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Should I Keep My Cat Indoors?

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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).

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Nicolas, selected from petMD

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12:29AM PST on Jan 15, 2014

i used to have indoor/outdoor cats. We lost quite a few due to cars thou when I lived out on a farm they were fairly safe thou and had long lives, thou we did loose one to a neighbours rabbit trap and another to a snakebite.

For the past year Ive had indoor cats. One had never been outside so never wanted to do so. The one I have now thou was previously a wild cat, she did seem fine inside but would try to get out.

When she finally did escape and have some fun out there (as I couldnt catch her for a while), I realised she never had been as happy as she can be and I saw her happier then I'd seen her in the 4-5mths I had her in the house. Being outside for a short time gave her a beautiful personality shift.

So now I let her out once a week for 15mins (into enclosed backyard) and she's great.. and this has actually stopped her trying to get out at other times too, she's completely content with the weekly outting.

12:16AM PST on Jan 15, 2014

Right on, Nicolas. Our original 3 totally-indoor cats lived to 18, 19, and 21.33. Our current 3 totally-indoor cats, approaching 9 years (so to my thinking/experience they're not even middle-aged yet), play and race and cuddle. Amazing Lily bats, volleys, catches, and/or grabs paper wads... Jackie Chan (named for his acrobatics!) races up our homemade 6-foot tall cat tree and grabs for ropes. The only time they're in the outdoors is in their cat carrier on the way to the car when we take them on vacation with us (or to the vet, natch).

10:08AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

My cat was feral when we got him, so he liked to be outdoors. He seemed to be about 14 when he passed, and lived both outdoors and indoors, but yes, I was stressed out as anything when he was outdoors. I do believe I was lucky, though, that he always came back. After all, getting lost is how I found him. Thanks.

11:51PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Linda F., it's a shame you don't have a decent grasp of facts and on reality. I have 4 cats, two of which are 100% strictly outdoor cats, and 2 live inside but go out "at will". The one who has cost me the most money is one of the latter. They're all spayed (the only male is neutered), all get yearly rabies and all were vaccinated appropriately. They don't have fleas as flea treatments are not expensive and the same for cats that live indoors as out. Feed them? Why would you assume that anyone but a cat's owner would have to do that in the first place? Stitch up their wounds? Seriously? The only cat of my 4 that has received a wound (and yes, it required stitches) was the one that spends 99% of her time INDOORS, when she went out and harassed one of the OUTSIDE cats who wouldn't tolerate it. She picked the fight and she lost it. She'd always dominated him until recently. Times change. Please don't be so judgmental. All of us don't live in highrise apartment complexes on busy city streets.

2:10PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

A sensible comment about not having bird feeders when you have a cat. I've seen people put bird feeders out in a very low position just where the cat can get to it. I do have one bird feeder in my garden but its 9feet high and hidden in a Pyrocantha Bush so the cats can't get to it.
Also I agree that letting a de clawed cat out is not a good idea but a run should be built for it so it has outside access. People shouldn't de claw their cats anyway, its wrong and very selfish.

2:05PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Anita D,
At least you have tried to enrich your indoor cat's lives. You have two and are providing them with opportunities to express normal behaviour so well done for that.

2:01PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

I don't know what its like in America but I have had a few cats and they all lived to an old age. I don't have tonnes of money and my cats don't need stitches all the time. My cats get flea/worm treatment from the vet etc; so parasites are not a problem. If they are neutered they don't fight and don't wander too far. they are microchipped so I can be contacted should they get lost. If I lived in an area where it wasn't safe to let a cat out I would either build and outside run for them or I wouldn't have a cat.
We all take risks when we go out, cars, viruses, crime but would it be a life worth living if we were stuck indoors all the time? There's nothing better that having the sky for a ceiling!

12:07PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

if you have tons of money to spend at the vet, to stitch and heal their wounds, clean them of fleas and parasites, dont care if they are hit by cars, hurt by coyotes, dogs, other cats, abusive humans, trust that helpful strangers will rescue them, feed them, nurture them, by all means, set them free. oh and dont forget the songbird deaths

11:58AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

We have two lovely male cats indoor. I was never sure what is better - indoor or outdoor. But I think that when you play with the cat(s), spend time with the cat(s) and give them someting to explore, it can be better to let them inside. They have no stress with other animals or stupid people who hurt them outside.
So I think when you have a cat inside, there should always be two of them. They are never alone and have someone to play with when you are not at home.
Thanks for the article!

10:49AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

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