Indoors or outdoors? What is right for your cat

Whilst some Australians give their cats the freedom to come and go as they please there is a growing trend for cat lovers to keep their companions indoors. In a recent online poll we found over 77% of cat owners surveyed keep their cat/s indoors.  The benefits and risks of an outdoor or indoor life for a companion feline need to be considered for each individual cat. 

A life of adventure - the outdoor cat

The major benefit of allowing a cat outdoors is they will develop natural feline behaviours such as socialising, territory patrolling, marking, scratching and to some degree the acts of hunting (although hunting is obviously not something we encourage). At the same time they will enjoy a very active lifestyle with regular daily exercise. However, there are some major downsides worthy of noting including:

  • Road traffic accident related injuries and fatalities
  • Cat fighting injuries
  • Cat disease such as cat flu and FIV
  • Parasite infestations such as fleas and worms
  • Poisoning - sometimes caused by mischievous and accidental consumption of contaminated substances
  • Loss - cats can be mistakenly adopted by others
  • Dog bites and injuries
  • Complaints from neighbours - most often relating to toileting in backyards

Some of these downsides can be managed with preventative veterinary care such as vaccinations, proper identification such as microchipping and desexing to discourage fighting and roaming. You can also limit the time of day your cat is allowed outside. For example, keeping them indoors at night time when fighting tends to occur and during busy traffic times to keep them off the streets. Regardless of these precautions your outdoor cat will always be at some risk.

The safety of indoors - the inside cat

Keeping a cat indoors, and away from the risk of the above mentioned hazards seems like the obvious solution however the downside is not all cats will lead a happy life inside. It really depends on your cat and their own needs. Indoor cats can experience behavioural problems as well as cause a few practical problems. Most of which can be managed. So by practical problems we are talking about things like:-

  • House damage - mostly caused by scratching and marking
  • Household adventures - a curious cat on a kitchen bench, wobbly bookshelf or a cupboard filled with medication
  • Poisonous indoor plants - boredom, hunger and the attraction of a potential treat
  • Escape and threat - from a door or window left open and a world of danger awaits for a cat without street prowess
  • Obesity - from lack of exercise

These risks can be minimised by providing your indoor cat with opportunities to play and interact so they will have a fulfilling existence indoors. Click here for some great ideas for keeping your indoor cat happy.

So is indoors or outdoors best for your cat?

It is a difficult question to answer and really depends on your cat. With the right environmental enrichment a curious cat can live a happy life indoors, however the best of both worlds can be achieved with an outdoor enclosure. Enclosures can be as simple or as magnificent as your budget permits allowing your cat to enjoy the smells, sights and variety provided by the outdoors without the risk of being a true outdoor cat.

Cat enclosures can be purchased in standard sizes or can be designed and built to suit your house by specialised cat enclosure businesses. If you are handy and enjoy a home project it's also possible to build one yourself. Just make sure you seek advice on the right type of building material including netting to make sure your cat does not escape or injure themselves.