Free Day!
Free Night!

Pet Resources - Cat Behavior

Back to Article Index

The debate over indoors or out

catThere is probably no single issue in cat care that generates stronger debate among pet owners than the question of whether Kitty should be allowed to spend time outdoors.

Animal welfare associations and most veterinarians urge cat owners to keep their pets indoors, where they will live longer, safer lives. The statistics are sobering: more than 1 million outdoor cats are killed each year by dogs, traffic, and exposure to disease. The average indoor cat lives longer than 12 years, while the average outdoor cat survives for less than five years.

Alternatives to roaming
A growing number of cat owners, concerned about the health and safety issues of unsupervised roaming, have found alternatives to provide Kitty with outdoor time – from fencing the backyard to provide a safe outdoor play area, to providing Kitty with access to a screened porch or balcony, to teaching her to walk on a leash and harness. For more suggestions on creating safe outdoor alternatives for your cat, see www.21cats.org.

It takes patience and work, but, the experts say, an outdoor cat can be turned into a perfectly content indoor pet. The key is to make the transition slowly and to provide lots of attention and stimulation while the cat is indoors. Gradually replace those outside excursions with special periods of play time with you. Introduce new and intriguing toys that will satisfy Kitty’s desire to prowl and pounce.

For tips on helping an outdoor cat adjust to the indoor lifestyle, visit the Humane Society website at www.hsus.org

Keeping safe outdoors
It’s hard to deny that outdoor cats are at much greater risk for injury, disease and death. Still, many cat owners believe that their cats simply won’t be happy unless they can go outside to prowl and exercise their natural hunting instinct.

If you decide to provide an indoor/outdoor lifestyle for your cat, you must be willing to supervise his outdoor play time to ensure his safety from the many hazards of the "great outdoors":

  • Don’t allow unlimited access to the outdoor world. Limit the time your cat spends outdoors to a few hours each day.
  • Never leave your cat alone outdoors when you are away from home.
  • Always be sure your cat is wearing proper identification when he is outdoors. A cat can disappear in seconds and ID tags increase the chance that he will be safety returned if he is lost or injured.