor cats

Risks for Outdoor Cats

  • Increased exposure to outdoor poisons (e.g., a few bites out of your day lilies or licks of antifreeze from your neighborís driveway can result in life-threatening acute kidney failure)
  • Increased risk for pet overpopulation (If your catís not neutered or spayed yet, please donít let him or her out!)
  • Contributing to the spread of toxoplasmosis all over your neighborhood
  • Contributing to the killing of migrating song birds

Believe it or not, outdoor cats donít necessary have more fun, and yes, indoor cats can be just as content living indoors. If youíve already decided to let your cat outside, just be aware that once cats have tasted the “great outdoors,” itís harder to keep them from crying for it, begging for it, or running out when that screen door opens. For that reason, itís always the safest approach not even to let your cat experience the great outdoors to begin with.

Also, if you decide to let your cat outside, just be prepared to have him snatched away ó permanently. A good-intentioned neighbor may think they have found a sweet cat and decide to keep your cat as their own Ö right after you paid for the spay/neuter and vaccines! Hence, all the “Lost Cat: Reward!” signs in the Ďhood.

Exercise Inside

If you decide to keep your cat indoors, keep your cat content by committing to exercising your cat more. Itís the simplest way to add environmental enrichment to your catís routine. If you love your cat (yes, Iím trying to use guilt here!), exercise your cat for at least ten minutes, once a week. First, exercising your cat allows him or her to bond to you more (and hopefully, vice versa). Second, itís a great way to help your cat lose weight and stay trim and healthy. While the majority of cats I see are overweight and sedentary, itís not their fault ó itís because they lack exercise by their owner. Third, exercise is important because itís great mental and physical stimulation. Make sure your cat has plenty of cat-safe toys, catnip, cat grass, scratching posts, and laser pointers to chase.

For all you naysayers, donít get me wrong ó if I lived in the perfect environment (at the end of a cul-de-sac with minimal traffic, on a farm away from roads, etc.), Iíd consider letting my cat outdoors Ö so there are some situations where I think itís OK. However, most of my clients are from an urban environment, where cats and roads donít mix. If you have a fenced in yard, or can teach your cat to walk on a leash, I think supervised outdoor time is great ó provided youíre there to get them out of a bind if necessary (after all, curiosity killed the cat!).

Vaccinate Outdoor Cats

If you do let your cat outdoors, please consult your veterinarian about appropriate vaccine protocols. I normally donít recommend the FeLV or FIV vaccine, but thatís because the FeLV vaccine isnít 100 percent effective and has very rare but potentially severe side effects (like a cancer called fibrosarcoma at the site of injection). That said, if you allow your cat to go outdoors, the vaccine is a must (as it is for all the other cats in your household, regardless if they go out or not!).

Declawed Cats Don’t Belong Outside

Finally, if your cat is declawed, please donít let him go outside. While this seems like common sense to me (as itís a dog-eat-dog world out there, and sending a declawed cat outdoors is like sending him to war without a gun), Iíve seen lots of pet owners do it. Common sense may not be so common, as I often see bird feeders in the yard also. Want to keep your cat outdoors? You lose the right to use bird feeders!

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Iím expecting lots of controversial comments here, as Iíve already gotten a lot of grief for my opinion, but please do share. What do you think?

Related:
Bringing an Outdoor Cat Inside
5 Most Dangerous Cat Diseases
24 Common Houseplants Poisonous to Pets

Should I Keep My Cat Indoors? originally appeared on petMD.com

1010 comments

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers14 days ago

This is my first indoor cat. Too big a risk to let her out.

Elaine W.
Elaine W.16 days ago

Noted.

Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn O.17 days ago

Heck this article was submitted in June 2012? Yes, all my cats had access to outdoors. They all lived to 15 -17 yrs. None ever HBC or dog attacks, but then we had dogs as well. I do love the idea of catios as I think in this day and age they would give people peace of mind.

Lorna Gowers
Lorna Gowers17 days ago

Trying again: as I wouldn't allow a 2 year-old human (or my dog for that matter) to roam the streets alone I don't allow my cats. Someone says: yes but children then grow up and go out alone. Yes, correct, but cats are not humans. Children grow up and become adults and drive cars. Cats don't. This is the most illogical comment I have ever heard: you are not comparing like with like, that's exactly the point. And there are much harsher penalties for killing a child than a cat. Are we giving freedom or simply are we not responsible? Would you allow a blind person to walk on the edge of a roof? What freedom is it the one that a llows us to walk into danger without us knowing? Years ago in the UK there was the national average of a cat killed on the road every 2.5 minutes. Are we joking? Not to mention those who do it intentionally. Plus there are all the birds and little mammals that cats kill out of instinct.
In the past we had 7 cats and our vet always found them very relaxed and friendly, and NOT overweight. Now we have two. We have always had a tall cat tree, boxes and other toys and beds ... We built a very nice catio where they can enjoy the outdoors and climb without danger. They have my company almost 24/7 because I work from home and I don't go on holydays. If I need to go away for some days (rarely) my h usband takes time off from work.
It doesn't matter how far a road is, your cat wil

Lorna Gowers
Lorna Gowers17 days ago

Trying again: as I wouldn't allow a 2 year-old human (or my dog for that matter) to roam the streets alone I don't allow my cats. Someone says: yes but children then grow up and go out alone. Yes, correct, but cats are not humans. Children grow up and become adults and drive cars. Cats don't. This is the most illogical comment I have ever heard: you are not comparing like with like, that's exactly the point. And there are much harsher penalties for killing a child than a cat. Are we giving freedom or simply are we not responsible? Would you allow a blind person to walk on the edge of a roof? What freedom is it the one that a llows us to walk into danger without us knowing? Years ago in the UK there was the national average of a cat killed on the road every 2.5 minutes. Are we joking? Not to mention those who do it intentionally. Plus there are all the birds and little mammals that cats kill out of instinct.
In the past we had 7 cats and our vet always found them very relaxed and friendly, and NOT overweight. Now we have two. We have always had a tall cat tree, boxes and other toys and beds ... We built a very nice catio where they can enjoy the outdoors and climb without danger. They have my company almost 24/7 because I work from home and I don't go on holydays. If I need to go away for some days (rarely) my h usband takes time off from work.
It doesn't matter how far a road is, your cat wil

Kathy K.
Kathy K.17 days ago

Yes! Thanks.

Fi T.
Fi T.18 days ago

Allow the animal and ourselves to thrive with exercising

Renata B.
Renata B.18 days ago

This site is getting worse and worse. I can't sign petitions because it is stuck. Now I have written a long comment and suddenly it got stuck, all disappeared and when it came back the comment was gone. Quite fed up. We are going from one problem to another. As soon as the website starts to work properly, some innovation is done and we start again. losing a lot of points that could save lives of homeless cats and dogs.

Jo S.
Jo S.4 months ago

It depends on where you live. If it is safe & rural I say yes, but not in the city or near busy highways.

l turnbull
lesley turnbull10 months ago

I have never kept my cats inside all the time. The come and go as they please and my cats live way longer than two years. Matter of fact I rescued two brothers from a hot in van on a 95% day when they were only about 4 weeks old. It took hard work to teach them to eat because they were weak and not yet weaned. But they made it. They were friendly and adventurous spending equal amount of time inside as well as outside and I would never have deprived them of coming and going as the pleased depending on weather and mood. They lived to be 19 and 20 yrs old. Not a bad age..